Michael Zetlin > Zetlin & De Chiara LLP > New York, United States > Lawyer Profile

Zetlin & De Chiara LLP
NEW YORK, NY 10017
United States

Work Department

Construction Litigation
Construction Contracts
General Counseling


Design Construction
Construction Contract Negotiation


Michael S. Zetlin, a founding partner of Zetlin & De Chiara LLP, is one of the country’s leading construction litigators and contract specialists. 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 identifying issues in design construction and project management, Mr. Zetlin is sought after by national and multi-national firms and a number of the premier owners, developers and contractors in the U.S. and internationally. His services are frequently called upon for construction projects valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.  He also provides legal counsel to private equity firms, hedge funds and lenders for their construction-related ventures.

Mr. Zetlin received his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Columbia University. He earned his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. Mr. Zetlin brings his dual legal/engineering background to most effectively represent the firm’s clients in complex litigation and arbitration in 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., 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. Mr. Zetlin also routinely consults with his clients on risk management and other issues that arise in the day-to-day travails of construction projects.


He is a fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers and the Construction Lawyers Society of America as well as 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.


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

Lawyer Rankings

United States > Real estate > Construction (including construction litigation)

(Leading lawyers)

Michael ZetlinZetlin & De Chiara LLP

Boutique New York construction firm Zetlin & De Chiara LLP acts for developers, owners, architects, engineers, construction managers and contractors. Founding partners Michael Zetlin and Michael De Chiara are ‘superb litigators’ and ‘deliver results‘; De Chiara recently represented Handel Architects and DeSimone Consulting Engineers in a high-profile construction dispute relating to the Millennium Tower in San Francisco. Issues with the tower are highly publicized, and the firm represents the clients in multiple actions totaling over $100m. The team includes ‘excellent‘ managing partner Michael Vardaro, who is ‘outstanding in his representation of clients and his knowledge of the law‘, in addition to of counsel Louis Dennis and associate Anthony Riverso. Vardaro also advised Shop Architects as one of the primary contractors on a new $1bn inner city mixed-use development project in Detroit. James Terry, who is ‘extremely good at juggling a busy practice‘, was part of the team negotiating and drafting construction and lease agreements for the conversion of the former Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility to a social services facility. He was supported by Carol Patterson, seen by some as ‘one of the leaders in construction law‘. Terry, as well as associates Richard Kalinowski and Chengdong Xing, was also part of a team led by Zetlin that represented a national real estate developer in disputes connected to the renovation of a transportation facility in Manhattan. Also highly recommended are senior associate Joeann Walker and Raymond Mellon, who has ‘developed strong credentials with the design community‘, and Bill Chimos, Jaimee Nardiello and associate Roy Schwartz, who are ‘all excellent and provide great value for their services‘.