Qiaojing Ella Zheng, Managing Partner of the Palo Alto and San Francisco Offices

Qiaojing Ella Zheng

Managing Partner of the Palo Alto and San Francisco Offices

Qiaojing Ella Zheng is Managing Partner of Sanford Heisler Sharp‘s Palo Alto and San Francisco Offices and Chair of the firm’s Asian American Litigation and Finance Practice Group.

In 2022 Ella was named a Rising Star by Law360 and selected as an Asian Leader Worth Watching by Profiles in Diversity Journal. Since joining Sanford Heisler Sharp, she has been honored by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star in Northern California every year since 2016. She was named among the Top 40 Under 40 Civil Plaintiff Trial Lawyers in California by the National Trial Lawyers. Ella was also an Honoree of the Tribute to Women Awards by YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley in 2018, and received the 2020 Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award.

At Sanford Heisler Sharp, Ella’s practice encompasses a wide range of legal matters. She represents employees across the economic spectrum in individual and class actions involving wage and hour violations, discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender, race/national origin, age, sexual orientation, and disability, retaliation and wrongful termination claims. She also represents executive and managerial personnel in both public litigation and privately negotiated settlements.

Ella also represents whistleblowers in qui tam lawsuits under the U.S. False Claims Act and works on cases involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the SEC Whistleblower program, the IRS Whistleblower program, and other statutes involving fraud against the federal and state governments.

In addition, Ella has extensive experience in financial services practice. She regularly advises entrepreneurs, companies, and financial institutions in Silicon Valley and China on regulatory and compliance matters. In particular, Ella specializes in representing China-based clients in legal matters arising under U.S. laws, including licensing and compliance for securities broker-dealers and investment advisers under the U.S. SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and state-level regulatory authorities. Having obtained legal education and work experience in both China and the U.S., she brings a unique perspective to facilitate her clients’ cross-border business activities, and devotes herself to bridging the cultural gap between domestic and foreign parties.

Ella’s representations have included:

  • Representing co-founder and executive Dr. Yuhui David Chen in his claims of breach of contract, promissory fraud, retaliation, and wrongful termination against global semiconductor company InnoGrit Corporation and its CEO Dr. Zining Wu, culminating in an $8.3 million arbitration award that included $650,000 in punitive damages against Dr. Wu personally and $500,000 in emotional distress damages after a 12-day Zoom arbitration
  • Representing lead plaintiff Dandan Pan and a class of over 3,000 female employees in a gender discrimination class action case against Qualcomm, culminating in a $19.5 million Court-approved settlement
  • Litigating individual whistleblower retaliation claims on behalf of a former Chief Nursing Officer and a Private Attorney General Act lawsuit on behalf of nursing staff and mental health workers against Aurora Behavioral Healthcare – Santa Rosa and Signature Healthcare Services, culminating in a $2.85 million Court-approved settlement that includes robust programmatic relief
  • Representing former Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications Sabrina Joseph in her $365M lawsuit against Xilinx, Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX)
  • Negotiating a confidential settlement for approximately 600 hourly warehouse workers who were denied overtime, meal, and rest break pay in a wage and hour class action case against Ma Laboratories, Inc. (Ma Labs), a San Jose-based computer parts distribution company
  • Representing female executive in her breach of contract and fraud claims against a leading global aviation company and achieved 7-figure settlement through mediation
  • Representing an Asian female employee against a multinational financial services company in her discrimination claims and obtained multi-year front pay and emotional distress damages through settlement negotiation
  • Representing an auditor against a financial institution in his claims of retaliation and wrongful termination, culminating in a substantial monetary settlement and positive reference letter from the company
  • Representing a female software engineer in her pregnancy discrimination case against a global social media company and secured a multiyear severance through settlement negotiation
  • Successfully secured a Broker-Dealer License with FINRA on behalf of Tiger Brokers/Up Fintech Holding Limited (NASDAQ: TIGR), a leading global securities brokerage firm

Ella received her law degrees from Zhejiang University in China (LL.B.) and Thomas Jefferson School of Law (LL.M.). While at Zhejiang University, Ella also minored in the Intensive Training Program of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Chu Kochen Honors College and received numerous honors including the Best Student Leader, Outstanding Social Work Award, and the Best Debater of the Year.

A member of the California and New York bars, Ella has presented at international and national conferences on a broad range of topics that include gender and pregnancy discrimination, race and national origin discrimination, wage and hour violations, biases in the legal profession, discrimination in the tech industry, diversity and inclusion, women leadership, financial regulations, COVID-19 fraud, negotiation and mediation, and class and collective actions.

Ella was the President of the Chinese American Lawyers of the Bay Area, the Vice President of the Board of YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley, and a Board Director of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs USA.

Before joining Sanford Heisler Sharp, Ella was an associate at a boutique general practice firm in San Diego, California, where her practice encompassed a wide range of areas including international business, corporate, civil litigation, and immigration issues.

