About Tom

Tom Hicks, Attorney at Law

Tom Hicks, Attorney at LawTom Hicks is a California licensed (Bar No. 238545), San Francisco-based attorney and graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Tom brings a multi-faceted perspective to his legal practice. He has over 20 years of litigation, business, collaborative, policy, education, and leadership experience in the private, public, non-profit, and “pro bono” sectors. Tom is guided by a pragmatic, results-driven advocacy on behalf of clients.


U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, 2005;
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, 2008.

Civil Litigation

Tom has represented and appeared on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants in both state and federal courts. He has directly represented clients in settlement negotiations, depositions, mediation, special master, and trial settings. He has drafted complaints, answers, pleadings, motions, discovery, appeals, memoranda, client letters, demand letters, and other adversarial communications. He has extensive e-discovery experience on Relativity.

Tom has previously worked as a litigation associate at the Birka-White Law Offices, representing clients in product liability, construction defects, toxic torts, and class action cases or related administrative claims and appeals.

Tom has completed the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) 9-day Intensive Advocacy Training.

Business & Economics

A business sensibility is essential to successful legal strategy. Costs and benefits of legal action must be carefully evaluated at the onset of any engagement to ensure that the Client’s needs and best interests are prioritized accordingly.

Tom’s practice has adopted modern technologies and streamlined solutions to reduce legal overhead and operational costs to provide a lower-cost and higher-value legal service to all Clients. Tom provides law firms and other Clients experienced value without the cost of a full-time, permanent hire. His practice serves Clients whose requirements are dynamic and who prefer contractual flexibility.

Tom has worked for solo practitioners, regional firms, e-Discovery specialists, non-profit organizations, and national/international firms on projects that range from weeks to years.

Collaborative Leadership

Tom has an ability to bring people together in common purpose to generate uncommon results. He is an active communicator with strong organizational skills. He is a former Class V whitewater rafting guide, kayaker, ski patrolman, and Colorado Outward Bound instructor willing to lead, follow, and take appropriately managed risks to achieve Clients’ goals and objectives.


Tom brings a special focus and expertise in water law and policy dating back before law school, most prominently as a water and energy policy associate at the Natural Heritage Institute, where he participated in the drafting of a successful United States Supreme Court Amicus Brief in S. D. Warren Co. v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection (Clean Water Act), 547 U.S. 370 (2006) and facilitated the creation of the Alaska Public Waters Coalition.

Tom provides thoughtful, balanced and pragmatic counsel that strives to find common solutions in an ever-increasingly complex waterscape of agricultural, municipal, and environmental interests. Tom’s experience spans national, regional, and local perspectives.

Educational Programs & Pro Bono

Tom also founded and is currently on the Board of Directors of the California Water Law Symposium (CA-WLS), which is an annual collaboration among Bay Area law school students focused on discussion and analysis of California’s freshwater resources by leading water law and policy practitioners and experts. The CA-WLS is the recipient of the 2010 American Bar Association’s Section on Environment, Energy & Resources Law inaugural Student Program of the Year Award.

Tom has worked on behalf of the American Bar Association’s Water Resources Committee to help foster the Northwest Water Law Symposium among Pacific Northwest law schools and students.

Tom is the founder and Emeritus Board member of the Headwaters Institute (HWI), which coordinates a nationwide series of natural history, interpretation, customer service skills and natural resource seminars for professional whitewater rafting, fly-fishing and other guides. Since 1996, HWI has conducted over 100 seminars that have trained over 7,000 guides who have had direct personal contact with over 2.5 million people.


Co-Author, California Water Education Foundation, 2013 LAYPERSON’S GUIDE TO WATER RIGHTS LAW (December 2013).


Contributor, Western States Water Council, WATER TRANSFERS IN THE WEST: PROJECTS, TRENDS, AND LEADING PRACTICES IN VOLUNTARY WATER TRADING (Draft for the Consideration of the Western Governors); Policy Option Tax Incentives to Encourage Instream Flow Donations. (November 2012).

Author, State and Federal Policy Recommendations for Water Right and Instream Water Transfer Options in California. (June 2012).

Author, Legal Assessment & Scalable Water Right Transfer Options in the Feather River Watershed, California. Prepared for the Natural Heritage Institute for the SIERRA WATER TRUST: BUILDING CAPACITY IN THE SIERRA NEVADA TO ASSESS AND FULFILL CRITICAL FLOW AUGMENTATION NEEDS. (November 2011).

An Interpretation of the Internal Revenue Code and Treasury Regulations Supporting the Tax Deductibility of the Voluntary Charitable Contribution in Perpetuity of a Partial Interest in an Appropriative or Riparian Water Right Transferred Instream for Conservation Purposes (with an emphasis on California Water Law), 17 HASTINGS WEST NORTHWEST J. OF ENVTL. L. & POL’Y 93 (May 2011).

