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.
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, financial institutions, design professionals and contractors for their construction-related ventures.
He is an arbitrator for the Large Complex Construction Case Panel as well as the Construction Mega Project Panel of the American Arbitration Association.
Mr. Zetlin is a fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers and is a member of the National Academy of Construction. He holds the notable AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and is consistently recognized by Chambers USA, The Legal 500 USA Guide, Super Lawyers Magazine, and Best Lawyers of America as a leading litigator in construction law. He was twice named "Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers in America for Construction Law, New York City and Litigation - Construction, New York City. He has been appointed to the International Who's Who of Construction Lawyers by Who's Who Legal.
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 also received a Lifetime Achievement Award at City & State's 50 Over 50 award ceremony.
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. He also represents owners and developers from the onset of a project from team-selection, on 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 phases of projects.
The following are select representative matters:
Honors & Recognitions
- New York Building Congress Industry Recognition
- AIA New York State, Honorary Member
- Best Lawyers of America
- Best Lawyers of America, Lawyer of the Year 2011, 2019 (Construction Law, New York City)
- Chambers & Partners, World’s Best Lawyers
- Expert Guides, Best of the Best USA
- The Legal 500
- Super Lawyers
- Lifetime Achievement at City & State's 50 Over 50
News & Events
- 02.28.2020Anazette Ray and Roy Schwartz Briefed NYC High School Students on Careers in Law as part of NYC Career Discovery WeekPartnership for New York City and NYC Department of Education
"Get a mentor." That may be the most valuable piece of advice imparted on February 11 by Anazette Ray and Roy Schwartz, attorneys at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, when they spoke to the future leaders of New York City at the High School for Civil Rights in Brooklyn as part of Career Discovery Week.
Zetlin & De Chiara LLP has been recognized as a leading construction law firm by The Legal 500 US in its annual guide.
- 08.15.2019The Best Lawyers in America 2020
Eight attorneys at Zetlin and De Chiara LLP were recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© for 2020. This marks an increase from 2019 when seven attorneys were listed.
Zetlin & De Chiara LLP has been ranked as a top construction law firm in New York for the 13th consecutive year by Chambers USA in its 2019 guide to top law firms and lawyers. Four partners were again ranked as leaders in their fields.
Zetlin & De Chiara LLP Senior Partner Michael S. Zetlin and key real estate industry leaders will examine the latest trends in brick and mortar retail for stores looking to attract and engage millennial consumers at Commercial Observer’s 3rd Annual Retail Forum on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 in Manhattan.
Zetlin & De Chiara LLP Co-Founder Michael S. Zetlin was recognized for his long and storied legal career representing the development, design and construction industry at City & State’s 50 Over 50 awards on January 29, 2019 at Sony Hall.
Michael S. Zetlin, co-founding Partner of leading construction law firm Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, will be honored on December 5 at the 2018 gala of the New York Building Congress. He is being recognized for his long and storied legal career involving the design and construction industry.
Zetlin & De Chiara LLP announced today that the firm has once again been selected for National Tier 1 in the areas of Construction Law and Construction Litigation by U.S. News for its annual “Best Law Firms” ranking.
Zetlin & De Chiara LLP has been recognized for as a leading construction law firm by Legal 500 US in its annual guide.
Michael Zetlin, a co-founding partner at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, will lead a panel of New York real estate leaders who will share their perspectives on key issues on Midtown development and at Commercial Observer’s 3rd Annual Midtown Forum on Thursday, June 28, 2018 in Manhattan.
Construction law firm Zetlin & De Chiara LLP announced today that for the 12th consecutive year, the firm has been ranked as a top construction law firm in New York by Chambers USA. Additionally, four partners from the firm were ranked as leaders in their fields.
