Leading Firm for Environmental Law - Chambers USA, 2005–2018
Environmental matters can turn into a tripwire for many companies and transactions. Without the right environmental legal counseling and strategy, a business can be overtaken by unpredictable events as its leaders are consumed by a series of increasingly serious repercussions. In the worst case, environmental problems can pose an existential threat to a client’s continued operation or they can seal the fate of a failed transaction.
Our Environmental Practice Group knows these challenges and is prepared to protect and assist our clients in every facet of these matters around the world. By combining extensive litigation experience at both the trial and appellate levels, regulatory and governance counseling experience with environmental transactional knowledge, our attorneys garner an international reputation for vigorous, innovative representation. Whether we’re helping our clients construct a compliance plan, negotiate with regulators, litigate a dispute, safeguard an M&A deal, or prepare for or respond to a crisis, our elite team of lawyers has the experience and skills to identify the best path forward and pursue it vigorously. With keen insight developed through thousands of transactions and countless agency negotiations and court cases, we know when and how to negotiate or when to compromise to achieve a greater goal.
For these reasons, clients worldwide have turned to us for some of the largest environmental risks knowing that we will bring a creative mindset and dogged persistence. We are highly skilled in creating bespoke and efficient solutions for everything from crises to more routine matters of compliance and governance and all aspects of transactions.
Our litigators prepare cases with a trial-ready philosophy, putting opponents and their counsel on notice that we are ready, willing and able to go to trial, which allows us to drive the case to the best outcome for our clients. With the benefit of our vast trial experience, our clients can make assertive litigation decisions with confidence.
Clients have turned to us for nearly every type of environmental dispute, including litigation over contaminated property, mass torts, insurance and indemnity issues and Superfund regulation. We are experienced in regulatory enforcement litigation, with a strong bench of former federal and state government officials. Our attorneys have appeared before federal and state courts and agencies in every part of the country, in all U.S. Courts of Appeals and before the U.S. Supreme Court. Our strong network of attorneys and consultants gives our clients an additional resource to bolster their case.
Despite our acknowledged reputation in litigation, our lawyers approach each matter as a unique, compelling challenge. With our innovative, entrepreneurial thinking, we are committed to working with our clients to develop the optimal approach to their litigation issues.
Environmental Regulatory Counseling
Environmental regulation is constantly changing, growingly complex and increasingly impactful for more businesses and more sectors. Given this dynamic, an effective regulatory posture requires the ability to quickly respond to near-term issues and thoughtfully anticipate long-term implications. We help our clients do both.
Drawing on extensive government and private sector experience, we advise clients on how to navigate the potential environmental issues they may face—avoiding blind spots and availing opportunities. We know how different regulators approach established industries and emerging technologies, the challenges of multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional regulatory frameworks, and the mechanics of stakeholder and expert engagement in agency decision making.
From assessing the regulatory outlook for a new investment, to addressing compliance and enforcement issues arising from existing operations, we have experience counselling over the life-cycle of clients’ businesses. We can assist clients in connection with major rulemakings and product approvals, permitting and siting, enforcement and correcting compliance issues. We have experience across jurisdictions, environmental statutes and regulators on issues related to air emissions, water discharge, hazardous wastes, hazardous chemicals and toxic substances. We help clients develop a strategic and sound approach that can be implemented efficiently and effectively—while protecting both the business and the environment.
Environmental Enforcement & Investigations
When environmental compliance issues turn into investigations and, most seriously, enforcement proceedings, we understand the enormity of the stakes. The threat of a major enforcement action, with the resulting bad publicity and other collateral consequences, can cripple a company and possibly threaten its existence. We regularly defend clients in these highly sensitive matters and have a track record of protecting our clients’ reputation and value.
Clients turn to us for civil and criminal enforcement matters involving the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice, as well as state regulators. We offer a deep bench of former federal and state regulators who apply valuable insights into the regulatory process and mindset. Our technical knowledge, immersion in the facts and confidence in our trial capabilities puts our clients in a strong bargaining position. We have persuaded prosecutors not to bring charges in circumstances where clients retained us after the government advised them of its intent to file indictments.
