Zela Claiborne

Zela ''Zee'' G. Claiborne, Esq.

Case Manager
Kathleen Hanley
T: 415-774-2617
F: 415-982-5287
Two Embarcadero Center, Suite 1500, San Francisco, CA 94111


Ms. Claiborne has mediated, arbitrated, and served as a neutral on a variety of business/commercial disputes. A full-time dispute resolution professional since 1998, she specializes in the resolution of complex commercial matters involving contracts, intellectual property, and business partnerships. Ms. Claiborne is well regarded for her ability to help parties formulate creative solutions that sustain long-term business relationships.

Representative Mediations

  • Dispute arising out of a contract between a health workers’ union and a firm that gathers signatures to qualify an initiative for the California ballot
  • Settled dispute arising out of an Asset Purchase Agreement involving the purchase of IP for high performance computing storage
  • Successful dissolution of a partnership involved in the edible cannabis business
  • Mediated dispute arising out of an Equity Purchase Agreement involving firms working on government contracts for drone development; the parties disagreed about potential earn-out payments due when various EBITDA targets were reached
  • Claims of breach of a Power Purchase Agreement between a power company and a renewable power project developer (wind, solar, geothermal, biomass)
  • Dispute between one of the world’s largest semiconductor companies based in Switzerland and a California manufacturer of hard drives arising out of a Master Development Agreement and a series of Product Supply Agreements
  • Claim of corporate “freeze out” and demand for ownership of IP and stock by two former officers and directors against a start up company developing cutting edge technology for the purification of water and other liquids
  • Government contracts dispute between companies providing IT services to Air Force bases
  • Dissolution of  business partnership involving companies in the golf course business
  • Accounting dispute among patent attorneys regarding payment due to a departing partner
  • Claim against accountant and large stock brokerage firm for damages due to alleged erroneous advice regarding the tax consequences of donating stock to a charitable foundation
  • Claim by medical clinic in Hawaii against the seller of a multi-million dollar new computer system and related services
  • Claim by elderly resident against a non-profit retirement community over the terms of a Continuing Care Agreement
  • Advertising industry case involving claimed interest in LLC providing ads on “spectacular” video billboards
  • Dispute between medical device company and industrial gas business over storage tanks sold by trustee in bankruptcy
  • Dispute between a semiconductor business and a digital video company concerning tax overpayment and the payment of foreign and payroll taxes
  • Dispute between a steel manufacturer and a contractor/surety arising out of an environmental remediation project
  • Dispute between an international luxury hotel group and a developer concerning the developer’s share of hotel profits
  • Mediation among groups of anesthesiologists, surgeons, and hospital administrators regarding disagreements arising out of establishment of specialized surgery center
  • Resolution of a contract dispute between a developer of messaging technology and a provider of software development for communications, security, and networking

