Michael S. Zetlin

Senior Partner

801 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Practice Areas

  • Construction Litigation
  • Construction Contracts
  • General Counseling


  • Fordham University School of Law, J.D.
  • Columbia University, B.S., Civil Engineering

Bar Admissions

  • New York
  • New Jersey

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey

Faculty Memberships

  • Columbia University, Adjunct Professor

Industry Recognition

Senior Partner

801 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017


Michael S. Zetlin, a founding partner of Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, is one of the country’s leading construction litigators and contract specialists who also serves as a strategic advisor to clients.

A graduate civil engineer and attorney, Mr. Zetlin has successfully litigated and arbitrated many multi-million dollar construction claims throughout the United States on projects ranging across all markets including institutional, commercial, residential, energy and infrastructure. He has also drafted and negotiated contracts on projects with construction values in the hundreds of millions of dollars within these sectors.

With over 30 years of experience, Mr. Zetlin’s knowledge of the built environment and the issues involved in design, construction, and project management make him a formidable advocate representing national and multi-national firms and a number of the premier owners, developers, design professionals, and contractors in the U.S. and internationally. He also provides legal counsel to private equity firms, hedge funds and lenders for their construction-related ventures.

He is a fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers and the American Bar Foundation and is a member of the National Academy of Construction. He is an arbitrator for the Construction Panel and a member of the Large, Complex Case Panel of the American Arbitration Association. Mr. Zetlin holds the notable AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is consistently recognized by Chambers USA, The Legal 500 USA Guide, Super Lawyer Magazine, and Best Lawyers of America as a leading litigator in construction law. He was named "Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers in America ​for Construction Law, New York City (2011) and Litigation - Construction, New York City (2019). In 2014, he was inducted as a member of the National Academy of Construction, an organization established to recognize industry leaders in engineering and construction and offer this reservoir of expertise as a valuable service to the nation. He has been appointed to the International Who's Who of Construction Lawyers by Who's Who Legal. Mr. Zetlin is also a recipient of the Harry B. Rutkins Award for Service to the New York Chapter of AIA. Mr. Zetlin was honored for his depth of knowledge and experience within the construction industry at the New York Building Congress 2018 Industry Recognition Gala.

He serves as the General Counsel to the New York Building Congress and to the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. An author and lecturer, he is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, teaching the graduate program Legal Issues in Building Construction, and is the co-editor of New York Construction Law, the definitive treatise on construction law in New York.


Mr. Zetlin brings his dual legal/engineering background to most effectively represent the firm’s clients in complex litigation and arbitration in sectors that include: energy and power (e.g., biomass fuels, solar power and cogeneration facilities), institutional (e.g., hospitals, education, museums and government), infrastructure (e.g., airports, highways, bridges, and tunnels), sports facilities (e.g., stadiums and arenas) and all aspects of the built environment. His experience also includes representing his U.S. clients involved in international projects (e.g., South Sudan and Indonesia) in U.S.-based dispute resolution forums.

In addition to litigation, Mr. Zetlin devotes a considerable part of his practice to contract drafting and negotiation. He represents owners and developers from the onset of a project from team-selection, contract methods (e.g., design-bid-build, design-build, general contractor vs. construction manager, Integrated Project Delivery, and P3), through the contract negotiation and drafting process. His unique combination of a legal and engineering background combined with an unparalleled understanding of his practice areas has been recognized by nationally-known law firms which have hired Mr. Zetlin to draw up construction contracts for their personal projects.

Mr. Zetlin also routinely consults with his clients on risk management and other issues that arise in the day-to-day travails of a construction project, and his general counseling advice is often sought by his clients and by industry organizations. 


  • American College of Construction Lawyers
  • National Academy of Construction                                         
  • American Bar Foundation

Honors & Awards


  • American Arbitration Association - Arbitrator, Construction Panel; Member, Large, Complex Case Panel

General Counsel / Board Membership

  • New York Building Congress - General Counsel; Member, Council of Presidents, Higher Education, Transportation & Infrastructure, Planning, Growth & Sustainability Committees
  • American Institute of Architects, New York City - General Counsel
  • Pratt Institute - Member, Board of Trustees
  • Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, Advisory Board Member
  • Lincoln Center’s Real Estate & Construction Council, Member
  • Columbia University Industry Advisory Committee of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics - Advisory Board Member
  • American Bar Association - Past Governing Committee Member, Construction Industry Forum
  • Global Design Alliance - Member, Board of Directors
  • American Council of Engineering Companies - Member, Legal Counsel Forum
  • Ort America, Inc. - Member, Board of Directors

