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Joan C. Grafstein

Joan C. Grafstein Esq., FCIArb

Latest Insights
Upcoming Events
General Biography
Practice Areas
Business Commercial
Civil Rights
Class Action & Mass Tort
Construction Defect
Education Law
Employment Law
Health Care
Intellectual Property
Personal Injury
Professional Liability
Real Property
Training & Teaching
Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities
Background and Education

Joan C. Grafstein, Esq., FCIArb, is a full time arbitrator, mediator, and special master who concentrates on business/commercial, class action, employment, entertainment, health care, higher education, real property, personal injury, professional liability, securities, and technology disputes. She joined JAMS in 2003 after more than twenty years as in-house counsel for large public and private research universities where she managed litigation and mediation and handled a wide variety of claims and business disputes. Ms. Grafstein is focused on facilitating arbitration and assisting mediating parties to reach settlement.

Ms. Grafstein was selected as one of The Best Lawyers in America in Arbitration for the 2015-2022 editions, is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb), was President of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society (AtlAS) (2018-2019), served on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Bar Association (2014-2019), is a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals, and served as Chair of the Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Georgia (2014) and Chair of the Women in the Profession Section of the Atlanta Bar Association (2009-10). She authored the chapter on Arbitration in the 2014, 2015 and 2018 editions of Georgia Business Litigation. Ms. Grafstein speaks and writes frequently about alternative dispute resolution both nationally and internationally.

ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Mediated cases across various sectors including entertainment, health care, higher education, and transportation
  • Arbitrator in hundreds of significant cases, including serving as chair, sole arbitrator, and panelist in commercial arbitrations under JAMS, AAA, and party-specific rules
  • As university in-house counsel, has extensive experience managing mediation and litigation, including employment, business, construction, and insurance disputes
  • Has served as court-appointed special master and adjudicator in cases including court-implemented class action settlement matters

Representative Matters

  • Business Commercial
      • Chair of arbitration panel in breach of contract matter involving the food processing industry
      • Mediated and arbitrated professional partnership disputes
      • Arbitrated numerous claims by and against financial institutions over lending, credit, and collection disputes including claims by consumers of violations of federal and state statutes, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
      • One of three panelists in arbitration brought by club members against a resort
      • Arbitrated many business-to-business disputes involving breach of contract claims
  • Employment Law
      • Mediated gender discrimination claim by demoted female executive against Fortune 100 company
      • Arbitrated a number of FLSA matters involving misclassification of employees in industries including financial services and entertainment
      • Sole arbitrator in two related claims seeking class action status by more than 2,000 firefighters claiming pay for breach of contract and quantum meruit
      • Arbitrated breach of contract claim by employer seeking liquidated damages against employee
      • Mediated ERISA case against employer for denial of medical benefits on grounds of unlawful act exclusion
      • Mediated and arbitrated a number of cases alleging discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and disability
      • Resolved many wage and hour employment disputes
      • Mediated a racial discrimination claim against large public authority
      • Mediated disability discrimination and breach of contract claims against Fortune 500 company by employee fired for substance abuse
      • Arbitrated ERISA case against employer for denial of medical benefits on grounds of pre-existing heart condition
      • Arbitrated multiple breach of contract and discrimination cases brought by terminated employees
      • Arbitrated a qui tam/whistleblower matter that also involved breach of contract and discrimination claims
      • Arbitrated claim of racial discrimination against a call center
  • Entertainment
      • Mediated dispute between former employee and music production company
      • Mediated financial dispute between parties in the entertainment industry
      • Arbitrated employment dispute under FLSA in the adult entertainment industry
  • Health Care
      • Arbitrated contract dispute between health plan (HMO) and physician provider network (IPA) over deficits and surpluses
      • Mediated lawsuit by medical school faculty member against school and hospital
      • Arbitrated fraud and breach of contract claims and counterclaims between California investors in Florida nursing home and the terminated manager of the nursing home
      • Arbitrated claim brought by terminated CEO of health care company over severance benefits
      • Arbitrator in connection with an asset purchase and sale agreement dispute in health care industry
      • Arbitrated numerous professional liability claims against nursing homes
  • Higher Education
      • Mediated contract dispute between former college administrator and the college
      • Mediated dispute between faculty member and a college
      • Mediated claim by physician against university hospital
      • Arbitrated dispute between faculty union member and a university
  • Personal Injury
      • Mediated matter involving catastrophic injury caused by truck collision
      • Arbitrated a premises liability matter in which an employee was injured while at work
  • Professional Liability
      • Arbitrated numerous cases against nursing homes alleging wrongful death of patient and claims of professional negligence resulting in harm to patient
      • Arbitrated a claim of medical malpractice against a surgeon in the performance of gastric bypass surgery
  • Real Property
      • Arbitrated breach of contract claim by land auction company against developer in North Carolina
      • Arbitrated claim by vacation club against a club member and counterclaims by member of fraud and misrepresentation
      • Arbitrated claim by hotel owner against renovation contractor
  • Securities
      • Arbitrated numerous Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and its predecessor organization, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), disputes, as chair, panel member, and sole arbitrator, including claims brought by customers over mortgage-backed securities, and claims between brokers and dealers who are FINRA members and their brokerage firms
  • Software Development
      • Arbitrated contract dispute between marketing company and custom software development company
      • Arbitrated claims of breach of fiduciary duty and theft of trade secrets against former officer and software developer
      • Arbitrator in dispute between software developer and national food company over custom software
      • Mediated dispute between software developer and customer over custom software for social media and website development
      • Mediated contract dispute over software for medical imaging
  • Special Master/Adjudicator/Court-Annexed Mediation
      • Adjudicated hundreds of claims in court administered settlement of racial discrimination class action claims against federal agency
      • As Special Master ruled on product liability claim in class action settlement
      • In court pro bono programs, mediated numerous civil disputes and applications for criminal warrants
  • Technology
      • Arbitrated several contract dispute matters between software developers and companies involving custom software for marketing and food companies
      • Mediated dispute between developer and customer over custom software for social media and website development
      • Arbitrated claims of breach of fiduciary duty and theft of trade secrets against former officer and software developer
      • Mediated contract dispute over software for medical imaging
      • Arbitrated contract dispute in the IT industry where employer sought repayment of loan for training of employee

