Chapters from our success story

Founded in 1996, Nilan Johnson Lewis has built its reputation by putting clients first, building a practice centered on excellence, and defining the next generation law firm. Follow our success and milestones by visiting our timeline below.

  • 2016-2019
  • 2015-2006
  • 2005-1996

Given only 8 weeks of preparation time, our pro bono team successfully obtained asylum for a Venezuelan client who had been detained for seven months.

Jury found in favor of large manufacturing/material supply client in a breach of contract case regarding construction of solar energy fields.

Fifty percent of NJL trials and arbitrations first-chaired by women, notes Minnesota Lawyer cover article.

Partnered with the Minnesota Vikings on the creation of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation.

Stepping in just 10 days before trial, NJL secured a complete defense jury verdict for an e-commerce industry client in a lawsuit alleging race discrimination.

Founding shareholder Don Lewis was appointed by the Ramsey County Attorney to serve as a special prosecutor in the Philando Castile case.

Won a complete defense verdict for Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corporation after a week-long Federal Employers’ Liability Act trial.

Partnered with Hamline on the successful transfer of endowment funds for the combination of two law schools into Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Represented an international professional association in a successful challenge to an IRS assessment, saving the association millions of dollars.

2016 marked the third time NJL has received Minnesota Women Lawyers Leadership Award, the most times of any law firm in the award’s 23-year history.

Won a dismissal with prejudice for our client, Target Corporation, in a Fair Credit Reporting Act class action.

NJL successfully defeats class action claims alleging deceptive trade practices – on behalf of our client, Evenflo.

NJL ranks high on Law360’s list of “The 100 Best Law Firms for Female Attorneys.”  It ranked #16 overall, and was #6 on their list of “Ceiling Smashers” (firms with a high percentage of female partners).

Shareholder Joe Schmitt was elected as a Fellow of the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers—one of the highest professional honors an L&E attorney can receive. Joe was the only Minnesota attorney elected to the College’s class of 2015.

Founding shareholder Donald Lewis returns to NJL full-time after his five year appointment as Dean of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, MN.

A complete defense, jury verdict for a premises liability case was secured for our client, Coca Cola.

The Arctic Cat team wins a complete defense verdict against a plaintiff alleging failure to warn in a product liability action.

NJL team received a victory at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for their client, ReliaStar Life, in a published decision establishing new ERISA law.

Triumphed for United Parcel Service (UPS). Court rules that employees’ state law claims for unpaid vacation are pre-empted by federal labor law and UPS’s collective bargaining agreement.

NJL awarded first place honors for excellence in media relations by the Minnesota chapter of the Legal Marketing Association for our visibility and awareness around Minnesota’s new “Ban the Box” employment legislation.

NJL launches its Total Partnership program, promising exceptional results for its clients’ businesses through a four-pronged approach based on excellence and value.

NJL is profiled in a Minnesota Lawyer feature story highlighting how the firm’s deep bench and nimble thinking secured a string of defense victories in three trials, in just ten days.

NJL and Target Corporation are recognized as 2012 “Value Champions” by the Association of Corporate Counsel for their innovative partnership in using alternative fee arrangements to provide predictability while increasing value.

On behalf of our client, Target Corporation, NJL defeats a motion to conditionally certify a national FLSA collective action lawsuit.

NJL is named by the National Association of Female Executives and Flex-Time Lawyers as one of the top 50 Best Law Firms for Women.

NJL obtains summary judgment for Ford Motor Company in a key automotive asbestos friction case.

NJL is recognized in the widely read Drug and Device Law blog for achieving 3 of 2011’s top 20 best drug and medical device decisions nationwide.

NJL is selected byTwin Cities Business Magazine as one of the top ten Small Business Success Stories for 2011.

NJL becomes first law firm of its size in the U.S. to have a majority of women shareholders and is bestowed the Minnesota Women Lawyers Leadership Award for enhancing the status, influence, effectiveness and equal participation of female attorneys in our workplace.

NJL successfully defends the National Football League and various individuals against a variety of claims brought by two Minnesota Vikings and players’ union arising out of administration of the NFL’s drug testing program.

NJL obtains summary judgment in favor of Siemens Energy on a $15.2 million claim involving an allegedly invalid contract.

NJL wins complete defense verdict in Madison County, Illinois, for a major multinational manufacturer against claims that a worker contracted leukemia due to trace benzene exposure.