The Brooklyn Navy Yard was once a thriving industrial hub, and it may finally be again, thanks to the borough’s self-styled “innovation economy” that meshes tech and light manufacturing. Brooklyn boosterism and its gritty past were on display yesterday at Commercial Observer’s Brooklyn Queens Event, which took place in the newly constructed Building 128 at the Navy Yard.
- ZETLIN & DE CHIARA CONSIDERS THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT OF HEALTHCARE AT CONFERENCES IN NEW YORK AND TEXAS
As the healthcare industry evolves and healthcare facilities become increasingly specialized, these hospitals, ambulatory centers and other tertiary facilities are among the most expensive buildings to construct. To address the issues, two of the firm’s attorneys, Michael Zetlin and Michael Vardaro, will participate in national healthcare conferences this month.
- 02.2012New York Building Congress Puts the Focus on Industry's Response to Hurricane Sandy at 2012 Industry Recognition Dinner
- 12.31.2011Super Lawyers
- 02.08.2010Michael De Chiara, Michael Zetlin, Ray Mellon and Carol Patterson were named leading construction litigators
Michael De Chiara, Michael Zetlin, Ray Mellon and Carol Patterson were named leading construction litigators in the January 26 – February 8, 2010 issue of New York Real Estate Journal.
- 02.01.2010Michael De Chiara, Michael Zetlin, Ray Mellon and Carol Patterson were named leading construction litigators in the January/February 2010 issue of Super LawyersSuper Lawyers
Michael De Chiara, Michael Zetlin, Ray Mellon and Carol Patterson were named leading construction litigators in the January/February 2010 issue of Super Lawyers.
- 12.2009Michael Zetlin and Michael De Chiara Recognized as Two of New York’s Best LawyersNew York Magazine
Michael Zetlin and Michael De Chiara were recognized as two of New York’s Best Lawyers 2010 in the December 21 - 28, 2009 issue of New York Magazine.
- 08.2009How We Will Build New York: Hospitals and HealthcareNew York Construction
An article titled “How We Will Build New York: Hospitals and Healthcare” was published in the August 2009 issue of New York Construction with commentary by Michael S. Zetlin.
- In the December 22nd issue of New York Magazine, Michael De Chiara and Michael Zetlin were recognized as New York’s Best Lawyers in the area of construction law.
In the December 22nd issue of New York Magazine, Michael De Chiara and Michael Zetlin were recognized as New York’s Best Lawyers in the area of construction law.
- Michael K. De Chiara & Michael S. Zetlin provided an interesting perspective on the topic of BIM (Building Information Modeling) which was featured in the July 21, 2008 issue of ENR magazine.
Michael K. De Chiara & Michael S. Zetlin provided an interesting perspective on the topic of BIM (Building Information Modeling) which was featured in the July 21, 2008 issue of ENR magazine.
- In The December 17, 2007 issue of New York Magazine, Michael Zetlin was named as one of the Best Lawyers in New York in the field of Construction Law.
In The December 17, 2007 issue of New York Magazine, Michael Zetlin was named as one of the Best Lawyers in New York in the field of Construction Law.
- Michael S. Zetlin was quoted in the October 2007 supplement of New York Construction News titled "Who Will Build New York?"
Michael S. Zetlin was quoted in the October 2007 supplement of New York Construction News titled "Who Will Build New York?"
- Four New York Partners, Michael S. Zetlin, Michael K. De Chiara, Raymond T. Mellon and Carol J. Patterson, were recognized in the September 23, 2007 issue
Four New York Partners, Michael S. Zetlin, Michael K. De Chiara, Raymond T. Mellon and Carol J. Patterson, were recognized in the September 23, 2007 issue of New York Magazine as Super Lawyers in the field of construction law. Click here for details.
- Michael S. Zetlin was interviewed for the July 2007 issue of New York Construction News and quoted in the feature article titled, "Industry on the Verge of Major Evolution in Design Tools with BIM."
Michael S. Zetlin was interviewed for the July 2007 issue of New York Construction News and quoted in the feature article titled, "Industry on the Verge of Major Evolution in Design Tools with BIM."
