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Deborah S. Ballati

Deborah S. Ballati Esq., FCIArb

Latest Insights
Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Business Commercial
Construction Defect
Engineering & Construction
Governmental/Public Agency
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Deborah S. Ballati, Esq. brings to JAMS a broad range of civil and commercial litigation experience, with an emphasis on construction and insurance coverage, earned over her 42 years as an attorney. Ms. Ballati is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb). 

As a litigator, Ms. Ballati represented parties in commercial matters, including owners, contractors, subcontractors, sureties and design professionals in the construction industry. She has substantial experience with delay and defect claims arising out of commercial and residential construction projects, in addition to contract drafting negotiations and related insurance matters. 

Ms. Ballati has also represented policyholders in pursuing coverage under all types of insurance policies, including primary and excess general liability, environmental, property, professional liability and employment practice liability policies.

Ms. Ballati is recognized as a leading California Construction Mediator in Chambers USA, 2020-2023 and served as the first female president of American College of Construction Lawyers (ACCL). She is recognized nationally for her expertise, and she lectures across the country on insurance, construction law, and dispute resolution.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Full-time JAMS neutral serving as mediator, arbitrator, special master/referee, and project neutral
  • Successfully mediated numerous matters involving disputes on commercial and residential projects including payment disputes, contract interpretation issues, and surety claims 
  • Successfully negotiated hundreds of disputes to resolution over her 42-year career
  • Served as an arbitrator on a number of commercial and construction arbitration panel
  • Served as judge pro tem and arbitrator for the San Francisco Superior Court

Representative Matters

Selected Representations

As an advocate, Ms. Ballati worked on a wide array of construction and insurance litigation, including the following representations:

  • Represented a multi-campus California university in numerous large construction disputes involving student housing, scientific buildings and administrative buildings on various campuses. Matters involved delays, cost overruns and related damages.
  • Represented large, international engineering companies in construction disputes involving a nuclear power plant, water and wastewater facilities, former military base cleanups and redevelopment and other projects.
  • Represented an international architectural firm in construction matters involving a major regional transportation center located in a metropolitan area.
  • Represented a major West Coast port and airport on substantial insurance coverage and construction claims and litigation.
    • Construction matters included disputes involving an airport parking structure, renovation and fortification of an airport perimeter dike, construction to create a public golf course and redevelopment of a former military base.
    • Insurance matters included environmental claims, public officials’ liability claims, builders risk and property claims, construction coverage claims and placement and renewal of environmental, OCIP, property and liability insurance.
  • Represented various public and private entities in large commercial disputes involving contract, antitrust, defamation and other matters.
  • Served as an arbitrator in a number of commercial and construction disputes involving multiple parties and issues.
  • Served as counsel for parties in numerous mediations over 35 years and as a mediator, special master or judge pro tem in many commercial disputes.

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS.


  • American College of Construction Lawyers
    • President, 2011–2012
    • Fellow, 1997–present
  • Chair, American Bar Association Forum on the Construction Industry, 2002–2003
  • Chair, Division 10 Steering Committee, Forum Committee on the Construction Industry of the American Bar Association, 1994-1997
  • Member, California Bar Association
  • Member, San Francisco Bar Association
  • Member, Association of Business Trial Lawyers
  • Member, California AGC Legal Advisory Committee
  • Member, Women Construction Owners and Executives
  • Faculty, National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) 
  • Member, Enterprise for Youth, High School Students
  • Board Member and President, Meals on Wheels of San Francisco
  • Board Member, Boys Hope Girls Hope of San Francisco
  • Committee Member, 25th Anniversary Dinner National Center for Youth Law
  • Member, Governing Committee, Forum Committee on the Construction of the American Bar Association, 1997–2000
  • Member, Women Rainmakers’ Roundtable, 1997-1998


  • Recognized as a leading contruction mediator in Chambers USA, 2020-2023
  • Consistently recognized as one of the leading construction attorneys in Chambers USA and The Legal 500 United States
  • Who's Who Legal: Construction, 2020 edition
  • Best Lawyers’ 2017 San Francisco Litigation-Construction “Lawyer of the Year”
  • Best Lawyers’ 2014 San Francisco Construction Law “Lawyer of the Year”
  • 10 “Most Highly Regarded Individuals” in Construction, Who’s Who Legal, 2012
  • "Top 75 Women Litigators" in California, Daily Journal, 2011
  • Northern California Real Estate Women of Influence, San Francisco Business Times, 2011
  • Northern California Super Lawyers, 2004–2019
  • Top 50 Women Northern California Super Lawyers
  • Alumnus of the Year, UC Hastings, 2004
  • Best Lawyers in America (Construction, Litigation-Construction), 2003–2017

 Seminars and Teaching 

  • Adjunct Lecturer, Graduate School of Engineering, Stanford University, 2011–present
  • ALI-ABA, Negotiating Construction Disputes, February 2009
  • Civil Litigation Practice: Annual Recent Developments Programs, State Bar of California and University of California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1996-2008
  • Teacher and Chair, UC Hastings College of Advocacy, 1993-2002

 Articles and Publications

  • "Termination for Cause or Convenience: What Happens If You Get It Wrong?" co-authored with Marlo Cohen, Journal of the American College of Construction Lawyers, Winter 2019 
  • “Success in Claim Resolution and Mediation:  The Insurance Component”, 2010
  • Contributor, “The Annotated Construction Law Glossary”, August 2010
  • Editor, “Justin Sweet:  An Anthology of Construction Law Writings”, 2010
  • “New California Court of Appeal Case Supports Policyholder Argument Regarding ‘Stacking’ Consecutive Policy Limits”, January 2009
  • Chapter Author, “False Claims in Construction Contracts: Federal, State and Local”, Chicago:  Forum on the Construction Industry, American Bar Association, 2007
  • “Alert:  Protecting Your Status As An Additional Insured”, June 2006
  • “Powerine II and County of San Diego v. Ace:  Policies Covering ‘Expenses’ Insure Against Environmental Agency-Ordered Cleanups, but Coverage for ‘Damages’ Alone Requires a Lawsuit, September 2005

ADR Profiles

Background and Education

  • Farella Braun + Martel LLP, 1977-2017
  • Law Offices of Garrett McEnerney, II, 1975-1977
  • J.D., University of California, Hastings College of the Law, 1975
    • Order of the Coif
    • Thurston Society
  • B.A., Stanford University, 1972
    • Phi Beta Kappa


This page is for general information purposes.  JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness.  Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals. See More

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