When Ella is not lawyering, she enjoys traveling, singing, emceeing international conferences and community events, and spending time with her husband and their daughter.


  • LL.M. (Master of Laws), Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  • LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws), Zhejiang University

Bar Admissions

  • New York, 2012
  • California, 2013

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California

Memberships & Activities

  • At-Large Board Member, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, 2022-2023

A Beacon of Support and Empowerment: My Attorney’s Remarkable Guidance  

“I recently had the privilege of working with Ella Zheng from Sanford Heisler Sharp, and I cannot express enough gratitude for the exceptional support and expertise provided throughout my legal journey.

From the very first consultation, Ella exhibited a rare blend of professionalism and empathy, instantly instilling confidence and trust. Facing a daunting legal matter and mediation process, I felt overwhelmed and uncertain. However, Ella stood by me, offering not just legal counsel but unwavering encouragement that helped me navigate through even the toughest moments.

What truly sets Ella apart is her genuine belief in her clients. She didn’t just see me as another case but as a person with rights, dignity, and a story worth fighting for. This belief empowered me to stand strong!

Throughout the mediation proceedings, Ella demonstrated exceptional skill and mastery of the law. She meticulously prepared for every step, ensuring that I was well-informed and equipped to make informed decisions. Her ability to articulate my case with clarity and conviction was truly impressive and undoubtedly played a pivotal role in achieving a favorable outcome.

But beyond her legal prowess, what truly stood out was Ella’s compassion and dedication to my well-being. She took the time to listen, understand my concerns, and provide not just legal guidance but also emotional support when I needed it most. Thanks to Ella’s tireless efforts and unwavering dedication, my case was brought to a close. I am immensely grateful for Ella’s invaluable support throughout this process.

In conclusion, if you’re seeking legal representation that goes above and beyond, look no further than Ella Zheng and her team. Their commitment to their clients, combined with their exceptional skills and unwavering support, make them the epitome of excellence in the legal profession.

Thank you, Ella, for being a beacon of hope and empowerment during a time of uncertainty. Your impact will never be forgotten.”
A Female Executive

Finding a Top Employment Lawyer … Can Be the Proverbial Needle in the Haystack … I Found that Needle!

“The abrupt end of employment can be financially and emotionally disruptive and challenging to most people. Add factors such as age, gender, or an unpredictable job market; stress levels can be high. This uncertainty can exist even if a moderate settlement is on the table.

Suppose you think you’ve been mistreated and believe your severance should be more than just moderate. In that case, hiring someone who is an expert in employment law and an excellent strategist and negotiator is advisable. And, recognizing that some discussions may cause the former employee to feel marginalized and maligned, and resolution is often protracted, an essential quality to seek in such a lawyer is the rare but oh-so-significant human touch.

Most A-list employment law firms/attorneys represent defendant employers; finding a top employment lawyer representing the plaintiff/employee who possesses the requisite gamut of desired qualities and skills can be the proverbial needle in the haystack. I found that needle! She’s Ella Zheng, Managing Partner of the Palo Alto and San Francisco offices and Asian American Litigation and Finance Practice Group Chair at Sanford Heisler Sharp!”
A Grateful Silicon Valley Senior Executive Management Client

From the Bottom of My Heart, Thank You

“I want[] . . . to express my deep gratitude to you and your entire team for the exceptional support and guidance I received throughout this challenging time. Your collective professionalism, attention to detail, and dedication undoubtedly made a significant difference in the outcome of my settlement. I would like to extend my appreciation to everyone involved, especially Ting and Ashley, for making sure every detail was taken care of. It’s clear to me that the success I experienced was a result of the combined efforts of all of you. While I hope not to find myself in need of legal assistance again anytime soon, I take solace in knowing that there’s a team like yours that I can rely on. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your support has been immeasurable.”
–Former Client and Tech Executive

Superb intelligence and deep care for my best interest.

“As a client of Sanford Heisler Sharp, I had worked with attorneys Ella Zheng . . . and legal assistants . . . at its San Francisco office for about three years. I was deeply satisfied with my experience. Ella managed my case with not only superb intelligence but also deep care for my best interest. On multiple occasions she went beyond her way to help, even after my case was successfully closed. Wish there were a 6-star rating on Google review!”
–David Chen, a Former Client

Extraordinary authenticity, perseverance, tenacity, professionalism, and expertise.

“I am incredibly grateful for Ms. Ella Zheng and her team at Sanford Heisler Sharp. I met Ms. Ella Zheng through friends’ referrals in 2017. My case seemed straightforward, some would even say too good to be true. It mainly involved breach of contract by the American stakeholders in a US – China joint venture. The case was in fact very complex due to various rules in China related to retired executives at that time. Before I met Ella, I tried to retain lawyers in big international firms to represent me on this case, yet they all gave up, for various reasons, after some back-and-forth communication.

