James Bruen has more than five decades of criminal and civil litigation and business counseling experience, centered around environmental matters. His practice includes representation of industry, universities and governmental institutions in complex domestic and international products and environmental counseling and litigation. In the course of his career, Jim has headed well over 7,500 environmental and products cases, matters and disputes, spanning virtually every issue and topic. His work has included a number of complex, high-profile cases, some with tens of billions of dollars at stake, and teams of attorneys from several law firms working together on exceptionally intricate, genuinely bet-the-company litigation. He is a past President of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

As a senior environmental attorney, Jim brings to his cases the perspective, judgment and hands-on expertise of an exceptionally experienced strategic and tactical advisor. He has an enormous range of contacts in both the private bar and government, is highly respected by clients, and is uniquely capable of anticipating how a case will proceed, and what the most advantageous approach is for his clients. He is one of a handful of attorneys in the United States with this level of experience, and is a major strategic force multiplier for those he advises.

Jim has served as lead trial counsel in mass tort litigation, natural resource damage litigation, environmental enforcement litigation, environmental cost recovery/contribution litigation and white-collar environmental crimes defense. He has extensive experience in leading the successful prosecution or defense of litigation while simultaneously managing confounding regulatory or business matters. In environmental law, and related regulatory, business or strategic questions, he’s a genuine trusted advisor at the highest level.

Before entering private practice, he served for seven years as a Criminal Division Assistant United States Attorney, a Civil Division Assistant United States Attorney, and Chief of the Civil Division, in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California.


  • Environmental “Trailblazer” , National Law Journal.
  • Band 1 environmental lawyers in California, Chambers USA (2018)
  • Legal Media Group's 2018 Guide to the World's Leading Lawyers-Best of the Best USA
  • 16 "Distinguished Environmental Advocates" by the American Bar Association (2009)
  • “Thought  Leader”  in Who’s Who Legal: Thought  Leaders – Global Elite (2019) 
  • Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Environmental Law, Environmental Litigation, Mass Tort Litigation and Natural Resources Law
  • Best Lawyers 2014 San Francisco Mass Tort Litigation / Class Actions - Defendants “Lawyer of the Year” (2014) 
  • Client Choice Award for Environment & Climate Change for California (2015)
  • Who's Who in America
  • Who's Who in the World
  • International Corporate Law's Guide to Environmental Law Experts
  • Practical Law Company's Which Lawyer? Yearbook
  • Expert Guides' Best of the Best USA
  • International Who's Who of Environment Lawyers
  • International Who's Who of Business Lawyers
  • PLC Cross-Border Environment Handbook
  • Who's Who Legal USA (Environment)
  • Who's Who Legal California (Environment
  • Who's Who in American Law

Memberships and Affiliations

  • President, ACOEL Foundation
  • Immediate Past President and Regent, American College of Environmental Lawyers
  • Member, International Society for Environmental Epidemiology
  • Member, International Society of Environmental Forensics
  • Master-at-Large, Edward J. McFetridge (San Francisco) Chapter of the American Inn of Court
  • Life Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Former Chief of Civil Division, Office of the United States Attorney, Northern District of California

Firm Highlights


How to Plan for a Smooth Transition of Your Family Business

Family Wealth Senior Associate Lauren Galbraith discusses how family internal dynamics play a role in transferring significant assets, especially a business, between generations. Link to read the full article.

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North Coast Cannabis Industry Conference

Farella Braun + Martel is proud to underwrite the North Coast Cannabis Industry Conference featuring keynote speaker Aaron Smith, co-founder and executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. The event will also feature...

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CWA Regulation of Discharges to Groundwater: Permitting Uncertainty in Light of Circuit Court Split

Sarah Bell will speak on the Strafford live webinar, "CWA Regulation of Discharges to Groundwater: Permitting Uncertainty in Light of Circuit Court Split." This CLE webinar will discuss the "indirect discharge" theory of Clean...

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The 10th Circuit Correctly Construes “That Particular Part” Narrowly

We do not often write about coverage opinions from jurisdictions as far away as Oklahoma; however, a recent case from the Federal Tenth Circuit looked at one of our favorite topics and came out...

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Who 'Owns' a Secret? Whether Trade Secret Licensees Have Standing to Sue in California

If the eye-popping damages awards in several recent lawsuits are any indication, companies are increasingly coming to see their private information as one of their most valuable assets—and California juries apparently agree. For example,...

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Farella Braun + Martel Named Among the Best Places to Work in the Bay Area 2019

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Non-Profits, #MeToo and Talent Management in 2019

Barbara Murphy, Chandra Andrade and Rebecca Stephens, speakers, Non-Profits, #MeToo and Talent Management in 2019

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Attorney General Finds Impact Fees on Density Bonus Projects Invalid

In response to questions from a variety of cities across the state regarding the application of “public benefit fees” to density bonus projects, the State Attorney General’s Office published an opinion on April 9...

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Daily Journal Names Jeff Fisher Among Top IP Lawyers in California

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Individual Accountability in the Huawei Trade Secrets Prosecution

In the ongoing legal battle over the alleged theft of American trade secrets by Chinese telecom giant Huawei, one curious aspect is the lack of charges filed against any individual Huawei employees. On February...

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