Nanci L. Clarence

Nanci Clarence is a seasoned trial lawyer with over three decades of experience in solving her clients’ problems, both inside and outside of the courtroom. A founding partner at Clarence, Dyer & Cohen LLP, Nanci built a reputation as a leading white-collar defense lawyer experienced in handling civil and criminal matters in state and federal court for individual and corporate clients. Nanci is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and was appointed to serve in a leadership position of the Practitioners Advisory Group to the United States Sentencing Commission. She 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 represents 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 USA has described Nanci as a “consummate problem solver” and writes that she "is lauded for the tremendous experience she brings to major criminal trials and investigations.  Her broad white-collar practice has recently featured a number of high-profile disputes pertaining to securities fraud issues and safety in the old industry.  Sources say: "She's got a great sense of judgment and balance, and great people skills." 


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 currently serves as a member of Senator Dianne Feinstein's Federal Judicial Advisory Committee for the Northern District of California, and has been an advisor and defense bar liaison for three United States Attorneys. She served as the Chair of the Northern District of California delegation to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference.


Nanci always wanted to defend people, and she started her career as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in San Francisco before working for a multi-national law firm in San Francisco. Her practice now emphasizes the representation of individuals facing investigations or potential prosecution in white-collar criminal and complex commercial cases including securities fraud, antitrust violations, environmental and computer crimes, economic espionage and trade secret prosecutions and foreign corrupt practice violations. Litigating in this wide range of substantive practice areas, she has extensive trial and grand jury experience as well as 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 and shareholder derivative litigation, copyright and trademark infringement, civil rights, privacy and First Amendment matters. She won a substantial verdict, including punitive damages, in a federal civil rights suit against the City and County of San Francisco. Nanci has a wealth of experience leading internal investigations for corporate clients, large and small, in a wide range of substantive areas, including cybersecurity.


Nanci has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to representing indigent defendants accused of the most serious crimes. She has served on the Criminal Justice Act panel, and has represented two death row inmates in post-conviction proceedings.  In 2019, Nanci was named the 2019 recipient of the AJC Pursuit of Justice Award in recognition of her work, spanning 27 years, which secured the freedom of her client from California’s death row.


Representative Criminal Cases:

  • Representation of the chief executive officer of a major financial institution in investigations by the Department of Justice, Securities Exchange Commission and regulatory agencies as well as related shareholder derivative lawsuits.
  • Representation of individual employees for technology companies in multiple DOJ/SEC investigations relating to FCPA, cybersecurity and other potential business crimes.
  • Defended an individual in a federal criminal case and related SEC matters brought by the Enron Task Force.
  • Resolved a federal criminal action, agency enforcement actions and shareholder derivative and class actions on behalf of a chief financial officer of a failed regional bank.
  • Achieved a declination of prosecution on behalf of a vice president of sales for a medical device company charged with revenue recognition violations.
  • Litigated challenges to the sufficiency of an indictment which led to dismissal of all charges against an energy trader prosecuted for manipulation of the electricity markets during the California energy crisis.
  • Litigated challenges to the sufficiency of an indictment which led to dismissal of all charges against an energy trader prosecuted for manipulation of the electricity markets during the California energy crisis.
  • Representation of key grand jury witnesses in two prominent corporate prosecutions focused on sales of pharmaceuticals through the internet.
  • Achieved a declination of prosecution on behalf of technology company facing allegations of misappropriation of trade secrets.
  • Achieved a declination of prosecution of a water sanitation plant manager under investigation for Clean Water Act violations.
  • Multiple representations of individuals, ranging from witnesses to targets, in price-fixing investigations based in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Hungary and Mexico.
  • Representation of municipalities, utilities, water districts and corporations involved in industrial and work place accidents, including oil refinery fires and pipeline explosions.
  • Defended an individual under investigation for Endangered Species Act and FDA violations relating to the distribution of herbal remedies imported from China.
  • Won acquittal of first degree murder charges against San Francisco adult entertainment mogul James Mitchell of the Mitchell Brothers O’Farrell Theatre.
  • After a hung jury, achieved a dismissal of all fraud charges against a San Francisco developer and business executive.

Representative Civil Cases:

  • Defended law firm partners in a civil suit alleging political corruption arising from the prosecution of a financial institution in Los Angeles.
  • Won a substantial jury verdict and punitive damages award in a federal civil suit alleging unconstitutional strip searches of an inmate in the San Francisco County Jail.
  • Resolved litigation involving a high net worth individual in a civil action alleging undue influence in a will contest in probate court.
  • Representation of a whistle-blower in a securities fraud class action against a Silicon Valley chip manufacturer.
  • Representation of individuals in college admissions matters and prosecutions, and Title IX investigations at major universities, colleges and law schools.





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 Honorable Charles Legge, N.D. Cal. (1985-86)


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