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Nichols is all business

Tom Nichols, most often an advisor and transactional attorney, ventured into litigation in 2004 on behalf of a long-term client facing insider-trading charges brought by the SEC.

They were “over the top” claims, he said. Nichols played a major role in drafting the summary judgment materials, revising them twice over the litigators’ objections to reflect his passionate belief that his client had done nothing wrong.

Not only did the federal court adopt Nichols’ numbers and analysis, but also, in a footnote, it chastised the agency for bringing the case. Afterward, an article about the case appeared in Forbes magazine.

“It was a complete victory,” he recalled. “What the judge essentially ruled was that the SEC didn’t have enough evidence to even take it to a jury.”

It was a departure from Nichols’ tax and corporate practice. He has built a reputation nationwide as one of the country’s business law experts.

In 2012, he was invited to testify before the House Ways and Means Committee regarding proposed tax reforms. Nichols is a strong proponent of greater tax parity between C-corps and the various pass-through entities as sound public policy, even though as a lawyer, it’s not in his best interest.

Nichols’ longtime service on the American Bar Association’s Tax Law Section Committee on S-Corps is what brought him to the federal lawmakers’ attention. The committee’s work has been extremely influential in shaping tax policy during the past few decades.

Nichols also has been extremely active in the State Bar’s Business Law Section, most recently as a past board member and president, and currently chairing its Partnerships Committee charged with updating Wisconsin’s partnership statutes.

He joined his firm immediately after earning his J.D., and within five years he was named a partner. He became president of the firm a few years later.

“Tom is the most dedicated professional I’ve ever met,” said his law partner, Mike Cohen. “He thinks about the firm virtually 24/7.”

Nichols attended Marquette High, Marquette University and then its law school, largely because his father, attorney Lawrence Nichols, taught there.

Nichols’ son, Timothy, also went to Marquette for high school, college and law school, and now practices with his dad.

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