Speaking Engagements

  • Moderator - Health Care Pulse, Commerical Observer Breakfast, November 2016
  • Moderator - Offices 2025, Commerical Observer Breakfast, March 2016
  • Moderator Social Public Private Partnerships: A New Tool for Real Estate Development, March 2016
  • Moderator - Attracting the Right Partner: Procuring PPPs, Public-Private Partnership Conference & Expo 2016, March 2016
  • Presenter - Transformative Projects, Transformative Risk Management, New York Build, March 2016
  • Moderator - Bisnow’s 6th Annual NYC Construction & Development Summit, November 18, 2015
  • Moderator - Building Brooklyn, June 4, 2015
  • Moderator - Anchin Construction & Development Summit, February 12, 2015
  • Moderator - Bisnow’s 5th Annual NYC Construction & Development Summit, December 4, 2014
  • Moderator - Schools, Colleges & Universities: a Construction Report Card, September 16, 2014
  • Speaker - “Transformative Projects, Transformative Issues,” June 2014
  • Speaker - Michael Zetlin Speaks at the Inaugural ISO 55000 Conference for the United States, May 2014
  • Moderator -BUILDING BETTER: Boosting Your Construction Project’s Bottom Line, November 13, 2013
  • Moderator -New York’s Next Urban Agenda: What’s the Future of Real Estate, Development and Construction in New York City? October 9, 2013
  • Speaker - "BIM - Improved Life Cycle Management, Maintenance and Enhanced Energy Performance," The Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, February 2013
  • Moderator - "Latest Innovations in the Design and Construction of Sports Facilities," ENR Construction, November 2012
  • Panelist - "Where Will The Opportunities Be in 2013? NY and Beyond," Bloomberg Commercial Real Estate Conference, November 2012
  • Moderator - "Public Private Partnerships - They're Coming to New York," New York State MWBE Forum, October 2012
  • Moderator - "Project Labor Agreements: Real Savings or Window Dressing?" Zetlin & De Chiara with Willis and Deloitte, May 2012
  • Speaker - "BIM is Coming, BIM is Here - Now What? An Analysis of Legal Issues," NYBC Architects Leadership Council, May 2012
  • Moderator - "New York and Its Grid-Breaking Megaprojects: Themes & Issues," Megaprojects Conference, May 2012
  • Speaker - "Design Contracts and Other Design Issues," New York County Lawyer's Association, April 2012
  • Moderator - "Integrated Project Delivery: A New Paradigm for Construction Success," Zetlin & De Chiara with American Airlines and CH2M HILL, March 2012
  • "Corporate Governance - What Does It Mean for My Firm?," ACEC New York Winter Conference, January 2012
  • Speaker - "AIA Fast Track Series: Architectural Law," AIA New York, April 2011
  • Moderator - "P3s: The Next Generation of Sustainable Development," Zetlin & De Chiara LLP and The Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute Baruch College, February 2011
  • Judge - "Engineering Excellence Awards Competition," American Council of Engineering Companies, February 2011
  • "Your Firm: What's It Worth?," Zetlin & De Chiara with Anchin Block & Anchin, October 2010
  • "Protecting Profitability: Presenting Persuasive Claims on Public Projects without Running Afoul of the False Claims Act," Zetlin & De Chiara LLP with Hill International, September 2010
  • "The Current Economic Crisis Affecting the Tri-State Region," Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, McGraw-Hill and New York Construction Forum, November 2008
  • "Legal Issues in Building Information Modeling Management," McGraw-Hill BIM Workshop, November 2008


  • Author - "As another worker dies, big questions still surround NY Scaffold Law" Real Estate Weekly, April 2015
  • Author - "A New Construction Paradigm: Integrated Project Delivery," Zetlin & De Chiara LLP Review, September 2012
  • Co-Author - "Collaboration by Contract: The Legal Side of Integrated Project Delivery," Zetlin & De Chiara LLP Review, September 2012
  • Co-Editor – "New York Construction Law," Aspen Publishers
  • "Integrated Project Delivery (IPD): A new Paradigm for Construction," Real Estate Weekly, October 2011
  • Author – "Public Private Partnerships Provide New Opportunities," New York Construction Supplement, July 2010
  • Author – "How We Will Build New York: Hospitals and Healthcare," New York Construction, August 2009
  • Author – "How We Will Build New York," New York Construction, July 2009
  • Co-Author - "Ammunition for Litigation? The Collateral Use of a Construction Professional's Violations of Licensing Regulations and Codes of Ethics," American College of Construction Lawyers, Summer 2007
  • Co-Author – "Structural Condition Assessment – Legal Issues," Structure Magazine, August 2006
  • Chapter Author – "Limiting Exposure After 9/11/2001," Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design, McGraw Hill Companies, 2003

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