No one around me was optimistic about the outcome of the case where I, as a Chinese national, was to litigate against an American company in the United States. However, Ella and her team demonstrated extraordinary authenticity, perseverance, tenacity, professionalism, and expertise. She made relentless efforts in communicating with me, gathering information, and implementing rigorous step-by-step work process among various stakeholders, which led to the successful filing of the case. Her swift action took the defendants by surprise. Defendants had to change their legal team multiple times to handle the matter, yet were still unable to keep up with Ella’s strategies. My case was eventually resolved successfully through mediation, ending with me getting a terrific settlement.

It’s been over three years since my case ended, yet I still become emotional whenever I think of it. Cross-border litigation requires a legal team that not only has an enhanced level of knowledge about the specialized areas of law, but also an acute understanding and grasp of relevant rules and regulations involving foreign jurisdictions. That’s exactly what Ella and her team possess – the ability to strategically position the case, go above and beyond to find the breakthrough, and at the same time provide her clients with ample guidance and analysis, and also instill them with the needed confidence to engage in the process. At last, I want to thank Sanford Heisler Sharp for the legal representation. My best wishes to the firm.”
Female Executive at a multinational company, a Former Client

Attentive, Patient, Knowledgeable

“Ella and her colleagues at Sanford Heisler Sharp helped me with my claims against my former employer. They have been very attentive, patient, and knowledgeable. In the entire process, I always felt I was in good hands with the representation. Every call was well prepared, and they frequently followed up as needed.

Employment laws, especially the racial discrimination and wrongful termination part, can get very complicated, and oftentimes proving the right point doesn’t automatically translate into getting the right outcome, yet fortunately, I was given all the patience and detailed explanation I needed. Ella and everyone else all have been empathetic to what I was going through, with the expertise, diligence, and dedication they put in my case that eventually helped me significantly in a critical time of my life.”
Startup Executive, a Former Client

Never once wavered, very good, patient listeners.

“I am so grateful to have had Qiaojing Ella Zheng fight for me. She and her team never once wavered in believing in my case, and helped me not only get a good settlement, but also in sending the long-overdue message to my company that their mistreatment of people of color would no longer be tolerated nor will we stay quiet any longer. Ella’s team clearly demonstrated their expertise in employment discrimination law throughout my case. I felt that they always had my best interests at heart. They were very professional but also very good, patient listeners. And just overall good, genuine people. I used to blame myself for what happened, but now I have clarity and closure about the reality of the situation and can confidently move forward with my life and my future endeavors.”

Former Client

Professionalism, Responsiveness, Quality

“Very responsive and professional elites. I am lucky to get Ella Zheng to represent me. She and her assistant helped me out at their best to resolve the issue with my former Company, who alleged claims against me and thought I didn’t have anyone at hand to help. And I am pretty sure she is the one I will refer to in the future if I met same problems in the future. The cost is there, but they do try their best to fight for your benefit.”
Michael Lee

Serious investigation, strong expertise, great patience.

“In the course of my case, lawyer Ms. Ella Zheng conducted serious investigation and evidence collection, applied her strong expertise to make the case go to the correct directions. And at the same time, Ms. Zheng answered my questions with great patience and always updated the case progress and possible outcomes timely. She did an excellent job.

I am very satisfied with the final settlement. I appreciate my lawyer Ms. Ella Zheng very much!”

Female software engineer, A Former Client


我非常感谢Sanford Heisler Sharp 的Ella Zheng 以及她的团队。2017年几经周折经过朋友介绍我结识了Ella Zheng女士和她的公司。我的CASE看似简单,甚至Too good to be true. 就是因为牵涉到中美合资企业美方在中国违约。当时在中国有限制高管退休返聘的参考规定这使案情变得相对复杂。之前我还试图聘请中国的跨国律师团队接手此案,但经过一段时间沟通后,对方还是借故放弃服务。

作为一个中国人,个人跟一家美国公司在美国打官司,几乎所有人都不看好这个CASE的结局。 但是Ella的公司团队和她本人表现出非凡的志诚,坚韧,职业精神和专业素养。经过反复沟通,收集资料和严谨的工作流程,使诉讼按部就班,走入司法程序。这也是被告方始料不及的,被迫多次更换律师团队,疲于应对。最终接受庭外和解,使案件圆满结束。

案例结束三年有余,每每想起来还是惊心动魄。跨国诉讼需要更高知识水平的团队,更需要对涉及他国相关法律特别是一些针对性较强的规定加以适当理解和掌握。Ella团队就是这样把握时局,挖掘突破口,同时为委托人提供业务指导和进程分析。给委托人必要的信心加以配合。最后感谢Sanford Heisler Sharp的服务,希望公司越办越好。

– 跨国公司女性高管前客户

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