Representative Arbitrations

  • Disputes between general partners of a venture capital firm involving claims of breaches of contract and fiduciary duties and alleged damage to reputation (sole arbitrator)
  • Arbitration of claim arising out of an incubator relationship with patent-holders for development of a sensor used in medical and other scientific applications; allegations include failure to prepare prototypes and ready the invention for commercialization  (sole arbitrator)  
  • Arbitration of international dispute arising out of a Stock Purchase Agreement between companies in Spain and the U.S. involved in the electronic tolling industry (tripartite; chair)
  • Claims of breach of licensing agreement involving financial services software used by major banks
  • Dispute arising out of a Stock Purchase Agreement involving the sale of a business that tests integrated circuits and other electronic components for use in high profile applications such as aircraft navigation and braking systems, nuclear control rod systems, and military equipment; allegations against the seller included a failure to disclose defects in the testing software (sole arbitrator)
  • Claims of misappropriation of trade secrets, trademark infringement, and breach of contract arising out of licensing agreement between two non-profits serving the developmentally disabled (sole arbitrator)
  • Arbitration of claims by a US designer and manufacturer of high-end bicycles against a distributor in Norway (sole arbitrator)
  • Arbitrator for dispute arising out of a licensing agreement between the holder of a patent for a medical device and the manufacturer/distributor
  • Arbitrator for fee claim by money manager for handling investments for two partnerships, a foundation, and a trust that were part of a large Silicon Valley fortune. Issues included breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conversion, and entitlement to punitive damages
  • Chair of panel for claim by the developer of an abalone farm against a harbor district over the total loss of the successful mariculture business
  • Chair of panel for dispute between dairy farmers and a large bank over financing
  • Arbitrator for suit by liberal arts college against a hedge fund manager alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud (sole arbitrator)
  • Chair of panel for dispute involving licensing claims to worldwide patents for cardiac stents valued at $4 billion
  • Sole arbitrator for claims of breach of contract and confidentiality agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets between a Fortune 500 manufacturer/distributor of commercial building automation systems and a provider of wireless distribution systems allied to sell worldwide
  • Sole arbitrator for claims of designer and manufacturer of semiconductors against a Hong Kong distributor for payments due for products ordered for the Chinese market
  • Mining dispute between a company dredge mining for gold and another mining aggregates from dredge tailings arising out of contracts setting forth the parties' rights on shared property
  • Arbitration venued in New York that involved an accounting malpractice case brought by a Liquidation Trust claiming over $100 million in damages arising out of the allegedly negligent audit of an international company in the business of selling televisions; allegations included the failure to discover millions of dollars in fabricated sales to China (tripartite)
  • Honors
    • Recognized as a leading practitioner, Mediation, Who's Who Legal: California, 2014-2019
    • Recognized as a "Best Lawyers, Alternative Dispute Resolution Category," Best Lawyers in America, 2008-2020
    • Recognized as a "Super Lawyer in Mediation and Arbitration," San Francisco Magazine, 2005-Present
  • Memberships
    • Member, Northern California International Arbitration Club (NCIAC)
    • Chair, ABA Arbitration Institute, Los Angeles, 2011, Philadelphia, 2012, and Washington, D.C., 2014
    • Member, Executive Advisory Committee of CPR: International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution
    • Member, National Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution
    • Member, Mediation Panel, US District Court, Northern District
    • Member, American Bar Association, Forum on the Construction Industry (Governing Committee, 1996-1999), Litigation Section, and Dispute Resolution Section; Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL Report, Editorial Board, 1991-2001); California Bar Association; San Francisco Bar Association; California Dispute Resolution Counsel
    • Former Member, American Arbitration Association Board of Directors, National (AAA) and International (ICDR) Rosters of Mediators and Arbitrators for large and complex cases
  • Professional Activities
    • Judge pro tem, San Francisco Superior Court
    • Speaker on a variety of ADR topics before professional organizations including the American Bar Association (Dispute Resolution Section, Forum on the Construction Industry, Litigation Section), CPR Institute, International Centre for Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property Owners, Patent Law Institute, American College of Construction Lawyers, the ICC, the AAA, Canadian Bar Association, New York Bar Association, Oregon State Bar, Bar Association of San Francisco, California Judges Association, National Conference on Financial Management, Construction Industry Institute, ALI-ABA ("Top Ten Cost Effective Ways to Resolve Construction Disputes" webcast), College of Commercial Arbitrators, International Arbitrators Club, California Women Lawyers, and others
    • "The Experience Curve," ADR Profile, Daily Journal, April 3, 2015
    • Panelist, International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) and CPR China Panel; International Chamber of Commerce; and DPR Hawaii
    • Fellow, College of Commercial Arbitrators (Board of Directors); Fellow, American College of Construction Lawyers
    • Faculty, ABA Arbitration Institute, San Francisco, 2009 and Washington DC, 2010
    • IMI Certified Mediator
  • Full-time mediator and arbitrator, 1998-present
  • Partner/Associate, Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon LLP, San Francisco, 1982-1998
  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), 1982
  • M.A., University of Texas, Austin
  • B.A., Beloit College, Wisconsin

Counsel Comments

    • “Her greatest strength is taking a volatile situation and making it work. At the end of the mediation when the parties settle and have to work together again, there is nobody I’d rather have.”

      - Prominent Attorney
    • "[Zee] quickly grasps the legal, financial and real world aspects of the dispute. She is able to close the deal."

      -In-House Counsel, Bay Area Tech Firm
    • "Zee put in extra effort to get our matter settled. She really did a masterful job at assessing the facts, the issues, and most importantly, the personalities."

      -Senior Partner, Top Bay Area Law Firm
    • “Zee has a substantial number of qualities that one would expect of a mediator with her experience… Zee’s greatest strength, and the primary reason I continue to work with her and refer partners and colleagues to her, is her ability to mediate difficult, sometimes acrimonious cases in situations where the parties need to continue to work together postlitigation/settlement. Zee is the most skilled mediator I have ever seen in such cases…Where opposing parties need to work together going forward…her skill and deft touch is unmatched in my experience.”
    • “Let me thank [Zee] for [her] work, patience and understanding in this case…[Her] thoughtful rulings were, from my perspective, instrumental in bringing this matter to a proper conclusion.”
    • "Zee Claiborne is an excellent mediator…She is very smart, has good people skills, and is able to move people to more reasonable and realistic positions. She quickly grasps the legal, financial and real world aspects of the dispute. She is able to close the deal. I think very highly of her and would use her again as mediator.”
    • “Her greatest strength is taking a volatile situation and making it work. At the end of the mediation when the parties settle and have to work together again, there is nobody I’d rather have.”
    • “I enjoyed working with [Zee] and truly appreciated [her] ability to quickly understand the issues at the heart of the dispute and for [her] dedication to getting a deal done. In addition, I commend [Zee] for [her] ability to keep an open mind by listening to the issues of concern, and willingness to engage in open and frank exchanges regarding our positions on the issues. Should we find ourselves in need of mediation services, [Zee] will be at the top of the list.”
    • “A big thank you [to Zee] for the extra effort to get our matter settled yesterday. It was fun to see [her] in action and I am duly impressed (and will spread the word accordingly)! [She] really did a masterful job at assessing the facts, the issues, and most importantly, the personalities.”




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