Paul Tanaka is a partner in the Firm’s Environmental Transactional Practice and leads the Practice in Texas and on the West Coast. Paul focuses his practice on managing environmental compliance and liability issues, primarily as they arise in the context of corporate and real estate transactions, both in the United States and around the world.

Paul’s work has included hundreds of successfully closed deals, which have involved a wide range of commercial transactions from small venture capital investments to large multi-national acquisitions and divestitures. He routinely conducts and coordinates environmental due diligence assessments, retains and supervises consultants and technical experts, counsels clients on liability and risk allocation issues, drafts and negotiates contracts and agreements, assists in procurement of environmental insurance and other risk-mitigating solutions, and pursues post-closing resolution of environmental issues. The Practice maintains a worldwide network of environmental consulting and insurance and legal professionals to provide clients with all necessary resources during or following their transactions.

Due to his extensive experience in Environmental law, Paul is frequently quoted by leading media outlets on high-stake environmental issues. The Houston Business Journal quoted Paul on the potential impact of President Obama’s December 2016 announcement to ban any new mineral exploration and development more than three miles from the coastline along much of the Atlantic seaboard and around the coastline of Alaska. Paul was also quoted in Law360 regarding the possibility that Congress will cut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget in 2017. In addition, Paul was featured in Law360 as a co-author of an article that evaluated the potential impacts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approach to rolling back the Clean Power Plan. Furthermore, he was quoted in a Bloomberg BNA article regarding potential challenges to the Minnesota portion of the proposed $5.8 billion Enbridge pipeline.

Paul is proud to serve as a member of Kirkland’s Firmwide Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Co-Chair of the Racial/Ethnic Minority Subcommittee, and as City Lead in San Francisco for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity’s Success in Law School Mentoring Program.


Thought Leadership


Panelist on “After the Deal is Done: What Can Go Wrong Post-Closing” at the 46th Spring American Bar Association Conference on Environmental Law on March 31, 2017

Panelist on “Managing Environmental Risks in Spin-Offs and Other Complex Transactions” at the 45th Spring American Bar Association Conference on Environmental Law on April 1, 2016


Recognized by Chambers USA for Environment, 2018

Adjunct Professor, University of California Berkeley School of Law, Environmental Transactional Practice

Recognized in The Legal 500 U.S. for Environment: Transactional, 2016 and 2018

Kirkland’s Environmental group was named “Environmental Law Group of the Year” in 2010, 2011 and 2013 by Law360

Memberships & Affiliations

Member, 2018 Environmental Law360 Editorial Advisory Board

Member, American Bar Association Section of Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law

Sustaining Member, Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

City Lead, Leadership Council on Legal Diversity’s Success in Law School Mentorship Program, San Francisco

Member, Firmwide Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Co-Chair, Firmwide Racial/Ethnic Minority Subcommittee

Member, California State Bar Environmental Law Section


Admissions & Qualifications

  • 2000, Hawaii (inactive)
  • 2003, New York
  • 2007, District of Columbia (inactive)
  • 2008, California
  • 2016, Texas


  • United States District Court for the District of Hawaii
  • United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York


  • University of Hawai'i School of LawJ.D.summa cum laude2000

    Member, University of Hawaii Law Review

    Member, University of Hawaii National Environmental Moot Court Team (National Champions in Pace Law School National Environmental Moot Court Competition in 1999)

    George C. Munro Award for Environmental Law, Fall 1998

    John S. Edmunds Award for Civility and Vigorous Advocacy, 1999–2000 

  • Claremont McKenna CollegeB.A., Government1997