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A gray scale headshot of Nicholas Rostow smiling brightly before a white background.


Yale Law School, J.D., 1982

Yale University, Ph.D. in History, 1979

Yale University, B.A., summa cum laude, 1972
Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Paris, France (Certificat d'Etudes Politiques, with Honors), 1971


New York

District of Columbia

U.S. Federal Courts

  • District of Columbia

  • Southern District of New York

  • Western District of New York

  • Supreme Court of the United States


  • Appeals

  • Arbitrations, including as Expert Witness

  • Cybersecurity

  • General Counsel

  • Government Relations

  • Higher Education

  • International Law

  • International Transactions

  • Investigations

  • National Security Law



Ph: (212) 381-9914

Nicholas Rostow is Senior Partner at the New York City office of the firm (Zumpano Patricios & Popok).  He also is a Senior Research Scholar at the Yale Law School and in the spring of 2022 and 2023 a visiting professor at the Cornell Law School.  Mr. Rostow’s career has spanned private law practice, more than two decades of Federal and State government service in national security, diplomacy, international trade, and intelligence, and higher education, including as University Counsel to the State University of New York, the largest system of public higher education in the United States under a single board of trustees.  He has led a research center and engaged in teaching and scholarship in a wide range of fields and subjects.  He began his legal career at Shearman & Sterling in New York.  His Federal service includes: Special Assistant to the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State; Counsel to the investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal led by the late John Tower; Special Assistant for National Security Affairs to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and, simultaneously, Legal Adviser to the National Security Council (NSC) under National Security Advisers Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft, 1987-1993. 


He has held senior staff positions in Congress.  In 1998-99, Mr. Rostow served as Counsel and Deputy Staff Director to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China (chaired by former Congressman Chris Cox) and then, in 1999-2000, as Staff Director of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  The Cox Committee investigated high technology transfers to China and discovered evidence of Chinese theft of U.S. nuclear weapons design information.  The Senate Intelligence Committee oversees U.S. intelligence activities.  He subsequently conducted a management review of the intelligence community before going to the Naval War College as Charles H. Stockton Professor of International Law.  While a University Professor and Senior Director of the Center for Strategic Research at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., he conducted a zero-based budget review of the entire University.


After 9/11, he served as the General Counsel and Senior Policy Adviser to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations.  In this position, he worked for Ambassadors John Negroponte, Jack Danforth, and John Bolton.  He represented the United States on the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee and worked on all aspects of UN counter-terrorism efforts in addition to handling the legal portfolio of the Mission.  His other responsibilities included international criminal tribunals, the Middle East, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iraq, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and investigations into the oil-for-food controversy.


His business experience includes serving as a director of Toreador Resources Corporation, a public company involved in oil and gas exploration.  In that capacity, he oversaw an investigation of wrongdoing inside the company and the financial health of the company.  His not-for-profit experience has involved board and advisory positions of the American Jewish International Relations Institute, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, the John Tower Center at Southern Methodist University, International House, and the American Ditchley Foundation, among others.


Mr. Rostow served as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office of International Trade, 1995-98, under Governors William F. Weld and Argeo Paul Cellucci.  In that capacity, he assisted small- and medium-sized businesses in Massachusetts to find appropriate international partners.  He was responsible for the Governor’s trade missions to Canada, India, Ireland, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Philippines, and Vietnam.  In addition, he was responsible for Massachusetts’ trade offices in China and made trade related trips to Hong Kong and Japan.


Mr. Rostow’s university experience has included teaching law, history, and political science, in addition to providing legal counsel and leading a research center focused on strategic questions.  His private legal work also has involved higher education.  Mr. Rostow was one of the first University Professors at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., 2014-15.  He also held the Charles H. Stockton Professorship of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College (2001).  Recently, he served as a visiting professor of law at the Cornell Law School, the Charles Evans Hughes Visiting Professor of Government and Jurisprudence at Colgate University (2016-2018) and as the Sol. M. Linowitz Visiting Professor at Hamilton College (Spring 2018).


Mr. Rostow is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.


  • University Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs, the State University of New York, 2006-10

  • Senior Counsel, The Research Foundation, the State University of New York, 2005-06

  • Legal Counselor, University of Mary, Bismarck, ND, 2018-19



  • General Counsel and Senior Policy Adviser to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York, 2001-05

  • Staff Director, Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Senate, 1999-2000

  • Counsel and Deputy Staff Director, Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China, U.S. House of Representatives, 1998-99

  • Special Assistant to the Present for National Security Affairs and Legal Advisor to the National Security Council, 1987-93

  • Special Assistant to the Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State, 1985-87



  • Executive Director, Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, 1995-98

  • Board of Directors, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists

  • Board of Directors, American Jewish International Relations Institute

  • Board of Directors, Eisenhower Foundation


  • Advisory Council, American Ditchley Foundation

  • Board of Governors, Henry M. Jackson Foundation

  • Board of Trustees, International House



  • Board of Directors, Toreador Resources Corporation, 2006-09

    • Audit Committee

    • Compensation Committee

    • Nomination and Corporate Governance Committee

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