Colm Nelson represents public owners, private owners and developers, general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, design professionals, brokers, and lenders in a wide variety of construction transactions, construction litigation, procurement, and real estate matters. He has nearly 20 years’ experience in the construction industry and negotiates complex construction and design contracts for public and private owners. Colm represents clients in disputes over bid protests, construction defects and property damage, extra work and delay claims, errors and omissions in design documents, tenant improvements, breach of warranty, insurance coverage against insurance companies, and mechanic’s liens. He also has substantial experience handling procurement issues for public, quasi-public and private entities and related projects with respect to construction, services, and goods.

Colm enjoys developing a deep understanding of his client’s particular business and then partnering with that client to create forms, procure the appropriate insurance, and establish procedures that are both practical and effective in reducing his client’s risk. In situations where disputes are unavoidable, Colm has experience in redirecting the tone and direction of discussions and resolving matters through favorable settlements before litigation ensues. He has also carefully created and implemented litigation strategies that are designed to navigate his clients through each step of a complex lawsuit and tailored to meet that client’s particular needs and budget. Colm has experience representing clients in various levels of state court and federal court and in multiple arbitration forums.


Indiana University School of Law, J.D., 2005; member, Indiana International & Comparative Law Review

Western Washington University, B.A., French and Business, 2000, cum laude

Laval University, Quebec City, Canada, French Exchange Program, 1998

Blackrock College, Dublin, Ireland, 1996



United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

United States Court of Federal Claims

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

United States Supreme Court



Representative Construction Transactions

  • Represented prominent PNW sports entity in the development of a state-of-the-art headquarters and training facility in Renton, Washington. Our experienced Construction & Design team skillfully negotiated contracts and coordinated stakeholders, contributing to the project's success.

  • Assist regional homebuilders in creating and/or updating design and construction contracts and procuring insurance. Also provide dispute resolution and risk mitigation services.

  • Assist project owners on tower developments including negotiating design and construction contracts and providing risk management advice.
  • Negotiated construction contract for bottling facility on behalf of large food and beverage agricultural client and assisted on other agricultural projects.
  • Negotiated construction contracts for various distilling facilities on behalf of numerous beverage clients.
  • Drafted and assisted in negotiations for construction contracts for two different sports facilities.
  • Assisted housing authority clients in drafting procurement policies in conformance with both state and federal procurement laws, as well as in negotiating numerous Guaranteed Maximum Price contracts in the range of $20 million to $40 million.
  • Represented numerous multifamily mixed-use project owners in Guaranteed Maximum Price and design-build contract negotiations ranging from $10 million to $120 million.
  • Assisted HUD/HFA project owners in contract drafting for projects ranging from $20 million to $35 million.
  • Represented owners of tax-credit multifamily projects ranging from $2 million to $25 million.
  • Represented project owners in contract negotiations for construction and refurbishment of hotels, ranging from $15 million to $20 million.
  • Represented health care providers in negotiating design and construction contracts for hospitals and health care facilities, including General Contractor / Construction Manager agreements ranging from $100,000 to $200 million.
  • Represented school districts in negotiating design and construction contracts for schools, including General Contractor / Construction Manager agreements ranging from $20,000 to $35 million.
  • Represented manufacturers and energy provider in negotiating Engineering, Procurement, Construction contracts including (FIDIC forms).

Representative Construction Dispute Matters

  • Represented hotel owner in defending against prime contractor’s termination of the contract for cause as well as the contractor’s multimillion-dollar differing site condition claims (and related lien claim). In private arbitration, the arbitrator ruled that not only was the contractor’s termination for default improper but that because the contractor had refused to return to the project despite having received proper notice to do so, the hotel owner with the assistance of counsel had properly terminated the contractor for cause. Following depositions and numerous motions, the case settled with the contractor making a sizeable payment to the hotel owner and releasing its claims and lien in full.
  • Assisted public university in resolving a dispute over a $3 million Covid-19 impact claim related to the construction of a new science building.
  • Successfully represented tower developer in dispute with adjacent property owner, avoiding project delays and increased construction costs estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.
  • Represented national contractor in a number of collection matters in Washington, including lien foreclosure actions.
  • Represented Washington ports, school districts, housing authorities, cities, and other municipalities in various public works disputes, from bid protests to retainage release disputes.
  • Represented private developers, hotel owners, landlords, and tenants in various disputes concerning the design and construction of projects typically valued at between $10 million and $200 million.
  • Represented client in appeal of approval of hydropower dam project by the Project Review Committee of the Capital Project Advisory Review Board (CPARB), which is charged with reviewing and approving (or rejecting) alternative public works projects under Ch. 39.10 RCW. The approval was appealed to CPARB by certain groups based on administrative law and constitutional grounds, but CPARB ultimately rejected the appeal, including both the administrative and constitutional challenges. The project was unanimously approved and resulted in the creation of appellate rules by CPARB for project appeals.
  • Defended Washington State building owner in its termination of a preconstruction agreement with a joint-venture prime contractor concerning an over $1 billion expansion project. The contractor sought, among other things, an order enjoining the project from proceeding with another contractor. Successfully defeated the injunction and ultimately settled the disputed, allowing the project to move forward.
  • Represented federal contractor in a bid protest challenging the legality of $260 million procurement by a federal agency. Represented the contractor in numerous venues, including at the Government Accountability Office, the Court of Federal Claims, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. In 2015, the agency ultimately withdrew the procurement, agreeing to comply with an order issued by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that had adopted the position advocated by the contractor.

