James Urban, Butzel Long Photo

James J. Urban has concentrated his practice in the representation of infrastructure contractors and their trade associations for more than four decades. He has successfully resolved construction disputes throughout Michigan, across the country, and in Canada. Mr. Urban also serves as an arbitrator and mediator in construction disputes on public and private projects.


Mr. Urban has extensive experience representing infrastructure contractors in the public and private sectors. He counsels clients on a wide variety of challenges contractors face, ranging from being part of contractor bidding teams, to claims recognition, claims avoidance, and claims development during the construction process. He also represents construction clients in claims prosecution in the administrative process in state and federal courts and arbitration tribunals. James represents construction clients in competitive bidding disputes, Federal False Claims Act investigations, construction liens, surety matters, and performance and payment bond claims on state municipal and federal projects, public utility disputes, and additionally handles contract drafting and negotiation. He has prevailed in myriad construction matters for clients throughout Michigan, and in Indiana, Ohio, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, and Canada.

Clients benefit from James’ impressive level of experience in representing construction industry trade associations. He has been at the forefront of numerous significant developments affecting the infrastructure construction industry in Michigan over the past several decades. Examples of his involvement in the industry include successfully representing a coalition of industry associations challenging the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) attempt to implement performance warranties in Michigan; serving as lead counsel in the historic merger of the Michigan Road Builders Association and the Associated Underground Contractors Association to form the Michigan Transportation and Infrastructure Association (MITA); serving as lead counsel in the formation of the Michigan Paving Association (MPA) and as lead counsel in the subsequent merger of MPA and the Michigan Asphalt Paving Association to form the Asphalt Paving Association of Michigan (APAM); serving as lead counsel in the formation of the Michigan Damage Prevention Board (MDPB), a cooperative venture between Michigan’s major public utilities and the infrastructure construction industry), and negotiating and drafting the MDPB Best Practices Contract between the major public utilities and the infrastructure construction industry represented by MITA. Additional significant accomplishments include Mr. Urban’s role as the principal drafter of the initial version of Michigan’s new MISS DIG Act (enacted November, 2014); successfully representing two contractors and MITA in litigation challenging MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) enforcement of the Prompt Payment Regulation and then serving as industry lead counsel in the cooperative effort between the industry and MDOT in the redrafting of the Prompt Payment Regulation and enforcement guidelines for MDOT federally-assisted construction contracts.

Mr. Urban is frequently sought to share his deep knowledge of the construction industry and various related trade associations, public works contracting, and Construction Law. As such, he regularly presents at industry events. He has also published numerous articles on these topics. He has served as industry counsel to the government industry committee involved in the redrafting of the MDOT Standard Specifications for Construction, 1990, 1996, 2003, and 2020 Editions.

James J. Urban is Counsel at Butzel and serves as Co-Managing Shareholder of the firm’s Lansing office. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan; American Bar Association, Construction Law Forum; Ingham County Bar Association; and a former member of the Michigan Prosecuting Attorneys Association. Mr. Urban is admitted to practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and in the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan. Prior to entering private practice, he was an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Livingston County, Michigan.

Primary Practice Areas



Thomas M. Cooley Law School, J.D., (cum laude) (1982)

Michigan State University, B.A. (1977)



  • State Bar of Michigan - Construction Law Committee; Administrative Law Section
  • American Bar Association - Construction Law Forum; Administrative Law Section
  • Ingham County Bar Association
  • Michigan Department of Transportation – Committee Member
  • Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (past member) 

Awards & Recognitions

Awards & Recognitions

Best Lawyers in America® - "Lawyer of the Year" -  Litigation – Construction, 2013-2014; 2016-2023

Best Lawyers in America® - Construction Law, 2007-2024; Litigation – Construction, 2011-2024

Michigan Super Lawyers - Construction Litigation, 2007-2023

DBusiness Magazine - Top Lawyers in Metro Detroit - Construction Litigation, 2014; 2017-2021


  • Successfully represented prime contractor and subcontractor in recovering $1.5M claim for extra work on a MDOT bridge reconstruction contract
  • Successfully represented prime and subcontractor in prosecution of multi-million dollar delay claims on a Michigan Department of Transportation construction project
  • Successfully represented the joint venture prime contractor in the resolution of all claims without litigation on a $120M, four year construction project at a major Michigan airport
  • Successfully represented prime contractors and subcontractors in resolution of federal and local false claim act investigations on multiple projects at major airports in Michigan and Tennessee
  • Successfully represented prime contractor in resolution of multi-million dollar delay claim on Texas Department of Transportation Project
  • Successfully represented joint venture contractor in the negotiated resolution of delay and acceleration claims exceeding $1M primarily arising out of defective design and interference issues on a complex road and sewer reconstruction project
  • Has successfully represented contractors and subcontractors in numerous delay, acceleration, Differing Site Conditions, extra work, defective and warranty work, and contract interpretation disputes with MDOT in the administrative claims review process
  • Successfully represented performance bond surety in obtaining a No Cause of Action in a complex case involving the construction of an offshore water intake facility on the bottom of Lake Michigan
  • Lead counsel representing a joint venture of 4 major contractors in negotiating the contract for and, throughout the construction of, a $630,000,000 Design-Build infrastructure project in Michigan

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