43 C.F.R. Part 417 Does Not Authorize Federal Agency Adjudication of IID Beneficial Use of Colorado River Water, 14 HASTINGS WEST NORTHWEST J. OF ENVTL. L. & POL’Y 1499 (2008).

Speaking Engagements & Presentations

February 5-6, 2014, Reno, Nevada; Participant, Land Trust Alliance Fourth Symposium on Advanced Legal Topics.

November 14, 2013, Napa, California; Presenter, “Balancing Environmental and Human Water Use Needs” at the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts’ Annual Conference.

November 7, 2013: Reno, Nevada; Presenter, “Water Transactions for Conservation Purposes” at Nevada Water Resources Association 2013 River Symposium.

September 17, 2013, New Orleans, Louisiana; Panelist: “Water Rights in Western Conservation Easements” seminar at the Land Trust Alliance’s 2012 Land Trust Rally.

June 4, 2013, Denver, Colorado; Participant, Land Trust Alliance Forum on Land Trusts and Water.

April 11, 2013, Sacramento, California; Convenor, California Instream Water Transfers Briefing #3.

March 19, 2013, Sacramento, California; Presentation: “The Federal Tax Deductibility of Gifts of Water Rights” at California Council of Land Trusts 2013 Annual Conference.

March 12, 2013, Denver, Colorado; Presentation: “The Federal Tax Deductibility of Gifts of Appropriative Water Rights” at the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts’ Conservation Excellence 2013.

March 1, 2013, Eugene, Oregon; Presentation: “The Federal Tax Deductibility of Gifts of Water Rights” at Public Interest Environmental Law Conference 2013.

November 17, 2012, San Diego, California: Presentation: “Voluntary Instream Water Transfers” at California Association of Resource Conservation Districts‘ 2012 Annual Conference.

October 1, 2012, Salt Lake City, Utah: Presentation: “The Federal Tax Deductibility of Charitable Contributions of Water Rights” at Land Trust Alliance’s Rally 2012: Salt Lake City.

September 25, 2012, Novato, California: Presentation: “History of Water in California” at Environmental Forum of Marin Master Class on Water and Watersheds.

September 19, 2012, Sacramento, California; Convenor, California Instream Water Transfers Briefing #2.

September 13, 2012, Ventura, California: Presentation: “Charitable Water Right Transfers: Protecting Water Rights on Conservation Properties” at Ventura County Task Force of the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project.

June 7, 2012, Seattle, Washington: Presentation: “Tax Deductibility of Charitable Contributions of Appropriative Water Rights” at Western States Water Council’s Legal Committee Meeting.

April to May 2012, Regional Revenue Ruling Briefings: Washington, DC; Helena, MT; Missoula, MT; Reno, NV; Santa Fe, NM; Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Portland, OR; Olympia, WA.

March 20, 2012, Sacramento, California: Presentation: “Protecting Water Rights on Conservation Properties” at California Council of Land Trusts.

January 21, 2012, UC Berkeley Law: Presentation: “Water Law 101” at California Water Law Symposium

January 20, 2012, Sacramento, California; Convenor, Regional Donative Instream Water Transfers Meeting.

January 19, 2012, Sacramento, California; Convenor, California Instream Water Transfers Briefing #1.

December 13, 2011, Las Vegas, Nevada: Presentation: “Federal Tax Deductions for Water Rights Donated to Instream Conservation Purposes” at Western Governors’ Association & Western States Water Council’s Innovative Water Transfers Workshop

June 29, 2011, Denver, Colorado: Participant at Alliance for Water Efficiency‘s Water Efficiency for Instream Flow: Making the Link in Practice An Interactive Workshop

June 27, 2011, Sacramento, California: Presentation: “Tax Deductibility of Water Right Donations” at California Council of Land Trusts‘ Conservation Law Forum

March 25, 2011, Sacramento, California: Presentation: “Water Rights Transfers – Creative Solutions” at Water Education Foundation’s 28th Annual Executive Briefing

March 18, 2011, Sacramento, California; California Instream Water Transfers Meeting (Scoping).

March 1, 2011, Seattle, Washington: Presentation: “Donative Transfers” at Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program’s Spring Qualified Local Entities Meeting

October 8, 2010, Sacramento, California; Permanent Donative Instream Water Transfers Meeting.


San Francisco Office of the City Attorney, Public Utility Commission and Energy & Telecommunications Teams (2004)

California State Water Resources Control Board, Office of Chief Counsel (2003)

American Rivers, Hydropower Policy, Washington, D.C. (1995-96)

Honors & Awards

Arthur Zief Jr. Scholarship Award for contributions to University of San Francisco School of Law student community, 2004-05;

USF Pro Bono Publico Award for outstanding community service through voluntary legal assistance, May 2005.