Tom Nelson has been selected for several years as one of Minnesota’s leading attorneys, based not only on his excellence in the practice of law and his representation of clients, but also on his service to our legal profession and his contributions to our community.
In terms of his representation of clients, he was again honored by being named among The Best Lawyers in America®—this time in five practice areas, in particular: Commercial Litigation; Insurance Law; Banking & Finance Litigation; Construction Litigation; and Real Estate Litigation. He was recently recognized by Best Lawyers® as the 2016 Insurance Law "Lawyer of the Year" in Minneapolis. He has been selected every year for inclusion in Super Lawyers® since the inception of that annual distinction in the 1990s, including 2016. He was recently included, along with Allen Saeks of our firm, in the national Corporate Counsel Edition of the publication as one of Minnesota’s Top Attorneys in Business Litigation.
In terms of his devotion to the legal profession, Tom’s commitment is well-known. For example, he was honored by the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit as the Minnesota recipient of the Richard S. Arnold Award for Distinguished Service and Lifetime Achievement. He was also recently honored as an "Attorney of the Year" by Minnesota Lawyer. He was selected to be a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation (www.americanbarfoundation.org) and this past year, he was inducted into the Litigation Counsel of America (www.litcounsel.org). He was the recipient of the Hennepin County Bar Association Attorney Professionalism Award, presented annually to the Association member "who best exemplifies the pursuit of the practice of law as a profession, including a spirit of public service and promotion of the highest possible level of competence, integrity and ethical conduct." For almost a decade, Tom served as chair of the Hennepin County Bar Association Bar Memorial Committee. He is chair of the HCBA's "Vintage Lawyers Group," and just finished serving his terms as president and past-president of the Hennepin County Bar Association (www.hcba.org). Tom is now serving as Secretary of the Minnesota State Bar Association, joining the leadership "ladder" leading to the MSBA Presidency in a few years. He served on the U.S. Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel, upon his appointment by then U.S. District Court Chief Judge James Rosenbaum. He co-chaired the panel for the 8th Circuit Judicial conference on "Baseball and the Law" at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. He has been admitted to the Douglas K. Amdahl Inn of Court. Interestingly, Tom recently participated in a one-week trip to Cuba as a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association delegation visiting the National Union of Cuban Jurists. Tom was recognized in 2009 as the recipient of our law firm’s Pro Bono Award for Outstanding Legal Service in the Public Interest, arising out of his work with the University of Minnesota Guantanamo Defense Project.
In terms of his service to the community, Tom was recently selected to serve as one of the 9 members of the new Minnesota State Bar Association Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council. He also serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force of the Federal Bar Association Minnesota Chapter. He serves on the Board of Directors of Global Rights for Women (www.globalrightsforwomen.org), and on the Board of Directors of The Givens Foundation for African American Literature, and also on the Board of Trustees of the Landmark Center in Saint Paul, which is one of Minnesota’s most significant historic buildings and the location for many years of Minnesota’s U.S. District Court. He just finished serving on the Board of Trustees of the American Swedish Institute, most recently as its chairman. He also serves as a commissioner on the City of Bloomington Charter Commission. He was one of our law firm’s representatives for Twin Cities/Diversity in Practice; and serves on our firm’s Diversity Committee. Incidentally, and much to our pride, our firm received the 2012 annual Hennepin County Bar Association Diversity Award, recognizing our efforts and accomplishments along these lines. Tom was honored recently as the recipient of the St. Olaf College Outstanding Service Award.
In terms of practice areas, Tom’s legal career started out (and somewhat continues) in the realm of "Door Law" (meaning, whatever comes in the door). Along the way, Tom has handled some "interesting" matters, including representing one company in a lawsuit brought by Alice the Cat; and then later representing two Cairn Terriers named Gus and Loki in their claim against the neighborhood Pit Bull. He has represented a federally imprisoned, espionage-related defendant in extended federal habeas corpus proceedings, and has affected the arrest of an ocean-going merchant vessel in the New Haven harbor pursuant to applicable maritime law. He has represented Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows in commercial, contract and municipal regulatory matters. And his First Amendment work has included trials and disputes involving alleged AIDS-related and (alleged) mob-related defamation claims against newspapers; opinion-related defamation claims against public officials; and medical "quackery" defamation-related claims against what was once known as the American Quack Association.
More traditionally (perhaps), Tom has handled business and commercial litigation (i.e., lawsuits about money as well as injunctions) involving, among other things, mechanical heart valve contract supply disputes, sales representative contractual commissions, shareholder disputes, investor/broker claims, computer technology and equipment, condemnation and adverse possession, and real estate development option agreements (e.g., Minnesota Court of Appeals: 2009WL 2928761 (Minn. App.)). Just recently, Tom and our firm have been asked to defend a supply contract lawsuit against a major pharmaceutical company, and to represent a major participant in a significant "Trust Instruction Proceeding" or "TIP" here in Minnesota. He has defended products ranging from trucks to table saws, and from exploding electrical switch gear and natural gas pipelines to saline-filled breast implants. Tom’s longtime work with the design, professional and construction communities has included defending claims ranging from allegedly sinking buildings to allegedly sagging high school gymnasium roof trusses. His employment-related work has included a wide range of non-compete and duty-of-loyalty litigation. His insurance, reinsurance and risk management work has included (allegedly) STOLI-related federal life insurance litigation (including a recent trial in Duluth), broker professional negligence and agent liability, coverage disputes and litigation, non-compete litigation, policy analysis, drafting and negotiation, as well as regulatory Department of Commerce matters, space satellite reinsurance brokerage, reinsurance treaty interpretation, and Attorney General civil investigative demands (CIDs). A while back, he was on the trial team in a multi-week jury trial in Hennepin County District Court involving professional negligence relating to reinsurance brokerage services. He is a member of ARIAS-US. His corporate work has ranged from brewery-related lease negotiations; to the creation (and then sale) of a highly sophisticated, engineering-related, invention-based emerging corporation; to advising businesses on doing business with Native American tribes; to law firm and corporate "divorces," break-ups and lawyer transitions; to more traditional corporate transactions and transitions. In the financial enterprise world, he has served as lead defense counsel in credit cardholder class action litigation, and also as counsel with respect to lender liability claims, bankruptcy and workout matters, receivership proceedings, and credit card fraud investigation. Along the way, he has drafted and negotiated a wide range of commercial contracts and corporate governing documents, and consults regularly on company ownership arrangements and ownership transition, serving, in effect, as "outside general counsel." He was chosen to serve as a panel member on a multi-week, multimillion dollar computer-related AAA contract arbitration in Portland, Oregon; and has served as mediator in commercial and law firm disputes, as well.
Prior to practicing law, Tom was a founder, teacher and administrator of an innovative public high school in New Haven, Connecticut, called High School in the Community—a school still working creatively to educate the students of New Haven. During that time, he also served on the faculty and advisory board of the Cloverdale Project, a residential summer educational program for high school students in the foothills of the Nevada desert. After law school, he clerked for two terms (1977 and 1978) for Judge Thomas J. Meskill of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sitting in New York City. [See 588 F.3d]. Tom began his legal career with the Connecticut law firm of Tyler Cooper, and returned to Minnesota in 1983.