Publications & Presentations

Insights & Presentations

  • “Building Solutions: Addressing Common Legal Issues on Construction Projects,” WSBA Real Property, Probate and Trust Section Midyear Meeting, June 8, 2024
  • “Judge Dread? Are You Sure Arbitration Is Right for Your Construction Dispute?,” Back to the Future: Leveraging Technology in Post-Covid Construction Disputes, Construction Law Section Annual CLE, WSBA, June 2024
  • Chapter on Construction Litigation, co-author, Washington Construction Law Deskbook, WSBA
  • “Legal Issues & Construction Contracts,” University of Washington CRE Certificate Program, April 2024
  • “Preconstruction services, project savings, and great expectations,” Daily Journal of Commerce, July 2023
  • “Legal Issues & Construction Contracts,” University of Washington CRE Certificate Program, March 2023
  • “Legal Q and A: The what-if’s of GC/sub financial problems,” The Construction Broadsheet, July 2022
  • “Ways to guard against insolvency risks,” Daily Journal of Commerce, July 2022
  • “Notice and Termination Issues,” Construction Law Updates, Public Works Issues, and Judicial Perspectives on Litigation in an Evolving Courtroom, Construction Law Section Annual CLE, WSBA, June 2022
  • “Construction in a Volatile Market,” Real Property, Probate and Trust Section Midyear Meeting and Conference, WSBA, June 2022
  • “Legal Issues & Construction Contracts,” University of Washington CRE Certificate Program, March 2022
  • “A key battleground: material price escalations and supply chain disruptions,” Daily Journal of Commerce, July 2021
  • “COVID Claims Panel,” Navigating a Financially Troubled Project During Uncertain Times, Construction Law Section Annual CLE, WSBA, June 2021
  • Testified in Olympia concerning proposed bill addressing Covid-19 impact costs, January 2021
  • “When to have the hard talk about setting liquidated damages,” Daily Journal of Commerce, September 2020
  • “Construction Issues for Improvements,” 31st Annual Advanced Conference On Commercial Real Estate Leases, December 2019
  • “Severin and Independent Duty Doctrine Update,” Construction Law Section Annual CLE, WSBA, June 2019
  • “Protecting Against Risk—Insurance and Indemnity,” Bidding Public Works & Construction Contracts, The Seminar Group, June 2019
  • “When a contractor refuses to perform work without a change order,” Daily Journal of Commerce, June 2019
  • “Design-Build Contracts,” Market Mash 2018, Society for Marketing Professional Services, June 2018
  • “Key Risk-Shifting Provisions for Owners and Contractors,” Bidding Public Works and Construction Contracts, The Seminar Group, May 2018
  • “Case Law Update,” 2nd Annual Construction Project Challenges, The Seminar Group, December 2017
  • “Washington Statutes Affecting Construction,” Construction Law Section Annual Seminar, WSBA, June 2017
  • “Pre-Construction Risk Management,” Construction Project Challenges in Seattle, The Seminar Group, December 2016
  • “Construction Law,” 15th Annual CLE Bootcamp, The Seminar Group, December 2016
  • “Bidder Responsibility Criteria for Public Works Construction Projects: How to Ensure Your Low Bidder Can Do the Job,” Municipal and PUD Attorneys Education Seminar, June 2016
  • “Projects with Challenging Site Conditions: Managing the Risks,” Washington Public Ports Association Spring Meeting, May 2016
  • “Protecting Against Risk,” Bidding Public Works and Construction Contracts, The Seminar Group, May and March 2016
  • “Contemporary Ethics Challenges in Construction Law,” Construction Law: Designs, Delays, Disputes, and Delivery, Sterling Education Services, April 2016
  • “Procurement Update for Housing Authorities,” Client Briefing, April 2016
  • “Washington State Prevailing Wages,” Client Briefing, April 2016
  • “Differing Site Conditions on Washington State Construction Projects and Ways to Allocate Economic Risk Associated With These Conditions,” Washington Public Utility Districts Association, September 2015
  • “Jobsite Safety,” AGC of Washington, Northern District, Fall 2014


  • Included in The Best Lawyers in America® (Construction Law; Litigation—Construction), 2024
  • Selected as one of “America’s Leading Lawyers for Business” (Washington) by Chambers USA (Construction), 2023–present



  • American Bar Association, Construction Law Forum, Member
  • Associated General Contractors of Washington, Legal Affairs Committee, Member
  • Member, Government Affairs Committee, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Washington State Chapter; Member, Seattle Subcommittee
  • Washington State Bar Association, Construction Law Section, past Chair, 2021–2022
  • Washington Defense Trial Lawyers, past Member
  • Design-Build Institute of America, past Member
  • Construction Owners Association of America, past Member
  • Member of practice group nationally ranked in Best Law Firms®, 2010–2024


  • Beta Gamma Sigma, Member
  • Assumption St. Bridget School, past Chair of School Commission
  • Green Plate Special, past Board Member
  • King County Prosecutor’s Office, Trial Fellow, 2011
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