NJL successfully defends $10 million damage and injunction claim against Capitas Financial.

NJL moves offices to One Financial Plaza, downtown Minneapolis’ renowned example of modernist architecture. Project achieves silver LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

NJL serves as primary investment counsel to a multi-billion-dollar medical device company in connection with strategic transactions.

NJL founding shareholder Mike Nilan is inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honor given to only 2% of the trial lawyers in the United States.

NJL shareholder Mathew E. Johnson appointed to Minnesota Court of Appeals; later becomes Chief Judge of the Court.

NJL obtains landmark victory for lead paint industry client against the State of Rhode Island, reversing a statewide public nuisance jury verdict and rejecting a multi-billion-dollar abatement remedy.

NJL founding shareholder Donald Lewis is appointed Dean of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota.

NJL receives its fourth, first-place marketing award from the Minnesota Legal Marketing Association for its innovative advertising and marketing campaigns.

NJL successfully defends outdoor products retailer REI after presenting evidence to the jury that REI fully complied with handicap accessible parking designs.

NJL is honored for the third time with Hennepin County Bar Association’s Diversity Award for the firm’s ongoing commitment to diversity in the practice of law.

NJL wins landmark ruling in favor of former lead paint and pigment manufacturer by the New Jersey Supreme Court, rejecting public nuisance claims by governmental entities.

NJL scores appellate victory over the City of St. Louis in public nuisance action against former manufacturers of lead pigment.

NJL assists a subsidiary of a multi-billion dollar health insurer with the acquisition of a prominent public policy research group.

NJL obtains landmark defense verdict in Wisconsin for Millennium Holdings in nation’s first jury trial of a “risk contribution” childhood lead poisoning case; verdict subsequently affirmed on appeal.

NJL secures favorable result for Yamaha Corporation in a five-day jury trial alleging injuries from a motorcycle’s stuck throttle.

NJL wins jury verdict in favor of Millennium Inorganic Chemicals, defeating $129 million breach of contract and theft of trade secrets claims and obtaining a $4.2 million counterclaim verdict against the plaintiff.

NJL secures a judgment as a matter of law in favor of Siemens Westinghouse after a two-week jury trial on misappropriation of trade secrets claims.

NJL obtains a $3.4 million damage award for Kelmoore Investment Company in an arbitration proceeding against The Hartford Financial Services Group.

NJL assists a large Midwest pharmaceutical company with the acquisition of a dynamic, similar company located in an East Coast market.

NJL assists Minnesota’s premier level 1 trauma center to convert from a county hospital to a public benefit corporation.

NJL obtains a jury verdict of approximately $1.3 million in favor of construction company president, on employment contract claims and minority shareholder rights; verdict was later upheld on appeal.

NJL founding shareholders Brian Johnson and Don Lewis are inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honor given to only 2% of the trial lawyers in the United States.

NJL wins dismissal of Maryland statewide class action, personal injury and property damage claims involving exposure to lead paint.

NJL provides the complex transactional expertise supporting the redevelopment of one of Minneapolis’ largest buildings, the Sears Building, into a unique mixed use space at the heart of an urban revitalization program.

NJL expands its offices onto the 7th floor of Pillsbury Tower, signifying the Firm’s continued strong growth.

NJL obtains defense verdict for Teledyne Technologies after four-week jury trial of wrongful death action.

NJL is hired by the University of Minnesota to help investigate charges of academic fraud in the men’s basketball program.

NJL successfully defends Lockheed Martin and Unisys in a $1 billion False Claims Act lawsuit, convincing the United States Attorney not to intervene in the case and the relator to dismiss his claims without a monetary payment.

NJL obtains complete defense verdict in favor of the downhill skiing industry relating to claims of negligent ski operations.

NJL founding shareholders establish six shared Core Values — Trust, Excellence, Diversity, Innovation, Profitability, and Community — that have guided the Firm ever since.

NJL moves its offices to the 6th floor of the Pillsbury Center, a downtown Minneapolis landmark, accommodating the Firm’s growth and ascent in the legal marketplace.

The Midwest’s largest new start-up law firm, Nilan Johnson Lewis (NJL), opens its doors with 27 attorneys and 52 employees.


NJL receives its first payment for legal services, $178 from Wingert & Associates – a satisfied NJL client yet today.