Karl J. Nelson

Age 44 : The telecommunications attorney served as a mentor to young associates and played guitar in a band.

June 27, 2008|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,Sun Reporter

Karl J. Nelson, a trial attorney who worked in the telecommunications field and played guitar in a rock band on weekends, died of melanoma Tuesday at his Severna Park home. He was 44.

Born and raised on Allegheny Avenue in Towson, he was a 1983 Towson High School graduate. He earned a bachelor's degree from Towson University and was a 1990 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law.

He practiced at Whiteford Taylor and Preston and Kramon and Graham, both downtown Baltimore law firms, in the 1990s.

"He was extremely fast on his feet, verbally and otherwise. He was a feisty advocate and did not shrink from battle," said Geoffrey H. Genth, a friend and former law partner. "He was a wonderful advocate and legal colleague. Judges and juries liked him. He was adventurous with a high level of energy."

In 2001, he joined the Baltimore office of Saul Ewing, a law firm with headquarters in Philadelphia.

Mr. Nelson was a partner and vice chairman of its litigation department and served as the hiring partner.

"In court, he could cut through the extraneous material and nonsense, and focus on the issue," said his law partner, Barry Levin. "He was an outstanding lawyer who produced tremendous work for his clients."

Mr. Nelson assisted wireless telecommunications firms with regulatory affairs, legal matters, engineering issues, cell phone tower placement, zoning issues and community concerns.

Because of his knowledge of telecommunications issues, he was a speaker at regional and national telecommunications conferences.

Associates at his firm said Mr. Nelson enjoyed his role as hiring partner and served as a mentor to many of the young associates who joined the firm. When they expressed concerns about developing their practices, he advised them, "Be an excellent lawyer, and everything else will fall into place in your career growth."

Friends said that while he was known for his high energy, thorough preparation and seizing the essence of the issue, his highest priority was his wife and children.

"He was a man of boundless energy. I think he never yawned. He lived for his family and was one of the most courageous and competent persons I've ever known," said his father-in-law, Edgar "Larry" Lawrence, former executive vice president of the Maryland Hospital Association. "He and I have owned five sailboats over 20 years. Each one we bought got larger."

At his death, he owned a sailboat named the Queen Mary. On weekends, he organized family outings on the northern Chesapeake Bay.

Mr. Nelson made it a point to attend most of his children's sports and cultural activities. He also played softball and skied.

He never gave up his affection for music - friends said he paid for his law school tuition by playing heavy-metal in Fells Point bar bands. He owned nine guitars and continued to play at neighborhood bars, community gatherings and weddings.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, 611 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd. in Severna Park, where he was a member.

Survivors include his wife of 19 years, the former Lexi Lawrence; a son, C. Emmett Nelson; two daughters, Olivia Nelson and Whitney Nelson, all of the family home; his mother, Frances M. Nelson of Towson; a brother, James A. Nelson of Fallston; and a sister, Judith A. Terry of Towson.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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