- In the July 2-9, 2007 issue of New York Magazine, Michael S. Zetlin was recognized as a "Best Lawyer" in the field of Construction Law.
In the July 2-9, 2007 issue of New York Magazine, Michael S. Zetlin was recognized as a "Best Lawyer" in the field of Construction Law.
- In the July 2-9, 2006 issue of New York Magazine, Michael S. Zetlin was recognized as a "Best Lawyer" in the field of Construction Law.
In the July 2-9, 2006 issue of New York Magazine, Michael S. Zetlin was recognized as a "Best Lawyer" in the field of Construction Law.
- Chambers USA Guide, July 7, 2006, Zetlin & De Chiara recently received glowing reviews from the Chambers USA Guide
Chambers USA Guide, July 7, 2006, Zetlin & De Chiara recently received glowing reviews from the Chambers USA Guide; clients interviewed by the guide praised the firm and its attorneys for their "quality of work, attention, and intelligence." The partners in particular were extolled for their knowledge, capability, and devotion to their work. The firm is seen as "developing a prominent leading practice" not only in the tri-state area, but in the U.S. as a whole.
- Real Estate Weekly, October 6, 2004, U.S. "Supreme Court to hear eminent domain case",
Real Estate Weekly, October 6, 2004, U.S. "Supreme Court to hear eminent domain case", By Barbara Nelson, Michael S. Zetlin, Esq. commented on the potential legal impact on municipalities if the Connecticut Supreme Court decision is upheld by the United States Supreme Court.
- New York Construction, September, 2004, "The Reality of Risk, Design and Construction Industries Creating New Standards for Building Security"
New York Construction, September, 2004, "The Reality of Risk, Design and Construction Industries Creating New Standards for Building Security", By Natalie Keith, Zetlin & De Chiara LLP was mentioned as a sponsor of the seminar entitled "Security and Terrorism: Evolving Standards for the Design, Construction and Real Estate Industries Post 9/11." Michael Zetlin and Michael De Chiara were the moderators of the event that brought to the forefront of the minds of architects, engineers and designers, how their standard of care has changed since September 11, 2001. The panel of speakers included Stephen Colo of SAIC, Robert Selsam of Boston Properties Inc., John Paczkowski of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, John Ulianko, director at the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement, James Kallstrom, Senior advisor to Governor Pataki for counter terrorism and Michael Golden of Marsh.
- Real Estate Weekly, February 11, 2004, No. 26, Vol. 50; Pg. C8; ISSN: 1096-7214, Cuoco leads an all-star cast at Thornton-Tomasetti
Real Estate Weekly, February 11, 2004, No. 26, Vol. 50; Pg. C8; ISSN: 1096-7214, Cuoco leads an all-star cast at Thornton-Tomasetti; Profile in Construction; Michael S. Zetlin, Esq. of Zetlin & De Chiara LLP remarked "On the stand or behind the scenes, their (Thornton-Tomasetti's) keen insight is extremely valuable."
- NY Real Estate Journal, October 28, 2003, "A Discussion Regarding Important Legal Issues in Mold Contamination Cases," By Michael K. De Chiara and Jenifer B. Minsky of Zetlin & De Chiara LLP.
NY Real Estate Journal, October 28, 2003, "A Discussion Regarding Important Legal Issues in Mold Contamination Cases," By Michael K. De Chiara and Jenifer B. Minsky of Zetlin & De Chiara LLP.
- 12.12.2001Events Seminars Meeting TalksReal Estate Weekly
Real Estate Weekly December 12, 2001 No. 19, Vol. 48; Pg. 25, 892 words EVENTS SEMINARS MEETINGS TALKS; Around the Town; Brief Article, Zetlin & De Chiara LLP Seminar December event is sponsored by Zetlin & De Chiara LLP Counselors at Law, in association with AIA New York State and New York Building Congress.
