About Colm

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.


As stated by a construction client, “He is super knowledgeable and an aggressive yet collegial advocate for his clients.” (Chambers USA)


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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.
  • Negotiation of construction contract for bottling facility on behalf of large food and beverage agricultural client and assisted on other agricultural projects.
  • Negotiation of 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.
  • Representation of 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.
  • Representation of owners of tax-credit multifamily projects ranging from $2 million to $25 million.
  • Representation of project owners in contract negotiations for construction and refurbishment of hotels, ranging from $15 million to $20 million.
  • Representation of 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.
  • Representation of school districts in negotiating design and construction contracts for schools, including General Contractor / Construction Manager agreements ranging from $20,000 to $35 million.
  • Representation of manufacturers and energy provider in negotiating Engineering, Procurement, Construction contracts including (FIDIC forms).

Representative Construction Dispute Matters

  • Representation of 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 a public university in resolving a dispute over a $3 million Covid-19 impact claim related to the construction of a new science building.
  • Successful representation of tower developer in dispute with adjacent property owner, avoiding project delays and increased construction costs estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.
  • Representation of national contractor in a number of collection matters in Washington, including lien foreclosure actions.
  • Representation of Washington ports, school districts, housing authorities, cities, and other municipalities in various public works disputes, from bid protests to retainage release disputes.
  • Representation of private developers, hotel owners, landlords, and tenants in various disputes concerning design and construction of projects typically valued at between $10 million and $200 million.
  • Representation of 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.
  • Defense of 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.
  • Representation of a 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.
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Honors & Activities

Professional Honors & Activities

  • 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), Up and Coming, 2023
  • Member, Construction Law Forum, American Bar Association
  • Member, Legal Affairs Committee, Associated General Contractors of Washington
  • Member, Government Affairs Committee, National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Washington State Chapter; Member, Seattle Subcommittee
  • Past Chair, Construction Law Section, Washington State Bar Association, 2021–2022
  • Past Member, Washington Defense Trial Lawyers
  • Past Member, Design-Build Institute of America
  • Past Member, Construction Owners Association of America
  • Member of practice group nationally ranked in Best Law Firms®, 2010–2023

Civic Activities

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

Insights & Presentations

  • Chapter on Construction Litigation, co-author, Washington Construction Law Deskbook, WSBA
  • “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
  • “When a contractor refuses to perform work without a change order,” Daily Journal of Commerce, June 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
  • “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
  • “Dispute Resolution, Options, and Information Required from a Legal Perspective,” NWAIA and AGC Sponsored Event, September 2013
  • “Construction Defect Litigation Overview,” NBI CLE, September 2012
  • “Construction: Contracting, Litigation, Procurement and CPARB,” 2012 Association of Washington Housing Authorities (AWHA), April 2012
  • “Public Works Contracting/Litigation,” 2012 National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, April 2012
  • “Construction Changes,” University of Washington Construction Management Program, May 2011 & May 2012
  • “Construction Roundtable,” Washington State Association of Municipal Attorneys, May 2010
  • “Public Bidding Procedures and Bid Contests,” Lorman CLE, July 2010

Related News & Publications

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