Zela Claiborne

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

JAMS Mediator, Arbitrator and Referee/Special Master

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

Zela ''Zee'' G. Claiborne is available to conduct cases virtually. JAMS is equipped to provide virtual ADR services on a variety of online platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and more.


A full-time dispute resolution professional since 1998, Zee Claiborne has successfully arbitrated and mediated numerous international business disputes in matters such as breaches of contract, patent licensing and royalty disputes, intellectual property, pricing disputes and manufacturing and distribution agreements.

Ms. Claiborne is valued for her ability to handle cross-cultural dynamics and she has worked successfully with clients residing and doing business across the globe.  Her recent cases have included parties from Israel, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, Canada, India, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

She regularly speaks before professional international ADR organizations on topics such as “Developments in Cross Border Mediation: Vital Guidance in a Changing Environment,” New York Law Journal and JAMS International (New York, 2013); “Using Mediation to Resolve North American Business Disputes,” International Centre for Dispute Resolution (Toronto 2007); “International Mediation/Conciliation,” American Arbitration Association (San Francisco 2004); and “Mediation/Conciliation of International Disputes,” International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and Canadian Bar Association (Calgary, 2003). Ms. Claiborne is a member of the CPR Panel of Arbitrators and Mediators, including the International Panel and U.S.-China Mediation Panel.

Representative Mediations

  • Mediated resolution of a dispute arising out of a Commission Agreement between a broker-dealer in California and a seller based in Hong Kong regarding a multi-million dollar sale of the stock of a pre-IPO online e-commerce company
  • Mediated resolution of dispute between Chinese company supplying agricultural products and U.S. purchaser and distributor
  • Mediated resolution of a dispute between joint venture partners from the U.S. and India regarding the development and commercialization of a global M & A database related to the oil and gas industries
  • Negotiation between North American and international solar companies involved in building solar photovoltaic facilities generating a total of 700 megawatts regarding terms for sharing rights of way and infrastructure for transmission lines in the U.S.
  • Mediated patent infringement case regarding claim by a U.S. company against a semiconductor manufacturer in Taiwan involving a technique for optimizing the operation of core logic chipsets
  • Trademark infringement dispute between a publisher of video games and an international designer/manufacturer of military helicopters
  • 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
  • Mediated to resolution a dispute between companies in the US and China involving claims of copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets arising out of alleged unauthorized use of a software system used to manage government subsidies
  • Claim by a medical clinic in Hawaii against the German seller of a new computer system for failure of performance of new software
  • Claim for return of large deposit by Taiwan-based purchaser of a multi-million dollar apartment building in the U.S.
  • Dispute between an international semiconductor business and a digital video company arising out of a Tax Sharing Agreement
  • Mediated case involving software piracy claims, alleging copyright and trademark infringement, brought by well-known international software company against a distributer
  • International dispute involving $15 million in claims by creditors against Asian and U.S. entities that invested in a wafer fabrication plant in Silicon Valley
  • Mediated settlement of claim for delays and defects against general contractor brought by Chinese developers of high-tech facility
  • Mediation of dispute between international luxury hotel group and developer arising out of profit sharing agreement
  • Mediation of legal malpractice claim by a start-up company in Hawaii and some Chinese investors against counsel for failure to adequately protect worldwide patents for a data communication system
  • Successful mediation of a dispute over price and quality of food products involving companies in Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States
  • Mediation of $200 million in claims between a public owner and a joint venture contractor (American and European companies) arising out of a tunneling project for the conveyance system of a wastewater treatment plant

Representative Arbitrations

  • Presided over international arbitration of a patent dispute between two companies in the business of designing and manufacturing hard disk drives, one based in the U.S. and one based in Japan. The parties entered into a Covenant Agreement for “patent peace” and the main issue was whether infringement claims brought in federal court were barred by the covenant not to sue. Arbitration utilized services of an interpreter (tripartite)
  • Arbitration of multi-million dollar coverage claim by a distributer of tires in the U.S.  against a London insurer for breach of a Defense Funding Agreement.  The underlying litigation involved claims of defamation and deceptive trade practices brought against the insured U.S. company by its manufacturer in China (sole arbitrator)
  • Arbitration of an international dispute arising out of a Stock Purchase Agreement between the founder of a technology company, with offices in Columbia and Romania, and a global company specializing in home automation and wireless security (sole arbitrator) 
  • ICC arbitration of dispute between Spanish and U.S. contractors arising out of construction of a 205.8 megawatt single-axis tracker solar power plant including 3.1 million photovoltaic solar modules at the US-Mexico border (tripartite)
  • Selected as chair of a tri-partite ICC arbitration arising out of a Purchase Agreement involving a dispute over which company is responsible for payment of taxes levied by a South American country. Case settled after extensive pre-hearing discussions among the parties.
  • 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)
  • Arbitration of claims by a US designer and manufacturer of high-end bicycles against a distributor in Norway (sole arbitrator)
  • Sole arbitrator for claims of fraud, breach of contract, and unauthorized use of trade secret claims involving semiconductor manufacturer and Hong Kong distributor
  • Sole arbitrator for dispute between high tech companies in the U.S. and Israel over pricing on semiconductor manufacturing equipment
  • Sole arbitrator for dispute involving claims of breach of Strategic Alliance Agreement to sell products worldwide, including breach of confidentiality agreement and misappropriation of trade secrets, between a Fortune 500 manufacturer-distributor of automation systems and a provider of wireless distribution systems
  • 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)
  • Sole arbitrator of a dispute arising out of a Stock Purchase Agreement involving the sale of an international 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
  • Arbitration involving licensing claims to certain worldwide patents for cardiac stents, valued at approximately $4 billion (tripartite; Chair)
  • Sole arbitrator for a licensing dispute between Canadian and U.S. companies arising out of an international marketing agreement regarding recreational installations
Completed Virtual ADR training conducted by the JAMS Institute, the training arm of JAMS.

  • Honors
    • Recognized as a leading practitioner, Mediation, Who's Who Legal: California, 2014-2022
    • Recognized as a "Best Lawyers, Alternative Dispute Resolution Category," Best Lawyers in America, 2008-2022
    • Recognized as a "Super Lawyer in Mediation and Arbitration," San Francisco Magazine, 2005-2022
      • Selected as a Top Women Attorney in Northern California and a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel
  • Publications 
  • Speaking
  • Memberships
    • Member, Sino-U.S. International Commercial Co-Mediation Panel (JAMS and the Shanghai Commercial Mediation Center)
    • 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
    • "Thanks again for your help on this matter [...] it's safe to say we would not be at this point without your hard work and willingness to keep pushing."

      - Attorney, Greater Bay Area 
    • “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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