Stephan J. Nickels



Stephan J. Nickels is a partner and chair of the firm’s Madison litigation department. His practice focuses on complex litigation, with an emphasis on shareholder disputes and IP cases. Steve is also a leader in trust and estate litigation, helping clients navigate the complicated issues that arise in these emotional disputes. When not trying cases, Steve counsels several large clients on how to run their businesses more efficiently and profitably, including proactive measures to avoid litigation.

Steve has tried more than 30 cases before numerous state and federal courts, as well as the American Arbitration Association, and has argued before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal and Seventh Circuits. He also taught trial advocacy at the University of Wisconsin Law School for several years. Steve is a member of the firm’s Business Litigation & Dispute Resolution and IP Litigation Practices.

Representative Experience

Steve's recent accomplishments include the following:

  • $12 million victory in a complex shareholder dispute for a closely held business
  • Multi-million dollar win in a dispute over the distribution of trust assets
  • Secured favorable settlement in eight-figure patent litigation
  • Counseled multiple clients to minimize or avoid expensive tariffs


Steve has been recognized multiple times by Wisconsin Super Lawyers – Rising Stars® for his general commercial litigation work. He was also named a “40 Under 40” business leader in the Greater Madison Area. 


Steve earned his J.D. (magna cum laude) from Marquette University Law School in 2000. While at Marquette, he won a national moot court competition. Steve earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.


Steve is admitted to practice before the United States Patent Office, the state courts in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the federal courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin, and the District of Minnesota.

Publications and Presentations

Steve is a frequent speaker and author who teaches trial advocacy at the University of Wisconsin Law School. He has presented on the topic of trust and estate litigation and has given several presentations at local Madison banks on securities litigation. His publications include:

  • Co-author, “Wisconsin Supreme Court Opens Door for LLC Litigation,” National Law Review, April 8, 2019
  • Co-author, “Lights On: Litigating Shareholder Disputes,” Wisconsin Lawyer, June 2014
  • Co-author, "Patent Litigation During the Recession—How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck," BNA’s Patent, Trademark & Copyright Journal, October 30, 2009
  • Co-author, "Patent Marking Requirements Post TransCore," IP Law360, October 16, 2009
  • Co-author, "Patent Injunctions After eBay," Law360, July 25, 2008