Willliam D. Nelson already has his next career picked out.
The partner at Lewis Roca Rothberger law firm’s Colorado Springs office said without hesitation, if he weren’t an attorney, he would open a landscaping and nursery business.
“I wouldn’t have to wear a tie, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have to shave,” he said.
Nelson received his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Colorado Boulder before earning his law degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 1982. He specializes in “securities arbitration and regulatory defense,” according to the Lewis Roca Rothberger website. Nelson “represents broker-dealers, registered investment advisors and individual securities professionals.”
A Denver native, Nelson began as a law clerk in 1981 with the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals before “shifting gears” in 1985 when he became the in-house lawyer for Boettcher and Company’s brokerage firm. He represented Boettcher’s New York Stock Exchange interests from its Denver branch.
“I was in the securities industry learning the business for six years,” Nelson said. “But that job disappeared in a merger, as so often happens. That forced me to become a real lawyer in the outside world.”
Nelson, 59, said he used the skills he developed to represent other brokerage firms in employment and customer disputes. In 1999, Nelson left the Slivka Robinson Waters & O’Dorisio firm in Denver, and joined Rothberger Johnson & Lyons, the legacy firm to Lewis Roca Rothberger, which now has nine offices in six states with 250 staff lawyers. Ten years later he migrated from Denver to Colorado Springs.
“I saw the light in 2009 and wanted to raise my kids in Colorado Springs instead of Denver,” he said. “Since then, we’ve jumped into the community with both feet and do volunteer and philanthropic work. I’ve also broadened what I do as a lawyer into general litigation.”
Nelson’s work has expanded beyond Wall Street to include representing, among other clients, those with medical and dental practices, he said. He explained that he had been fond of southern Colorado as a child vacationing with his family, and he frequently made trips through the city on the way to Pueblo as a professional. That was all the incentive he needed to make the move.
“Here, there are nice people who wave at you with all five fingers,” Nelson said. “It’s more of a vibe like the Midwest. It’s more laid back.”
Nelson said, of the types of law he’s practiced, securities has always been his favorite.
“I think I like securities the most because I had not bothered taking those classes in law school,” he said. “It was completely outside my wheelhouse. That’s one thing that’s really neat about being a lawyer; you can retool anytime and find different and exciting things to practice. You don’t have to be stuck in the same rut. I like defending corporations because no two of those cases are alike.
“My career has been spent almost exclusively on the defense side,” Nelson explained. “About two years ago, I did something totally out of the box for me, that being representing plaintiffs in a securities dispute. Representing individuals who are not just monetarily but emotionally invested in a dispute is … very different … than representing entities for which the decision-making process is driven by business considerations.
“We achieved a very good outcome, and it gave me new insight into and appreciation of the various non-monetary, intangible factors involved in what is otherwise a commercial dispute.”
In addition to securities and regulatory law, Lewis Roca Rothberger also specializes in real estate, tax law and has “a fairly large” faith-based practice, Nelson said, adding that religious institutions also manage employee litigation, real estate and First Amendment issues.
When Nelson is not in court, he is involved with the community. He is the outgoing chairman of the board at the Colorado Springs School, chair of the CAPS (Community Advancing Public Safety) leadership committee, which works with local police and fire departments, and he serves on the advisory board of UCCS’s Theatreworks.
Nelson also serves on the advisory board of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum.
“I’m the guy who when someone asks for help, I say ‘OK.’ I’m a consummate volunteer, which could be good or bad.”
He said his law background assists him greatly in his philanthropic projects.
“There’s a lot of negotiation involved,” he said. “There’s a lot of working with people to accomplish a common goal. What I do as a lawyer has made me an effective leader and facilitator.”
When not volunteering, Nelson, a licensed ham radio operator, likes “to talk to people in various places around the world” or spend time outside in his garden.
Without a tie.
· Lewis Roca Rothgerber LLP (legacy firm Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP), 1999-present
· Slivka Robinson Waters & O’Dorisio, P.C., Shareholder, 1991-1999
· Kemper Securities, Inc., Associate General Counsel, 1990-1991
· Boettcher & Company, Inc., Associate General Counsel, 1985-1990
· Moye Giles O’Keefe Vermeire & Gorrell, P.C., Associate, 1982-1985
· United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Law Clerk to the Honorable Jean S. Breitenstein, 1981-1982
Memberships and affiliations
· Colorado Bar Association
· El Paso County Bar Association
· Securities Arbitration Commentator, Board of Editors
· Securities Litigation Commentator, Senior Contributing Editor