Brian K. Nichols

Brian K. Nichols

Modrall Sperling

Recognized since 2014

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Practice Areas

Native American Law

Lawyer of the Year Badge - 2018 - Native American Law
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Brian Nichols’ practice is primarily in federal Indian law and litigation, including tribal courts, with focuses on energy, natural resources, transportation and employment.

His experience includes:

  • Lead counsel in trials in federal, state, and tribal courts.
  • Lead negotiator in labor negotiations.
  • Advising and negotiating for clients with tribal nations.
  • Consulting with clients doing or considering business on or with tribal nations.

Brian has advised clients including BHP Billiton, Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway Company, Peabody Energy, Western Refining and Giant Four Corners, City of Farmington, Encana, WPX Energy, Continental Resources, and Saddle Butte Pipeline, along with many smaller companies having Indian law issues.

As a member of the Navajo Nation Bar, Brian regularly advises clients regarding Navajo law and represents clients in Navajo courts and agencies.

Best Lawyers in America® selected Brian as 2018 Native American Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Albuquerque. Brian has achieved nationwide recognition in Native American Law from Chambers USA. As reported by Chambers, “Brian Nichols handles all aspects of federal Native American law and litigation, including energy work, natural resources, transportation and employment issues. He regularly appears in state, federal and tribal courts. Interviewees find him to be ‘impressive,’ explaining that he is ‘a lawyer’s lawyer. He is almost academic in his knowledge.'” Additionally, Brian has received an AV® peer review rating in Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating possible, and listed by Southwest Super Lawyers®. He is recognized as a Star by Benchmark Litigation, Labor & Employment.

Before joining Modrall Sperling, Brian clerked for the Honorable Pamela B. Minzner of the New Mexico Supreme Court and the Honorable Fredrick J. Martone of the U. S. District Court for the District of Arizona. He serves as Co-Chair of the Native American Law practice group and is a former member of the firm’s Executive Committee.

  • 500 Fourth Street, NW, Suite 1000
    P.O. Box 2168
    Albuquerque, NM 87103
  • Georgia State University, J.D., graduated 2003
  • Earlham College, BA, graduated 1993
Bar Admissions
  • New Mexico, State Bar of New Mexico
  • New Mexico, U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico
  • New Mexico, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
  • Arizona, State Bar of Arizona
  • New Mexico, Navajo Nation Bar Association
  • American Bar Association - Native American Resource Committee
  • Equal Access to Justice - Board of Directors
  • Navajo Bar Association - Rules Committee
  • Planned Parenthood of New Mexico - Board of DIrectors
Federal Clerkships
  • United States District Court
State Clerkships
  • New Mexico - Supreme Court

Modrall Sperling
Headquarters: Albuquerque, New Mexico

35 The Best Lawyers in America® awards

1 Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch® in America award

Best Law Firms Badge Full Firm Profile

Lawyer of the Year Badge - 2018 - Native American Law
Named "Lawyer of the Year" by Best Lawyers® for:
  • Native American Law, Albuquerque (2018)
Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for work in:
  • Native American Law
  • Martindale-Hubbell AVĀ® Preeminent, Peer Review Rated
  • Chambers USA Directories of America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, recognized Nationwide in Native American Law, 2016-2018; in New Mexico, 2015-present; and in Labor & Employment, 2017-present
  • Benchmark Litigation Labor & Employment, The Definitive Guide to America’s Leading Labor & Employment Litigators, West Star, 2018-present
  • Best Lawyers Native American Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Albuquerque, 2018
  • Southwest Super Lawyers® (derived from a lawyer survey), 2018-present; Southwest Rising Star, 2012-2014
  • Best Lawyers in America® in Native American Law, 2014-present
Additional Areas of Practice:
  • Natural Resources Law

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Decision
  • In a 2013 unpublished decision of the Navajo Supreme Court, the Court affirmed the decision of the Navajo Labor Commission. The Commission found that BHP Navajo Coal Company had just cause to fire an employee who had undisclosed conflicts of interest. The employee, a Navajo medicine man, contended that his termination was religious discrimination. By contrast, both the Commission and the Supreme Court found that the mine accepted and promoted Navajo culture, and valued the employee's expertise in that area. Brian conducted both the trial and appeal of the case.
BHP Billiton
  • Ongoing representation with two BHP Billiton subsidiaries, BHP Navajo Coal Company and San Juan Coal Company, in areas of labor law, federal compliance, contracts, employment and Navajo Preference in Employment Act (NPEA). He has represented these entities in Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) matters, labor negotiations, personal injury matters, employment matters and the priority of coal mining. He was lead negotiator for San Juan Coal Company in 2011 labor negotiations.
Navajo Nation
  • Represents businesses in the courts and agencies of the Navajo Nation. Common matters include employment (the Navajo Preference in Employment Act, NPEA); property (such as the Navajo Nation Civil Trespass Act); vendor preferences and procurement (the Navajo Business Opportunity Act, NBOA); and worker health and safety (such as the Navajo Occupational Safety and Health Act, NOSHA).

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