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Lily N. Chinn

San Francisco Bay Area Office

Lily Chinn is the managing partner of the San Francisco Bay Area office and the co-chair of the Electronic Discovery and Information Governance practice. She is a strategic advocate and litigator for her corporate and individual clients, providing counsel on the intersection between workplace safety, environmental and natural resources issues. She focuses on civil and criminal defense, including internal investigations and suspension or debarment proceedings, and has tried cases across the country.

Lily is well-versed in the litigation of complex appellate and district court cases in venues nationwide. She draws on her many years of experience at the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington, DC, to provide her clients with high-level, thoughtful counsel. Through her work as a trial attorney in the Environmental Defense Section—where she litigated a variety of cases across the country under the federal pollution statutes, including CERCLA actions and wetlands enforcement—she has in-depth knowledge of the decision-making processes at the DOJ, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. As a former prosecutor in the DOJ's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section and one of the founding co-chairs of the DOJ's Environment Division's E-Discovery Working Group, Lily also is able to provide technologically savvy counsel to her clients on the preservation, collection, production and use of electronic information.

This experience, coupled with the relationships Lily developed during her tenure at the DOJ, provides a virtually unparalleled background as she advises clients facing enforcement actions. For example, Lily has obtained both declinations and dismissal of charges on behalf of her corporate clients. Recently, following a five-year joint investigation by the DOJ, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and a State Attorney General's Office, she obtained a declination for her client of all federal criminal and civil charges, and negotiated a favorable civil resolution with the state. In another matter involving a United States Attorney's Office and the Department of the Interior, her legal team filed a pretrial motion resulting in the dismissal of all felony counts against her client, marking the first time a court has held that criminal charges against independent contractors are outside the scope of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

Shown below is a selection of Lily’s engagements.

  • Representation of a leading independent provider of services to the global power generation industry before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in connection with an investigation involving allegations of market manipulation and fraud in the sale of power to an independent system operator responsible for the operation of a region's electrical power system.
  • Representation of a global provider of labor and production services criminally charged in connection with a multi-fatality incident on an oil and gas production platform.
  • Representation of an energy company in connection with civil enforcement action involving alleged violations of state air emission regulations.
  • Representation of an international oil and gas services company in Suspension & Debarment proceedings before federal agencies relating to potential disqualification from participation in federal contracts and related subcontracts.
  • Defense of federal agency actions including Clean Air Act rulemakings, Clean Water Act permits and federal contributions to cleanups under RCRA and CERCLA.
  • Defense of various military agencies at trial against a $300 million citizen suit claim under RCRA and contribution claim under CERCLA. Miami-Dade County, Florida v. United States, 345 F.Supp.2d. 1319 (S.D. Fla. 2004).
  • Defense of multiple RCRA citizen suit claims involving contaminated properties against a number of federal agencies through summary judgment motions or settlements, involving sites with soil and groundwater contamination.
  • Representation of an oil and gas company under investigation for violations of state and federal statutes related to impacts on migratory birds.
  • Defense of a national chemical manufacturer in a six-month toxic tort jury trial and a three-week cost recovery bench trial involving groundwater contamination resulting in a defense victory.
  • Representation of farmers in California's Central Valley seeking just compensation from the United States as part of class action takings claim.
  • Defense of a Class I railroad in a statewide Clean Water Act citizen suit litigation alleging unpermitted discharges of coal from railcars to the waters in Washington State.
  • Prosecution of Clean Water Act violations in California and Florida on behalf of the United States.
  • Representation of a national solid waste company in a successful challenge of a Solano County ordinance that illegally restricted the flow of solid waste in violation of the US and California Constitutions.
  • Defense of corporate and individual clients facing civil and criminal investigation for a variety of environmental and natural resource issues.
  • Defense of federal agencies and corporate clients facing Clean Water Act enforcement actions by citizen groups.


Best Lawyers in America, Litigation - Environmental, 2018–2020
Chambers USA, 2017–2019
Legal 500, 2015, 2017–2019
Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, Fellow, 2012
Law360, Rising Star Under 40, 2011

DOJ Intra-division Cooperation Award

DOJ Intra-division Cooperation Award, 2006

DOJ Individual Outstanding Performance

DOJ Individual Outstanding Performance, 2002–2003

DOJ Special Commendations

DOJ Special Commendations, 2001, 2003–2005
February 7, 2017
Co-author, Criminal Prosecution of Environmental and Workplace Safety Incidents Through DOJ's New Worker Endangerment Initiative, White Collar Crime Committee Newsletter, American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, Winter/Spring 2017
April 2014
Contributor, Defending Environmental Citizen Suits, For The Defense
Summer 2008
Author, Expert Witness 101, ABA's The Woman Advocate
June 13, 2016
Panelist | LegalTechSF Moving Beyond E-Discovery Review: TAR for Smart People | San Francisco, California
March 11–13, 2014
Faculty Member | Environmental Enforcement | Tenth Annual Western Boot Camp on Environmental Law | San Francisco, California
April 19, 2013
Civil and Criminal Product Enforcement in the Americas | International Environmental Lawyers Network Conference | Washington, DC
November 6, 2007
Developments in Clean Water Act Enforcement | National Association of Clean Water Agencies Law Conference | Palm Springs, California
October 2007
My Life As a Lawyer | Corporate Counsel Women of Color | UCLA School of Law, Los Angeles, California
February 2006
Instructor | Civil Trial Advocacy Seminar | DOJ National Advocacy Center
March 2006
Instructor | Discovery & Deposition Skills Seminar | DOJ National Advocacy Center
Lily N. Chinn


  • JD, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, Order of the Coif
  • BA, University of California, Berkeley, with high distinction

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • California

Court Admissions

  • US Supreme Court
  • US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals, First Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
  • US District Court, District of Columbia
  • US District Court, Northern District of California
  • US District Court, Central District of California
  • US District Court, Eastern District of California
  • US District Court, Southern District of California
  • US Court of Federal Claims
  • Supreme Court of California


Best Lawyers in America
Litigation - Environmental, 2018–2020
Chambers USA
Legal 500
2015, 2017–2019
Leadership Council on Legal Diversity
Fellow, 2012
Rising Star Under 40, 2011

DOJ Intra-division Cooperation Award


DOJ Individual Outstanding Performance


DOJ Special Commendations

2001, 2003–2005
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