Steven Kelso
Practice Areas
Industries
Representative Clients
  • Comfort Dental Group, Inc.
  • FCA Group f/k/a Chrysler Group
  • Mercedes-Benz USA - National Trial Counsel
  • Nissan North America

Steven Kelso
 

A team-oriented trial attorney, Steve Kelso's extensive trial experience enables him to develop litigation matters with an eye toward effective trial presentation. Steve focuses his practice on defending complex commercial disputes, particularly involving unique franchise matters and independent contractor classification issues.

Steve's franchisor experience includes clients in the automotive, consumer services, and health industries. He has successfully represented franchisors in various state and federal courts, before administrative agencies, and on appeal. He also has defended national companies in class action, commercial, labor and employment, and insurance disputes before federal and state trial and appellate courts. His appellate experience includes a Colorado Supreme Court reinstatement of one of his early trial court victories, which involved a matter of first impression.

With exceptional experience building litigation strategies, Steve has delivered precedent-setting arguments that have shaped franchise and related commercial law throughout the country. In cases involving classification, Steve's background allows him to go beyond traditional employment law formulations and build commercial concepts into arguments that inform judges and juries how innovative businesses work effectively with independent contractors, without reclassifying them as employees. As a result, he has safely led companies and franchisors through assaults on their business models.

Following Chrysler LLC's bankruptcy in 2009, WTO and one other law firm co-managed the litigation of 418 arbitration demands by dealers that had been rejected under the terms of the bankruptcy. The statutory deadline to complete the arbitrations was just seven months. As a supervisory member of WTO's franchise team, Steve was lead counsel in 10 matters in Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada, and personally conducted four arbitrations. He also was a key member of the strategic development, national coordinating, and witness preparation teams. In addition to training dozens of local trial counsel and overseeing their workup and arbitration of assigned matters, Steve prepared scores of company and expert witnesses, and developed many of the key themes, theories, and strategies used in all matters.

Before joining WTO, Steve served in the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps.  While in the Air Force, he tried over 30 jury trials and served as lead trial counsel and supervising attorney on the Air Force's most complex jury trials.

Other Experience

United States Air Force
    Major
United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps
    Circuit Trial Counsel, Travis Air Force Base, California

Legal Memberships, Activities, and Honors
Colorado Super Lawyers
    
Civil Litigation Defense, 2013-2017
The Best Lawyers in America
    Franchise Law, 2018
Law Week Colorado
    Lawyer of the Year, 2010 
Colorado Rising Stars
    Civil Litigation Defense, 2009-2011
    Franchise/Dealership, 2010-2011
International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC)

A team-oriented trial attorney, Steve Kelso represents sophisticated clients nationwide in complex and often contentious commercial disputes and bet-the-company litigation. Steve has particular experience representing franchisors in high-profile lawsuits against franchisees in various closely regulated industries. He also advises leading companies on employee classification issues.

Representative Cases
Representative Clients
  • Comfort Dental Group, Inc.
  • FCA Group f/k/a Chrysler Group
  • Mercedes-Benz USA - National Trial Counsel
  • Nissan North America
Bar and Court Admissions
  • Colorado
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Other Experience

United States Air Force
    Major
United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps
    Circuit Trial Counsel, Travis Air Force Base, California

Legal Memberships, Activities, and Honors
Colorado Super Lawyers
    
Civil Litigation Defense, 2013-2017
The Best Lawyers in America
    Franchise Law, 2018
Law Week Colorado
    Lawyer of the Year, 2010 
Colorado Rising Stars
    Civil Litigation Defense, 2009-2011
    Franchise/Dealership, 2010-2011
International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC)
Government Service

United States Air Force Western Judicial Circuit
    Trial Advocacy Conference
United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's School
    Trial & Defense Advocacy Course, Adjunct Faculty

Articles/Presentations
  • "Franchising Drafting Tips from Franchise Litigators," presented at the Colorado Bar Association, Franchise Law Subsection (September 29, 2016).
  • Panelist "What Business Lawyers Do That Litigators Love: Your Worst Nightmares," presented at the Colorado Business Law Institute, (October 28, 2015).
  • "Dealership Ownership – Ramifications of Private Equity," presented at the Annual Fall Workshop of the National Association of Motor Vehicle Boards and Commissions, (September 10, 2015).
  • "Manufacturer's Perspective on Recent Legislative Amendments," presented to in-house counsel from auto manufacturers, state regulations, dealers' lawyers, and industry lobbyists at the NAMVBC Fall Workshop, (October 13, 2011).
  • "Old Chrysler, New Chrysler, and the Dealer Arbitrations," presented at Annual Workshop of the National Association of Motor Vehicle Boards and Commissions, (October 2010).
Education
  • Notre Dame Law School, J.D., 1997, cum laude
    Notre Dame Law Review, Article Editor
  • University of Colorado, B.S., 1994, Aerospace Engineering
Government Service

United States Air Force Western Judicial Circuit
    Trial Advocacy Conference
United States Air Force Judge Advocate General's School
    Trial & Defense Advocacy Course, Adjunct Faculty

Bar and Court Admissions
  • Colorado
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces