Nanci L. Clarence

Nanci Clarence is a seasoned trial lawyer with nearly three decades of experience in solving her clients’ problems, both inside and outside of the courtroom.  A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and immediate past Chair of the Federal Criminal Procedure Committee, Nanci is currently appointed to serve as a member of the Federal Rules of Evidence Committee. In 2015, Nanci was appointed to serve as the Vice Chair of the Practitioners Advisory Group to the United States Sentencing Commission.  Nanci is nationally recognized for litigating difficult cases, using her courtroom skills as well as an insider’s perspective in the Northern District of California and beyond.


Nanci has represented clients in high-profile, high- stakes criminal cases and complex civil matters.  Having tried dozens of cases successfully in the federal and state courts, she has been named one of the “Top 10 Litigators in Northern California” and “Top 75 Women Litigators in California” by the Daily Journal and other legal publications.  Chambers & Partners has described Nanci as a “consummate problem solver.”  


In 2007, Nanci was tapped to serve as the President of the Bar Association of San Francisco, a prominent metropolitan bar with over 8,000 members.  She has served on Senator Barbara Boxer’s Judicial Selection Committee as well as advisory councils for three United States Attorneys.  She served as the Chair of the Northern District of California delegation to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, and has been appointed by four chief judges of the Northern District to myriad committees of the Court.


Nanci always wanted to defend people, and started her career as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in San Francisco.  Her practice now emphasizes the representation of individuals facing investigations or potential prosecution for securities fraud, antitrust violations, environmental and computer crimes, economic espionage and theft of trade secrets and foreign corrupt practice violations.  Litigating in this wide range of substantive practice areas, she has extensive trial, grand jury experience and also has a proven track record of resolving difficult cases before criminal charges are filed.  


Nanci’s civil practice includes representation of individuals and corporations in securities fraud, copyright and trademark infringement, civil rights, privacy and First Amendment matters and wage and hour matters.  She also won a verdict and substantial verdict, including punitive damages, in a federal civil rights suit against the City and County of San Francisco.  Nanci has also led internal investigations for corporate clients, large and small, in the high tech sector and insurance industry.


Nanci has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to representing indigent defendants accused of the most serious crimes.  She continues to serve on the Criminal Justice Act panel for the Northern District and together with co-counsel, represents two clients serving capital sentences in post-conviction proceedings.


Representative Criminal Cases:

  • Securities and Exchange Commission and FDIC v. CFO and Related DOJ Investigation: We represent a Chief Financial Officer in an ongoing federal investigation by the Department of Justice as well as proceedings initiated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation arising from the failure of a financial institution that received TARP funding. The firm is defending our client in these matters while also representing him in a parallel securities class action filed in the Northern District of California;
  • DOJ Investigation regarding Revenue Recognition: Nanci represents a Vice President of Sales of a publicly traded company regarding allegations that he inflated revenue in order to raise capital from investors in a medical device company.
  • United States v. Energy Trader: Filing rounds of legal arguments challenging the sufficiency of the indictment, Nanci secured the dismissal of all charges against a Texas energy trader prosecuted for manipulation of the electricity markets during the height of the California energy crisis.
  • United States v. Individual: Managing unprecedented media attention and a national prosecutorial task force, Nanci represented the first individual charged in the Southern District of Texas for Enron-related criminal charges. She also defended our client against charges filed by the Securities Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C.
  • Grand Jury Investigation regarding Internet Pharmacy Advertising: Nanci represented an executive called before the grand jury investigating Google’s advertising policies with regard to the sales of pharmaceuticals through the internet.
  • United States v. Company and Individuals regarding Theft of Trade Secrets: Nanci successfully represented a start-up technology company under investigation into allegations that the company misappropriated trade secrets from its chief competitor.
  • United States v. Plant Manager: Nanci successfully represented a water sanitation plant manager in the wake of a discharge into the San Francisco Bay. By mastering the technical and engineering details underlying the case and by discrediting the whistleblower through careful investigation, Nanci persuaded the government to decline to prosecute the case.
  • United States v. Crew Member: Nanci successfully deflected the filing of Clean Water Act charges against a crew member aboard a Greek oil tanker after the Coast Guard and federal authorities seized the ship in the Los Angeles harbor.
  • DOJ Antitrust Division Investigations and Prosecutions: Nanci has represented dozens of individuals, ranging from witnesses to targets, in investigations into price-fixing allegations all over the world. Her global representations in this area include executives from Korea, Taiwan, Japan, the United States, Hungary and Mexico.
  • People v. Municipality: Nanci has represented municipalities, as well as utilities, water districts and corporations involved in industrial and work place accidents, including refinery fires and pipeline explosions.
  • United States v. Employee of Herbal and Supplements Manufacturer: Nanci successfully defended an individual under investigation for Endangered Species Act and FDA violations relating to the distribution of Chinese herbal remedies.
  • People v. James Mitchell: Nanci was part of the trial team that won an acquittal of first degree murder charges against San Francisco adult entertainment mogul James Mitchell of the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre.

Representative Civil Cases:

  • Plaintiffs v. Am Law 200 Law Firm: The firm successfully defended several partners in a large Southern California law firm against a civil suit alleging political corruption arising from the Bell Savings & Loan prosecutions in Los Angeles;
  • Schneider v. City and County of San Francisco: Nanci and former partner, Karen Snell, won a jury verdict in a civil suit alleging unconstitutional strip searches of an inmate arrested and strip searched in the San Francisco County Jail. The federal jury awarded a substantial six-figure award to our client, as well as punitive damages against Sheriff’s deputies found to have deprived our client of her civil rights.
  • Plaintiff v. Adult Entertainment Company: Nanci represented an adult entertainment production company in connection with copyright and trade infringement allegations.





T:  415.749.1800





J.D., U.C. Hastings (1985)


B.A., U.C. Berkeley (1981)




Assistant Federal Public Defender, N.D. Cal. (1986-91)


Law Clerk to the Hon. Charles Legge, N.D. Cal. (1985-86)