Joan C. Grafstein


Civil Rights
Class Action
Disability Rights
Intellectual Property
Mass Tort
Personal Injury
Product Liability
Real Estate
Settlement Administration
Sports and Entertainment

Joan C. Grafstein, Esq., has been a full time mediator, arbitrator, and special master since 2003. She has resolved hundreds of complex high stakes disputes in many areas including business/commercial, class action, employment, ERISA, healthcare systems, higher education, personal injury, product liability, real property, securities, and software development. She brings to her dispute resolution practice over twenty years’ experience 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. She has served appointments as a Master ruling on in a marine product liability matter in a class action settlement, adjudicated hundreds of claims in a court administered settlement of racial discrimination in class claim against a federal agency, and mediator numerous disptues in asbestos settlement trust matters

Ms. Grafstein is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, is listed in The Best Lawyers in America in Arbitration (2015-2018), President Elect of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society ("AtlAS") (2018-2019), a Board Member of the Atlanta Bar Association, past Chair of the Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Georgia, President-Elect (2018-19) of the Atlanta International Arbitration Society, past Chair of the Women in the Profession Section of the Atlanta Bar Association, and has served as the program co-chair for the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution’s annual meetings. In addition to serving as a neutral with JAMS, she is also on the panel of arbitrators of CIETAC and on the panel of arbitrators and mediators of the Beijing Arbitration Commission. She speaks and writes frequently on dispute resolution topics including e-discovery in arbitration, women in negotiation, arbitration and mediation in China, cost effective commercial arbitration, faculty tenure disputes, ADR in institutional settings, ethics in arbitration, and arbitration practice pointers for Georgia litigators. 

Case List


ADR Experience and Qualifications

  • Arbitrator and mediator in hundreds of significant cases, including serving as chair, sole arbitrator, and panelist in business 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 in product liability case, adjudicator in court-implemented class action settlement, and mediator in asbestos settlement trust matters. 

Representative Matters


  • Arbitrator in business to business disputes involving breach of contract claims 
  • Arbitrated claims by and against financial institutions over lending, credit, and collection disputes

Employment and ERISA

  • Sole arbitrator in two related claims seeking class action status by over 2,000 firefighters claiming pay for breach of contract and quantum meruit
  • Mediated gender discrimination claim by demoted female executive against Fortune 100 company
  • Mediated ERISA case against employer for denial of medical benefits on ground of unlawful act exclusion
  • Mediated race discrimination employment claim against large public authority
  • Mediated disability discrimination and breach of contract claim 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
  • Mediated ERISA case against employer for denial of medical benefits on ground of unlawful act (DUI) exclusion
  • Mediated numerous discrimination cases and breach of contract disputes brought by dismissed employees
  • Arbitrated multiple breach of contract and discrimination cases brought by terminated employees 


  • 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 fired manager of the nursing home
  • Arbitrated claim brought by terminated CEO in healthcare field over severance benefits
  • Arbitrated claim against nursing home over death of patient
  • Arbitrator in dispute over asset purchase and sale agreement in health field

Personal Injury

  • Mediated catastrophic injury caused by truck collision

Real Estate

  • Arbitrated breach of contract claim by land auction company against developer in North Carolina


  • Arbitrated numerous disputes in FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and its predecessor NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers) Dispute Resolution, as chair of panel, 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

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 

Honors Membership Awards


  • Fellow, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
  • President Elect, Atlanta International Arbitration Society (ATLAS) (2018-2019) 
  • Past Chair, Dispute Resolution Section, State Bar of Georgia 
  • Member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals
  • Past Chair, Atlanta Bar Association Women in the Profession Section 2009-2010 
  • Program Co-Chair, American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution Spring 2 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
  • Beijing Arbitration Commission Panel of Arbitrators
  • 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: “Arbitration,” book chapter in Business Litigation in Georgia,  2013-2018 editions; “Women in Negotiation.” The Atlanta Lawyer, January 2008; “Developments in Party-Appointed Arbitrator Cases,” Dispute Resolution News, Spring 2004; Author, “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; 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



  • J.D., summa cum laude, first in class, University of Georgia School of Law, 1979
  • A.B. Barnard College, Columbia University, 1968
  • 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