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


A full-time dispute resolution professional since 1998, Ms. Claiborne has mediated, arbitrated, and served as a neutral on a variety of professional liability disputes.

Ms. Claiborne is well regarded for her ability to help parties formulate creative solutions when business relationships, reputations and emotions are at stake, in order to achieve resolution. Her experience includes claims of accounting malpractice, architectural malpractice, real estate malpractice, and legal malpractice.

Representative Matters

  • Legal malpractice case involving claims of counsel’s alleged failure to collect a $1.8 million real estate arbitration award
  • Resolution of a multimillion dollar legal malpractice claim brought by the developer of communities for seniors against a leading California law firm
  • Successful resolution of legal malpractice claims against a prominent law firm alleging conflicts of interest in a client representation
  • Legal malpractice mediation involving alleged erroneous advice regarding tax consequences of a charitable contribution
  • Arbitration venued in New York involving accounting malpractice allegations 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)
  • Claim against accountant and large stock brokerage firm for damages due to the alleged erroneous advice regarding the tax consequences of donating stock to a charitable foundation (sole arbitrator)
  • Claim against a stock broker-dealer and a large brokerage firm for millions of dollars in damages due to alleged mishandling of a large account (tripartite)
  • Claims against an accountant /money manager for allegedly mishandling investments for two partnerships, a foundation, and a trust that were part of a large Silicon Valley fortune
  • Suit by liberal arts college against a hedge fund manager alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud (sole arbitrator)
  • Arbitration of a dispute between general and limited partners regarding indemnity for fees and costs arising out of a professional liability suit against a real estate appraiser (tripartite)
  • Purchaser of multi-unit residential building sues sellers and brokers for failure to make full disclosures (sole arbitrator)
  • Purchaser of upscale residence "as-is" alleges nondisclosure of defects by seller and broker (sole arbitrator)
  • Legal malpractice claim brought by a start-up company in Hawaii and its Chinese investors against patent counsel alleging failure to protect various worldwide patents for a data communication system
  • School District's claim against design team for delays and cost overruns (sole arbitrator)
  • Suit against soils engineers alleging improper compaction of soil at construction of university buildings (sole arbitrator)
  • Claim by developer against architect alleging errors and omissions in the drawings for four office buildings in Silicon Valley (sole arbitrator)
  • School District's claim against design team (architects and engineers) alleging inaccurate and uncoordinated construction drawings and specifications (sole arbitrator)
  • Claim by owner of a large research facility against architects for faulty design (tripartite)
  • Owner of a high-rise office building claims malpractice against the architectural firm that allegedly provided deficient plans and specifications
  • 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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