Paul Tanaka leads Kirkland’s Global Environmental Practice, serving as head environmental counsel for a large number of private equity firms and public companies. Paul’s clients rely on him to identify and strategically manage environmental regulatory compliance and other environmental liabilities. He is a big-picture thinker and creative problem solver that clients count on to be both commercial and practical, and to create bespoke and efficient solutions for everything from environmental crises to more routine matters of compliance and governance and all aspects of transactions. 

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. Paul has particular experience in the energy and infrastructure space, including transactions involving power generation, oil and gas and renewable energy. 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.

Paul is proud to serve as the Co-Chair of the Racial/Ethnic Minority Subcommittee of Kirkland’s Firmwide Diversity and Inclusion Committee.


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, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024

Recognized in The Legal 500 U.S. for Environment: Transactional, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023

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

Named an MVP for Environmental by Law360, 2019

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 Hawaii 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