Law Practice
Philip Williams is a water, natural resources, and public agency attorney who counsels his clients how best to achieve their objectives. He provides counsel on resource planning and management, legal strategy, and governance. Phil has experience in some of today’s most significant and complex water and resource management efforts.  He is uniquely equipped to advise on how to develop robust institutions and durable systems capable of ensuring success in today’s asymmetric political and regulatory environment.

Phil’s expertise focuses on environmental issues surrounding California water law, the National Environmental Policy Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, the federal and California Endangered Species Acts, California’s Natural Communities Conservation Planning Act, the federal Clean Water Act, and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. He provides local agencies with insightful counsel on issues related to the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, various conflicts laws, and laws related to public employment, contracting, and finance.

Phil grew up as a child in Saudi Arabia and later served over eight years as an Officer and Army Ranger, including two combat tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division (“Honor and Country!”). He has spoken and guest-lectured on various aspects of water and natural resources law and policy, public agency law, and on the philosophical and moral implications of modern warfare. He believes the oxford comma avoids unnecessary obfuscation (and lawyer’s fees).

Phil has organized and participated in numerous fundraisers for local non-profit organizations that treat the homeless veteran community and sits on the Board of Directors for the Veterans Resource Centers of America.

Phil left the Army to plant a tree and watch it grow and to do as much good in this life as he can. His highest honor and privilege lie in being a husband to his wife Emily and father to their two children.

Legal Credentials

Licensed to Practice in the State of California


·         Supreme Court of the United States of America

·         United States Court of Federal Claims

·         United States District Court, Eastern District of California

·         United States District Court, Northern District of California

·         State of California

·         LL.M., Water Resources, McGeorge School of Law

·         J.D., McGeorge School of Law

·         Master of Public Administration, Emphasis in Environmental Policy, University of Utah

·         Ranger Tab, The United States Army Ranger School

·         B.A., Political Science, U.C. Davis

birdmen (2010); a novel based loosely on his experience serving in Iraq and then coming home.

Peace Like a River: Institutionalizing Cooperation over Water Resources in the Jordan River Basin, 28 Colo. Nat. Resources Energy & Envtl. L. 313 (2017); an analysis of how to institutionally remove water resources from the conflict calculus in the Middle East.

Counting the Cost: Weyerhaeuser and Judicial Deference to Agency Interpretations under the ESA, Environmental Law News, Vol. 27, No. 2, Fall 2018; an analysis of the Supreme Court’s review of federal agency interpretations under Chevron and that position’s constitutional and philosophical implications.


Presentations, Lectures, and Speaking Engagements

Masterpiece Cake Shop: Baked-In Bias and Administrative Decisions – ACWA, Nov. 2018

The WOTUS Wars [I Take Exception to the Term “Wars” in the Context of Water Resources] – University of San Francisco School of Law, Dec 2017

National Business Institute: Current Issues, Legal Challenges, and Recent Trends in California Water Rights – National Business Institute, Nov 2017

Why Do We Celebrate Veterans’ Day? – McGeorge School of Law, Nov. 2017

Preserving Liberty and Administering the Public Good: An Introduction to Special Districts – McGeorge School of Law Summer Policy Program, June 2017

 The Development of California Water: A Historical Perspective to Inform Our Future – Mountain Counties Water Resources Association, June 2017

California’s Water Future: A Perspective – American Water Resources Association, Feb. 2017

National Business Institute: Current Issues, Legal Challenges, and Recent Trends in California Water Rights – National Business Institute, Dec 2016

California Water Shortages: Impacts and Lessons Learned – Idaho Water Users’ Conference, Nov. 2015

The Moral Implications of Waging Modern Warfare – San Francisco State University, Sept 2015

The Ralph M. Brown Act: The Most Exciting Class You Will Ever Have – McGeorge School of Law, Sept 2015

The Bay-Delta Conservation Plan: Searching for a Durable Solution to a Broken System – California Land Use Law & Policy, March 2015