- 12.12.2001Managing Your Firm in Uncertain TimesNew York Law Journal
New York Law Journal December 12, 2001 Calendar of Coming Events; Pg. 2, 521 words TODAY; Zetlin & De Chiara LLP Conference: "Managing Your Firm in Uncertain Times"
- 10.12.2001Management & Technology; Law Firm Management; SPECTRE OF RECESSIONNew York Law Journal
New York Law Journal October 12, 2001 Management & Technology; Law Firm Management; Pg. 5, 1720 words SPECTRE OF RECESSION; Maintaining Revenue in Uncertain Times, By Christine S. Filip; Christine S. Filip is an attorney and the president of The Success Group in New York City, which works with law firms on business development, public relations and design. One firm, Zetlin & De Chiara, LLP in Manhattan, benefited when founders Michael Zetlin and Michael De Chiara hired a managing partner, Patricia Harris.
- 08.31.2001Marketing For Lawyers
Marketing For Lawyers August 2001 Vol. 15; No. 4; Pg. 10, 1007 words, By Elliot B. Oppenheim; Elliott B. Oppenheim, M.D., J.D., LLM Health Law, I CEO and president of coMEDco Inc., a national medical-legal consultation corporation. Telephone: (800) 416-1192; e-mail coMEDcoINK@aol.com. (c) 2001 Elliott B. Oppenheim and Terra Firma Publishing Co.; The key to putting on a successful seminar is coming up with a timely topic and then getting the details right. New York-based Zetlin & De Chiara LLP deserves kudos on both scores.
- 07.31.2001New Business, Legal IssuesNew York Construction
New York Construction News July 2001 New Technology; Vol. 49, No. 1; Pg. 58, 713 words NEW BUSINESS, LEGAL ISSUES, By Michael S. Zetlin, Esq.; The author of this column, Michael S. Zetlin, is a partner with the New York City-based design, construction and real estate law firm of Zetlin & De Chiara.
- 05.01.2000No Stamp of Approval On Building PlansEngineering News
Engineering News-Record May 1, 2000 Special Report; Drawings; Vol. 244, No. 17; Pg. 34, 4019 words NO STAMP OF APPROVAL ON BUILDING PLANS, By Nadine M. Post; Lawyer Michael S. Zetlin, principal of Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, New York City, says there are innocent and guilty parties both sides.' Lawyer Zetlin has written standard contract language for preconstruction-design review meetings.
- 11.12.2019The Impact of MTA Debarment Regulations to Contractors, Design Professionals and Suppliers Working on Public Work ProjectsAssociation of the Bar of the City of New York, 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036
Michael Zetlin, Senior Partner
Michael Zetlin will discuss the potential legal challenges to the MTA's Rules of Debarment with the Construction Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association.
- 10.31.2019Ten Grand Street - Brooklyn, NY
Michael Zetlin, Moderator
Matthew Baron - Simon Baron Development; Stephen Pruess - Cushman & Wakefield; Christopher Schlank - Savanna; Alan Suna - Silvercup Studios
Michael S. Zetlin, Senior Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, will moderate the Queens Panel at the Commercial Observer's 5th Annual Brooklyn, Queens Forum on October 31, 2019.
Michael Zetlin - Senior Partner
Chengdong (C.D.) Xing
Senior Partner Michael Zetlin along with associate Chengdong (C.D.) Xing presented on the MTA's New Debarment Rules for the Women Builders Council.
- 06.12.2019Helmsley Building
Michael Zetlin, Moderator
Tommy Craig - Hines; Granit Cjonbalaj - The We Company; Stephen Meringoff - Himmel + Meringoff Properties; Darcy Stacom - New York City Capital Markets,
At Commercial Observer’s Midtown Forum on June 12th, in a conversation moderated by Zetlin & De Chiara partner Michael Zetlin, panelists who’ve put their money on the line in the neighborhood discussed how they’re tackling the challenge of making some very young workers comfortable in some very old buildings.
