Michael S. Zetlin

Top rated construction litigation attorney in New York, New York

Zetlin & De Chiara LLP
Michael S. Zetlin
Zetlin & De Chiara LLP

Practice Areas: Construction litigation, Alternative dispute resolution; view more

Licensed in New York since: 1986

Education: Fordham University School of Law

Selected to Super Lawyers: 2006 - 2023

Zetlin & De Chiara LLP

801 2nd Avenue
16th Floor
New York, NY 10017 Visit website


Attorney Michael S. Zetlin is a co-founder and senior partner with Zetlin & De Chiara LLP law firm, which has law offices in New York, New York; Caldwell, New Jersey; and Stamford, Connecticut. Nationally recognized as among the top construction attorneys in the country, Mr. Zetlin has more than 35 years of total legal experience, and he provides invaluable counsel and support to clients across his region and throughout the nation who have serious and complex legal challenges involving development, design, construction and project management issues.

Over the course of his legal career, Mr. Zetlin has achieved remarkable success fighting for the rights and interests of his clients in state and federal courts, and he has handled a number of arbitrations before the American Arbitration Association.  He also serves as an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association on their Large Complex Construction Case Panel and Construction Mega Project Panel. He has a strong background in civil engineering, and he has represented a diverse range of construction professionals and those in ancillary industries during high-stakes litigation and arbitration involving millions of dollars.

A Fellow with the American College of Construction Lawyers, Mr. Zetlin has earned an AV Preeminent peer review rating* from Martindale-Hubbell along with consistent recognition from Chambers USA, and he has twice received the Lawyer of the Year Award from The Best Lawyers in America. He also has a listing in the Legal 500 USA Guide as well as Who's Who Legal for International Who's Who of Construction Lawyers. He has also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Building Congress 2018 Industry Recognition Gala.

A 1982 graduate of Columbia University with a degree in civil engineering, Mr. Zetlin obtained his Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law in 1985. The New York State Bar Association admitted him to practice that same year, and he is also admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York as well as the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Zetlin is a member of the National Academy of Construction, and he serves as general counsel to the New York Building Congress and to the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He also serves on the adjunct legal faculty at Columbia University, and he has written extensively and conducted lectures and continuing legal education seminars across the country on a variety of legal topics.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.

