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 neutral since 1998, Ms. Claiborne has mediated and arbitrated real property matters involving a variety of commercial and residential properties, including disputes about sales, leases, lease options, non-disclosure claims, valuation issues, broker liability, easements and boundaries, subsidence, landslides, land use, zoning, and environmental remediation.


Representative Matters

  • Selected by a federal judge to mediate a land use dispute between an American Indian tribe and a State pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA)
  • $20 million+ settlement of consolidated cases relating to beachfront property in Hawaii. The cases involved disputes among the general and limited partners over the disposition of the property as well as claims by a third party purchaser for specific performance of an alleged agreement to purchase the land.
  • Arbitrated a $500,000 claim by tenant involving a tax credit project at a national historic preservation site and the landlord’s counterclaim for $10,000,000 for alleged breach of the 40 year lease
  • Arbitrated real estate dispute between a general partner and limited partner regarding exercise of an option to purchase land for the development of over 200 homes
  • Arbitrated dispute between general partner and limited partners involving indemnity for fees and costs arising out of professional liability suit against real estate appraiser (tripartite)
  • Claims by investors in secured real estate and construction loans against mortgage loan brokers (sole)
  • Claim by “as-is” buyer of upscale residence alleging nondisclosure of defects by seller and their broker
  • Claim by purchaser of multi-unit residential building alleging a failure to make full disclosures at time of sale; defendants included sellers and real estate brokers for both sellers and purchaser
  • Claims by owners against the HOA and Board of Directors for failure to maintain the property, resulting in mold and water infiltration
  • Claims by utility company against storage business involving easement issues and fraud
  • Dispute between a luxury hotel group and a developer concerning the developer’s share of hotel profits due pursuant to a formula set forth in a Deferred Development Fee Agreement
  • Mediated a dispute involving options to expand under the long-term lease of a prominent law firm in a building owned by a Fortune 500 company
  • Mediated resolution of a complex dispute involving the developer of a mixed retail/residential property and tenant operators of a national multiplex theater group and Midwestern operators of parking garages
  • Mediated resolution of a real estate dispute between landlord and tenant involving a large commercial property in Silicon Valley. The claims arose out of lease provisions providing for options to extend the lease and/or to purchase the property and structure the transaction as a tax-free exchange.
  • Resolution of claim by condominium owner against HOA alleging breach of fiduciary duty and negligence, including a failure to comply with the CC&Rs
  • Sole arbitrator for claim by purchaser of commercial property that seller failed to make full disclosures
  • 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
  • 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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