- 05.01.20191221 Avenue of the Americas
Michael Zetlin, Moderator
Michael Goldban- Brookfield Properties Office Division; R. Webber Hudson - Related Urban; Michael O'Neil - L&L Holding Company; Dan Wenhold - Fifth Wall Ventures
Omnichannel was the word of the year as retailers continued to seek the perfect balance between their physical and online presence. Veteran retailers veered toward smaller spaces as rents continue to escalate and in-store sales battle online competition. Bustling, once retail-deficient areas became surprisingly robust shopping destinations at the same time the city prepares to embrace brand new neighborhoods that will upend the retail conversation in New York. And in the midst of it all, the retail apocalypse that seemed to loom in 2017 has now slowed to a crawl, with significant new leases still dotting the retail landscape.
- 09.13.2018Michael Zetlin, Moderator
Michael Zetlin, Moderator
- 10.31.2017Michael Zetlin, Moderator
- 09.19.2017Michael Zetlin, Moderator
- 05.11.2017Michael Zetlin, Moderator
Michael Zetlin, Moderator
Eileen M. Diepenbrock - Diepenbrock Elkin Dauer Stephens McCandless LLP; Mark Heley, - Heley, Duncan & Melander, PLLP
- 02.28.2017Michael Zetlin, Moderator
Michael Zetlin, Moderator
William Allan - Hunter Roberts Construction Group; Anita Konfederak - Merritt Engineering Consultants; Donna J. Ryan- Rose - Northwell Health
- 03.10.2016Club 101, 101 Park Avenue, NYCCarol Patterson and Michael Zetlin, Moderators
- 03.2016Commercial Observer BreakfastOffices 2025
- 03.2016Attracting the Right Partner: Procuring PPPs, Public-Private Partnership Conference & Expo 2016
- 03.2016Transformative Projects, Transformative Risk Management, New York Build
- 11.2015Bisnow’s 6th Annual NYC Construction & Development Summit
- 06.18.2015Club 101 - 101, Park Avenue New York, NY 10178
Daniel R. Garodnick
- 06.04.2015The Harvard Club, New York CityEric L. Adams
- 02.12.2015Anchin Construction & Development Summit
- 12.04.2014Bisnow’s 5th Annual NYC Construction & Development Summit
- 09.16.2014Schools, Colleges & Universities: a Construction Report Card
- 05.2014Michael Zetlin Speaks at the Inaugural ISO 55000 Conference for the United States
- 11.13.2013BUILDING BETTER: Boosting Your Construction Project’s Bottom Line
- 10.09.2013New York’s Next Urban Agenda: What’s the Future of Real Estate, Development and Construction in New York City?
- 02.2013BIM - Improved Life Cycle Management, Maintenance and Enhanced Energy PerformanceThe Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute
- 11.2012Latest Innovations in the Design and Construction of Sports Facilities
- 11.2012Where Will The Opportunities Be in 2013? NY and Beyond
- 10.2012Public Private Partnerships - They're Coming to New York
- 05.2012Project Labor Agreements: Real Savings or Window Dressing?
- 05.2012New York and Its Grid-Breaking Megaprojects: Themes & Issues
- 05.2012BIM is Coming, BIM is Here - Now What? An Analysis of Legal Issues
- 04.2012Design Contracts and Other Design Issues
- 03.2012Integrated Project Delivery: A New Paradigm for Construction Success
- 01.2012ACEC New York Winter Conference: Corporate Governance - What Does It Mean for My Firm?
- 04.2011AIA Fast Track Series: Architectural Law
- 02.2011P3s: The Next Generation of Sustainable Development
- 02.2011Engineering Excellence Awards Competition
- 10.2010Your Firm: What's It Worth?