Practice areas

Construction litigation: business, Alternative dispute resolution

Focus areas


  • 80% Construction litigation: business
  • 20% Alternative dispute resolution

First Admitted: 1985, New Jersey

Professional Webpage: https://www.zdlaw.com/professionals-michael-s-zetlin

  • International Who's Who of Construction Lawyers, Who's Who Legal
  • Super Lawyers
  • Lifetime Achievement, City & State's 50 Over 50
  • , New York Building Congress Industry Recognition
  • World’s Best Lawyers, Chambers & Partners
  • AV Rating, Martindale-Hubbell
  • Best Lawyers, Lawyer of the Year for Construction Law, New York City and Litigation-Construction, Best Lawyers in America, 2018
  • AIA New York State, Honorary Member
  • An honor given to a single attorney in each practice area in each region, NY Construction Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers of America, 2011
  • Leading Lawyer in Construction Law, Chambers USA
  • Best Lawyers of America, 2007 – 2015
  • The Legal 500 USA
  • Best of the Best USA, Expert Guides
Scholarly Lectures/Writings:
  • Legal Issues in Building Information Modeling Management
  • Liability Exposure After September 11, 2001, Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design - McGraw-Hill
  • Structural Condition Assessment – Legal Issues, Structure Magazine
  • Real Estate's Shifting Approach to Retail
  • The MTA's New Statutory Rules of Debarment, Zetlin & De Chiara LLP
  • Queens, Long Island City Up-and-Coming Amidst Construction Boom
  • Mock Mediation Adds Dimension to Columbia University Graduate Course, Mock Mediation Led by Z&D"s Tim Hegarty Adds Dimension to Columbia University Course.
  • The Potentially Catastrophic Design Error and the Ethical Response, ABA, The Construction Lawyer
  • Guidance for New York Businesses in the Construction Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency
  • Guidance for New Jersey Businesses in the Construction Industry Permitted to Operate During the COVID-19 Disaster Emergency
  • The Current Economic Crisis Affecting the Tri-State Region
  • Commercial Observer's Brooklyn Queens Event
  • Design Contracts and Other Design Issues
  • BIM is Coming, BIM is Here - Now What? An Analysis of Legal Issues
  • New York and Its Grid-Breaking Megaprojects: Themes & Issues
  • Project Labor Agreements: Real Savings or Window Dressing?
  • Building Brooklyn, The Harvard Club, New York City, Eric L. Adams
  • The Impact of MTA Debarment Regulations to Contractors, Design Professionals and Suppliers Working on Public Work Projects
  • Commercial Observer: 4th Annual Brooklyn, Queens Forum
  • Commercial Observer: 2nd Annual Downtown Forum
  • Commercial Observer 3rd Annual Retail Forum
  • Commercial Observer 4th Annual Midtown Forum
  • MTA's New Debarment Rules Presentation
  • Commercial Observer's 5th Annual Brooklyn, Queens Forum
  • Judge, Engineering Excellence Awards Competition, American Council of Engineering Companies, 2011
  • Author, How Will We Build New York, New York Construction, 2009
  • Author, How We Will Build New York: Hospitals and Healthcare, New York Construction, 2009
  • Your Firm: What's It Worth?, Speaker, 2010
  • Speaker, Protecting Profitability: Presenting Persuasive Claims on Public Projects without Running Afoul of the False Claims Act, 2010
  • New York’s Next Urban Agenda: What’s the Future of Real Estate, Development and Construction in New York City?, Moderator, 2013
  • Moderator, Building Better: Boosting Your Construction Project’s Bottom Line , Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, Baruch College, 2013
  • Speaker, Inaugural ISO 55000 Conference for the United States, 2014
  • Speaker, BIM - Improved Life Cycle Management, Maintenance and Enhanced Energy Performance, The Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, 2013
  • Transformative Projects, Transformative Issues, Speaker, 2014
  • Moderator, Schools, Colleges & Universities: a Construction Report Card, 2014
  • Moderator, 5th Annual NYC Construction & Development Summit, Bisnow, 2014
  • Moderator, Anchin Construction & Development Summit, Anchin, 2015
  • Building Brooklyn, Moderator, The Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, 2015
  • Moderator, 6th Annual NYC Construction & Development Summit, Bisnow, 2015
  • Presenter, Transformative Projects, Transformative Risk Management, New York Build, 2016
  • Moderator, Attracting the Right Partner: Procuring PPPs, Public-Private Partnership Conference & Expo, 2016
  • Social Public Private Partnerships: A New Tool for Real Estate Development, Moderator, New York Building Congress, 2016
  • Offices 2025, Commercial Observer Breakfast, Moderator, Commercial Observer, 2016
  • Moderator, Pulse Healthcare Conference, Commercial Observer, 2016
  • Speaker, P3C Public-Private Partnership Conference, 2017
  • Speaker, American College of Construction Lawyers, Annual Meeting, 2017
  • American College of Construction Lawyers, Annual Meeting, 2017
  • Midtown Means Business Breakfast, Commercial Observer, 2017
  • THE CURE The 2017 Healthcare Construction Report, 2017
  • Speaker, BQE: The Brooklyn, Queens Event, Commercial Observer, 2017
  • Speaker, The New Face of Downtown, Commercial Observer, 2017
  • Author, As another worker dies, big questions still surround NY Scaffold Law, Real Estate Weekly, 2015
  • Featured, Power of Attorneys: The Lawyers Who Shape Everything in the World of Real Estate, Commercial Observer, 2017
  • Profiled, Michael Zetlin Is the Legal Mind Who Knows a Thing or Two About Engineering & Construction, Commercial Observer, 2016
  • The Social Network: Government and Private Sector Focus on “Social Infrastructure”, Featured, Real Estate Weekly, 2016
  • Big questions surrounding NY Scaffold Law, Co-Author, Real Estate Weekly, 2015
Pro bono/Community Service:
  • American Bar Foundation
Bar/Professional Activity:
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey
  • New Jersey
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
  • General Counsel and Board Member - New York Building Congress
  • New York
  • General Counsel - American Institute of Architects, New York
  • Advisory Board Member - Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute of the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College
  • Member - National Academy of Construction
  • Fellow - American College of Construction Lawyers
  • Adjunct Professor - Columbia University, "Legal Issues in Building Construction", graduate program in construction administration
  • Member, Board of Trustees - Pratt Institute
  • Advisory Board Member - Columbia University Industry Advisory Committee of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
  • Member, Board of Directors - Ort America, Inc.
  • Past Governing Committee Member - American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry
  • Member - Lincoln Center’s Real Estate & Construction Council
Educational Background:
  • Columbia University, B.S., Civil Engineering
Special Licenses/Certifications:
  • Arbitrator, Construction Panel - American Arbitration Association
Industry Groups:
  • Commercial
  • Education
  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare
  • Infrastructure
  • Power Generation
  • Residential
  • Transportation

Office location for Michael S. Zetlin

801 2nd Avenue
16th Floor
New York, NY 10017

Phone: 646-916-3174


18 Years Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers: 2006 - 2023

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