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

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

  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America in Arbitration, 2015-2024
  • Chair 2014, Dispute Resolution Section, State Bar of Georgia
  • Member at Large 2014-2015, Board of Directors, Atlanta Bar Association
  • Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
  • President (2018-2019), Atlanta International Arbitration Society (ATLAS)
  • Member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals
  • Chair, Atlanta Bar Association Women in the Profession Section 2009-2010
  • Member, CIETAC Panel of Arbitrators
  • Beijing Arbitration Commission Panel of Arbitrators and Mediatiors
  • Program Co-Chair, American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution 2010-2012 Annual Conferences
  • Program Chair and Chair, 4th and 5th Annual Arbitration Institutes, State Bar of Georgia Dispute Resolution Section, August 2010 – 2011
  • Panelist, “E-Discovery in International and Domestic Arbitration,” 6th Annual Arbitration Institute, State Bar of Georgia Dispute Resolution Section and ICLE, August 2012
  • Member: FINRA Dispute Resolution Board of Arbitrators; American Bar Association Sections of Business Law, Employment Law, Dispute Resolution, and International Law; State Bar of Georgia Sections of Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property, and Labor & Employment Law
  • Registered Neutral, Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution
  • Publications include: "Yes, You Can Appeal An Arbitration Award," Law360, January 28, 2015 “Arbitration,” book chapter in Business Litigation in Georgia, 2014, 2015, and 2018 ed.; “Women in Negotiation.” The Atlanta Lawyer, January 2008; “Developments in Party-Appointed Arbitrator Cases,” Dispute Resolution News, Spring 2004; “Improving Commercial Arbitration: The View of an Arbitrator and Former In-House Counsel” LexisNexis, April 30, 2010.
  • Frequent speaker on arbitration and mediation topics at national conferences including Annual Section Meetings of the American Bar Association: panel chair and moderator, “Caseload Trends in China: A Look Into the Future of Asian Arbitration and Mediation,” (2012) ABA Dispute Section Annual Spring Meeting; panel chair and moderator, “Current Trends in International Arbitration” (2010) at ABA Mid-year Meeting; panel member, "Is Commercial Arbitration Broken" (2010) at ABA Business Law Section; panel co-chair, “The Evolving State of Arbitration in China: Can a Foreign Party Get a Fair Hearing and an Enforceable Award?” (2009) at Fall Meeting, ABA International Law Section; panel chair, “Women in Negotiation” (2008) and “Arbitration of Employment Disputes” (2006), Annual Meeting of the ABA Dispute Resolution Section; panel chair, ""Asia and Africa: Trends in the Developing East-South Dispute Resolution Axis," The Third Annual Conference of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society, November 2014; moderator, "Arbitration and Asia," The Second Annual Conference of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society; presenter, “Faculty Tenure Denials: Current Law and Practical Tips” (2004) at Mid-year Meeting, National Association of College and University Attorneys. Panelist, “Developments in Arbitration Ethics,” (2004) and “ADR in Institutional Settings” (2000) at Annual Georgia ADR Institute

Background and Education

  • In-house counsel, Emory University Office of the General Counsel, 1986 – 2003
  • Legal Advisor, University of Georgia, Division of Student Affairs 1981 – 1986
  • Associate, Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan, 1980 - 1981
  • Law Clerk to Judge James C. Hill, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 1979 - 1980
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor, Emory University School of Law, 1988 - 1989; Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Georgia Criminal Justice Program, 1983 – 1986; Lecturer, Labor Law, University of Georgia School of Law, 1981 – 1982
  • J.D., summa cum laude, First In Class, University of Georgia School of Law, 1979 (Georgia Law Review, Articles Editor; Order Of The Coif; Castellow Scholar)
  • A.B., Government, Barnard College, Columbia University, 1968


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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