James Bruen has more than five decades of criminal and civil litigation and business counseling experience, centered around environmental and products 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, 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 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 (2018)
  • “Thought Leader” in Who’s Who Legal: Thought Leaders – Global Elite (2019-2020)
  • Band 1 environmental lawyers in California, Chambers USA (2001-2018)
  • Legal Media Group's Guides to the World's Leading Lawyers – Best of the Best USA
  • 16 "Distinguished Environmental Advocates" by the American Bar Association (2009)
  • Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Environmental Law, Environmental Litigation, Mass Tort Litigation and Natural Resources Law
  • Best Lawyers 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
  • Northern California Super Lawyers (2004-2019)

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Past President, ACOEL Foundation
  • 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


End of a Decade - Checklist for California Nonprofits

As 2019 comes to a close, we thought about our customary note to nonprofit officers and directors to take a few moments to confirm that important year-end responsibilities have not been overlooked. But since this...

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WSJ Pro Cybersecurity Symposium

Tyler Gerking will be speaking at the WSJ Pro Cybersecurity Symposium session, "The Role of Cyber-Insurance." Details: How much should you buy, what does it cover and how does it fit with an overall...

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Ashley Breakfield Appointed to CREW Network Diversity & Inclusion Task Force

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Hemp Legal Limbo Challenges Sonoma County's Delta Separations, Other Equipment Makers

Ryan Lowther provided commentary in a North Bay Business Journal article discussing banking and regulatory challenges facing the hemp industry. Read the full article, here .

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Litigating Civil and Criminal Trade Secret Cases: Trends, Best Practices, and Lessons Learned

Trade secret litigation is on the rise, both civil litigation and follow-on criminal prosecution for trade secret theft. Companies are grappling with how to protect their valuable information and minimize risk in their technological...

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New California Housing Laws: AB 68 Accessory Dwelling Units

On January 1, 2020, several housing-related bills recently signed into law by the Governor take effect. We will explain the upcoming changes in housing law through a series of updates. Our first update...

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California Targets Pot Smoke Anew Under State Chemical Safety Law

Sarah Bell was quoted in the article "California Targets Pot Smoke Anew Under State Chemical Safety Law," looking at whether both pot smoke and the active ingredient in cannabis should be classified as reproductive toxics...

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Are Losses Resulting from Phishing Incidents Covered by Crime Policies Insuring Against Computer Fraud?

It is an all-too-common dilemma. As phishing schemes have become more prevalent and more sophisticated, businesses of all sizes have fallen victim to these attacks where a fraudster will use a spoofed email or other...

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Is your company covered by California's new privacy law?

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Dan Cohn Named to Jewish Community Federation Board of Directors

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