Robert C. Kirsch

Senior Counsel

Rob Kirsch assists clients with controversial environmental issues at the cusp of law, science, and public policy, and in developing strategies to deploy technology to achieve low-carbon, environmental performance and clean energy objectives. 

Mr. Kirsch has defended clients in criminal, civil and administrative investigations, and enforcement proceedings. Recent experience includes representation of a Fortune 100 company in simultaneous criminal and administrative investigations, representation of a government contractor involved in investigations by the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, negotiation of the first global environmental and contract-based settlement between the Departments of Defense and Justice and a contractor, and the successful defense of a federal contractor, with no penalty, in an investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act.

Mr. Kirsch represents clients in judicial and administrative litigation including cost recovery disputes, state and federal enforcement cases and permit appeals. Recent matters include: a precedent-setting cost recovery matter through the trial and appellate stages involving shareholder, successor, and indemnity claims; a successful three-year permit modification for a major solid waste facility through administrative approval and judicial appeal proceedings; and publicly controversial and vigorously litigated proceedings relating to an application to relicense and later to transfer a nuclear energy facility.

Managing high-profile issues for clients is a focus of Mr. Kirsch's practice. He has represented proponents of facilities before state and federal agencies. That work has included developing permit and permit appeal strategies under state and federal clean air laws, defense of IPP operators in administrative and civil proceedings, defending and attacking administrative decisions in judicial appeals, defense of development clients against claims of coastal damage, and complex due diligence work in facility acquisitions.

Mr. Kirsch has pursued innovative permit applications and appeals. He advises about the environmental aspects of mergers and acquisitions, real estate transactions, SEC disclosure requirements, the implications of Sarbanes-Oxley and other environmental reporting obligations. He has counseled clients under all major federal environmental statutes, and many state analogues. 

Mr. Kirsch represents industrial as well as research and development clients using state and federal self-disclosure policies and has been involved in disclosures implicating more than 100 locations in the United States. He served as common counsel in multiple Superfund proceedings, has led common defense efforts involving more than 1,000 parties, and ensured 25 years of positive cash flow for one CERCLA client group, building the first solar energy facility on a CERCLA landfill site.

Between 2004 and 2015, Mr. Kirsch led a WilmerHale pro bono team representing six men held at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. That team consistently prevailed in courts, including the Supreme Court (Boumediene v. Bush), the federal district court (November 2008), the first Guantanamo-related habeas corpus trial in the United States, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (2010)—receiving the only ruling that court had issued in favor of a Guantanamo prisoner out of the more than 20 such decisions. In 2009, Mr. Kirsch negotiated the first resettlement from Guantanamo to an EU nation where the man was not a citizen. All six WilmerHale clients are now free.

Professional Activities

Mr. Kirsch is a fellow of the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

He chairs of the Board of Directors of the Environmental Law Institute.

He is President of the Board of Trustees of the Mount Washington Observatory.

He is Vice Chair of the Mount Washington Commission.

Speaking Engagements

  • French Cultural Center Stage Reading - "Peur(s)" (a play inspired by Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush) with WilmerHale and Barclay Damon, Boston (May 12, 2017)
  • ALI/ABA Impact of Environmental Law Conference (April 19-20, 2013)
  • ALI CLE Hydraulic Fracturing (Podcast) (October 2012)
  • Barnstable County Bar Association Annual Meeting: “Boumediene v. Bush - Habeas Corpus and the War on Terror” (June 2012)
  • Lawrence Bar Association Law Day 2011: “Pro Bono Service - John Adams to Guantanamo” (April 29, 2011)
  • ALI/ABA Impact of Environmental Law Conference, Washington DC (October 14-15, 2010)
  • Office of Military Commission: “Practical Steps to Leverage Your Advocacy for Your GTMO Clients” (June 10, 2010)
  • Red River Theatres Law Day: The Response: “The First Guantanamo Habeas Trial - Boumediene v. Bush” (May 13, 2010)
  • EU Human Rights/Death Penalty Counselors Meeting: “Procedural Opportunities and Obstacles for Vindicating the Constitutional Rights of Guantanamo Prisoners” (April 14, 2010)
  • New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education: “ISRA/Site Remediation Reform Act” (May 7, 2008)
  • ALI/ABA Impact of Environmental Law Conference, Boston (October 203, 2008)
  • Vermont Bar Association: "Confronting the Hard Edge of War: Representing Guantanamo Prisoners" (June 27, 2008)
  • Franklin Pierce Law School: “Boumediene v. Bush On Writ of Certiorari Argued 12/5/2007” (December 2007)
  • WilmerHale Nine Zeros Breakfast Forum, Washington DC (February 22, 2007)
  • The Massachusetts Nanotech Exchange Nine Zeros Breakfast Forum, Boston (October 4, 2004)


  • Listed as a leading lawyer in environmental law in the 2004–2021 editions of Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business, with a source calling him "one of the finest environmental lawyers" and a "great authority on environmental matters."
  • Selected by his peers for inclusion in 2006–2021 editions of the Best Lawyers in America for his environmental law practice.
  • Named a "New England Super Lawyer" (formerly "Massachusetts Super Lawyer") in the 2004–2019 issues of Boston Magazine.
  • Listed in the 2007, 2011–2015 editions of Who's Who Legal: The International Who's Who of Environment Lawyers
  • Named one of three 2008 "Lawyers of the Year" by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
  • Recipient of the Boston Bar Association's 2007 President's Award for pro bono work on behalf of clients detained at Guantanamo Bay.
  • In the 2011–2012 Best Law Firm rankings by U.S. News - Best Lawyers, Mr. Kirsch is described by a client as "a very trustworthy, problem-solving lawyer who attempts to find a fair resolution of issues."
  • Recommended as a leader in his field in the 2006–2009 editions of PLC Cross-border Environment Handbook.

Insights & News


  • Education

    • JD, Cornell Law School, 1983

      cum laude
    • BS, Middlebury College, 1979

      cum laude Phi Beta Kappa
  • Admissions

    • Massachusetts

    • New Hampshire



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