Michael S. Zetlin

Senior Partner

Zetlin & De Chiara LLP

Michael S. Zetlin


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.

A fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers and a member of the National Academy of Construction, 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 has been appointed to the International Who’s Who of Construction Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal, and was named New York Construction Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers of America in 2011. Mr. Zetlin is also a recipient of the Harry B. Rutkins Award for Service to the New York Chapter of AIA. 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 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.