We represent clients in civil, criminal and administrative environmental proceedings, including government enforcement actions, Superfund and insurance coverage cases, contract and indemnity claims, toxic tort suits, and challenges to federal and state rulemakings.
Environmental Crisis Prevention & Response
Unchecked, the fallout from an environmental crisis can spread rapidly, fueled by news stories, social media posts, and community and consumer backlash. In an era when evolving chemistries and production processes are posing new pollution and exposure risks, and intensifying natural disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires are exposing critical facilities to more frequent and acute hazards, our Environmental Crisis Response and Prevention Practice Group distinguishes itself in its ability to assist clients not only with responding to and recovering from environmental crises, but also planning for and preventing future crises.
We have helped clients navigate complex environmental risks in thousands of corporate transactions, and through this experience we have developed a unique ability to spot vulnerabilities before they become a liability and to effectively employ strategies for reducing those vulnerabilities. Additionally, through our decades of experience handling complex, high-profile environmental enforcement and litigation matters, we have developed a suite of powerful internal communication and public relations tools that complement our robust legal defense strategies.
Drawing on our extensive network of technical experts, we partner with our clients to develop and implement industry- and business-specific playbooks for planning for and preventing environmental crises. And when a crisis does occur, our experienced attorneys are available to deploy immediately to help our clients swiftly and effectively manage the environmental response, coordinate communications with key stakeholders, and address any ensuing claims or governmental enforcement.
Governance & ESG Counseling
The emergence of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors and integration as a key approach to managing corporate and investor sustainability may give rise to opportunities and risk. For fund managers, ESG integration may create a fundraising opportunity—an ability to attract a broader set of LPs. For private equity investors, ESG integration may create a value-creation and risk-avoidance opportunity—an early-warning system on the sustainability of a portfolio company. For a public company, ESG integration may be a shareholder retention opportunity—avoiding activist interest and attracting increased liquidity. Effectively integrating ESG—whether for a fund-raiser, portfolio-manager, or corporate leader—can be daunting.
We have experience advising clients on how to undertake ESG integration effectively—choosing between methodologies and approaches, assessing reporting and disclosures, and implementing best practices. With our cross-market perspective, we are also able to counsel on how to approach ESG in ways that limit exposure to new legal risks and liability.
As part of our ESG counseling, we also help clients identify, disclose and mitigate climate change-related risks. Increasingly, climate change has gained prominence among ESG-focused stakeholders, including pension funds, endowments, activist investors and certain regulators. We have experience counseling on climate change matters, ranging from basic compliance considerations to cutting-edge reporting consistent with the G-20’s Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD).
Counseling clients at the intersection of bankruptcy and environmental law raises a unique set of challenges. There are often unresolved environmental obligations, legacy contaminated properties, limited resources, governmental scrutiny and at times, litigious counterparties. Kirkland’s experienced environmental team is committed to helping clients through the bankruptcy process with our savvy strategic advice, deep knowledge of the interplay between bankruptcy and environmental law, and a keen understanding of the business objectives of our clients.
Our environmental restructuring practice is a hybrid of enforcement, regulatory, transactional and litigation work. We support the entire bankruptcy process from pre-bankruptcy planning through emergence or liquidation, including pre-petition planning, evaluation of environmental liabilities, strategic enforcement and litigation advice, claim resolution, and negotiation of settlement and sale agreements.
Our team of seasoned lawyers has advised on some of the most complex environmental restructuring cases in the country, involving a wide range of industries from chemicals, mining, oil and gas production to the power sector. Over the course of many years, we have developed an innovative toolkit for managing environmental liabilities in the restructuring context, including the use of environmental response trusts to address legacy contamination, insurance vehicles and tailored transaction structures.
We also advise lenders or creditors in contentious restructurings, and private equity or hedge funds seeking to take a stake in a stressed or distressed company. We turn the challenges of bankruptcy into opportunities, helping debtors through bankruptcy in an orderly and systematic way, while also maximizing our clients’ ability to discharge environmental liabilities through bankruptcy.