- 09.2010Protecting Profitability: Presenting Persuasive Claims on Public Projects without Running Afoul of the False Claims Act
- 11.2008Legal Issues in Building Information Modeling Management
- 11.2008The Current Economic Crisis Affecting the Tri-State Region
- 03.09.2020ABA, The Construction Lawyer
Despite advances in design and more stringent regulations, errors persist in the design process. The discovery of a potentially catastrophic design error after the completion and delivery of a project presents an array of ethical and legal issues for the design professional and attorneys who represent them. Ultimately, the questions before the design professional are whether he or she has an ethical or legal duty to warn of the error, and what must be done to satisfy that duty.
Mock Mediation Led by Z&D"s Tim Hegarty Adds Dimension to Columbia University Course.
Some of the City's top real estate minds gathered at Ten Grand Street on October 31, 2019 for Commercial Observer's "5th Annual Brooklyn, Queens Forum." One of the questions they discussed was the impact of the loss of the Amazon HQ2.
- 07.29.2019Zetlin & De Chiara LLP
New York State’s $175 billion FY 2020 budget included several Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”) reforms. One of these reforms, the debarment provision (Bill No. A02009C/S01509-C, Section § 1279-h), allows the MTA to determine unilaterally that alleged “defaulting” contractors and consultants will be prohibited from bidding on future MTA contracts for a period of five years based on their performance on prior or current MTA projects.
Optimism was in the air at Commercial Observer’s 4th Annual Midtown Forum. Michael Zetlin, Senior Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, led a spirited discussion on Midtown development at a panel entitled “Midtown in Demand” on June 28, 2019.
“The risks are worth it and the rewards are there,” said Michael Zetlin, Senior Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara, launching a discussion on the evolving approach to retail at Commercial Observer’s “ 3rd Annual Retail Forum” on May 1, 2019.
Lower Manhattan’s residential and office markets may be thriving, but it could still use better planning and stronger flood protections against future storms in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, panelists said at Commercial Observer’s Downtown Forum.
Summer turned up the heat at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP where we were involved in two of the most prominent construction cases in the nation. With attorneys airborne between the East and West Coasts, the office has been busy on the ground with client matters, fielding questions from the press, speaking at industry events and supporting community and professional organizations. Even as the temperature outside cools, our high level of activity shows no signs of chilling.
Michael Zetlin, Co-Founding Partner at Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, spearheaded a constructive dialogue at Commercial Observer’s 4th Annual Brooklyn, Queens Forum at Industry City in Brooklyn earlier this month, where panelists pondered the proverbial “chicken and the egg” when it comes to Queens residential development and retail opportunities.
- 04.2015"As another worker dies, big questions stilll surround NY Scaffold Law"Real Estate Weekly
- 09.2012A New Construction Paradigm: Integrated Project DeliveryZetlin & De Chiara LLP Review
- 09.2012Collaboration by Contract: The Legal Side of Integrated Project DeliveryZetlin & De Chiara LLP Review
- 10.12.2011Real Estate Weekly
- 10.31.2010New York Construction
- 08.2009How We Will Build New York: Hospitals and HealthcareNew York Construction
- Summer 2007Ammunition for Litigation? The Collateral Use of a Construction Professional's Violations of Licensing Regulations and Codes of EthicsAmerican College of Construction Lawyers
- 08.2006Structural Condition Assessment – Legal IssuesStructure Magazine
- 2003Liability Exposure After September 11, 2001Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design - McGraw-Hill
- 2003New York Construction LawAspen Publishers
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
- American Bar Association - Past Governing Committee Member, Construction Industry Forum
- Pratt Institute - Member, Board of Trustees
- Columbia University Industry Advisory Committee of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics - Advisory Board Member
- Lincoln Center’s Real Estate & Construction Council, Member
- ORT America, Inc. - Member, Board of Directors
Fordham University School of Law, J.D.
Columbia University, B.S., Civil Engineering
- New York
- New Jersey
- 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