Katherine Dawson Varholak


Denver, Colorado

Phone: 303.299.8428

Fax: 303.298.0940

[email protected]


  • Juris Doctor, University of Michigan Law School, 2000
    • magna cum laude
    • Order of the Coif
    • Executive Notes Editor, Michigan Law Review
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Yale University, 1995

Katherine “Katie” Varholak is a seasoned trial attorney with more than twenty-one years of experience representing companies and individuals in high stakes controversies across multiple industries including construction, real estate, professional services, utilities, entertainment, aerospace, oil & gas, and others. Her primary areas of focus frequently touch on complex fiduciary issues and include: insurance recovery, trust and estate controversies, corporate internal investigations and appeals.

In her insurance recovery practice, Katie represents corporate and individual policy holders across the country in pursuing insurance benefits and legal action when the insurers refuse to pay benefits. Katie has helped business and individuals recover more than $100 million in indemnity and defense benefits for policy holders and frequently works with plaintiff and defense attorneys to resolve litigation raising complex coverage issues. She regularly advises clients concerning virtually every type of commercial insurance policy, including general liability, directors and officer’s liability, property, builder’s risk, excess/umbrella, disability, crime, cyber risk, inland marine and others.

Katie’s commercial and civil litigation experience involves complex civil litigation for clients at the trial and appellate level. Among other things, she is the firm’s “go-to” litigator for high net worth trust & estate controversies on behalf of corporate and individual trustees, personal representatives, beneficiaries and heirs.

Katie is also well regarded in the area of internal investigations. Focused on helping companies navigate bet-the-company crises, she has experience conducting investigations involving all manner of misconduct and wrongdoing, including bullying, harassment and discrimination, corporate fraud, fiduciary breaches, nondisclosure and concealment, and ethical violations.

Known to clients and colleagues as a stalwart citizen of the firm, Katie was the first female Chair of the firm’s Litigation, Trials and Appeals practice group, serving in that role for approximately seven years. In this capacity, she oversaw more than 95 attorneys, paralegals and staff, and held responsibility for recruiting, mentoring, training, strategic planning and more. Prior to joining Sherman & Howard, Katie clerked for the Honorable Judge Arthur L. Alarcon, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then was selected for the honors program with the Civil Division, Appellate Staff at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). During her tenure at DOJ, she represented federal government agencies in federal appeals across the country. She is also a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and recognized by Best Lawyers in the area of Insurance Litigation.



  • Obtained more than $100M in insurance proceeds for individual and corporate clients in high stakes bad faith disputes under all manner of insurance policies, including Commercial General Liability, Builder’s Risk, Property, D&O, EPLI, Cyber, Crime and others.
  • Obtained multi-million dollar bad faith jury verdict, including double damages and attorneys’ fees, against general liability carrier for its unreasonable delay and denial of coverage for damages arising out of a construction accident.
  • Regularly consult on corporate insurance programs, including negotiating wrap-up insurance programs (OCIPs and CCIPs) for large multi-family housing developments and negotiating insurance provisions in contracts.



  •   Independent investigation for Douglas County School Board alleging Director misconduct.
  •   Special Committee and other corporate investigations.



  • Frequently litigate or resolve through settlement high net worth family disputes involving trusts and estates of more than $25 million.
  • On behalf of trustee, obtained summary judgment in dispute over validity of competing trust documents.
  • On behalf of beneficiaries, obtained judgment against fiduciary in compensation request, including attorneys’ fees and costs awarded against fiduciary.
  • On behalf of Personal Representative, prevailed in will contest and challenge to appointment as personal representative.



  • Prevailed against insurer in appeal of bad faith verdict under Colorado bad faith statute and in cross appeal of attorney-fee issues.
  • Handled appellate briefing and argument in multiple federal and state appeals involving insurance, construction, and commercial litigation, including petitions for certiorari to state and federal supreme courts.

Publications & Presentations






  • Negotiating Wrap Ups
    Annual Colorado Construction Law Seminar | February 3, 2023
  • Q&A: What You Need to Know About D&O Insurance Coverage
    Sherman & Howard Advisory | May 11, 2020
  • Drones in Construction: Keep Your Drones From Going Rogue
    Webinar, ConstructionPro Network | October 2017
  • Using Insurance as an Asset to Resolve Construction Claims
    Lockton Law Day | August 2017
  • Cyber Risk Mitigation Through Insurance
    Colorado Lawyers Committee, Colorado Non-Profit Legal Clinic | July 2017
  • Small Unmanned Aerial Systems: Keep Your Drones From Going Rogue
    Sherman & Howard Construction Law Webinar | July 2017
  • Insurance Update: Emerging Tactics to Avoid Paying Your Claim
    Annual Colorado Construction Law Seminar | February 2017
  • CBA’s Hot Topics in CGL Insurance
    Colorado Bar Association | October 2016
  • Construction Defects and Multi-Family Developments
    Sherman & Howard Construction Law Webinar | September 2016
  • OCIPs and CCIPs: That’s a Wrap!
    Annual Colorado Construction Law Seminar | February 2016
  • Stuck in the Middle with You: An Insurance Coverage Update
    Annual Colorado Construction Seminar | February 2015
  • Stay Ahead of the Curve: Protect Your Company From Cyber Risk, Panelist
    CoBiz Insurance | October 2013
  • Space, Cyber and Procurement Law
    Colorado Springs, Colorado | November 2013
  • Data Security for Modern Businesses, Panelist
    Co-Sponsored By Denver Business Journal and Sherman & Howard | August 2013

Professional Activities

  • Faculty, National Institute of Trial Advocacy
  • Colorado Women’s Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
    • Fellow
    • Former Member, Appellate Subcommittee on Rules and Statutes



  • Former Chair, Litigation Trials and Appeals Practice Group
  • Member, Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Task Force
  • Former Associate Recruiting and Development Member
  • Former Co-Chair, Sherman & Howard’s Women’s Initiative
  • Former Summer Associate Program Leader



  • Stanley British Primary School Board of Trustees
    • President (2020-present)
    • Executive Committee
    • Head Support and Evaluation Committee
    • Development Committee
    • School Culture Inclusion and Equity Committee
    • Building & Grounds Committee
    • Committee on Trustees
    • Finance Committee
    • Audit Committee
    • Former Chair, Head Search Committee
    • Former Chair, Risk Management Committee
  • High School Mock Trial Coach, Colorado Academy
  • Former Site Coordinator and Coach, Girls on the Run
  • Former Girl Scout Troop Leader
  • Former Yale Alumni Interviewer
  • Former Coach, Girls on the Run


  • Best Lawyers in America, Denver
    • Appellate Practice (2023)
    • Commercial Litigation (2021-2024)
    • Insurance Law (2019-2024)
    • Litigation: Insurance (2019-2024)
    • Litigation: Trusts and Estates (2019-2024)
  • Chambers USA, Band 4, Litigation: General Commercial, Colorado (2023)
  • Super Lawyers
    • Insurance Recovery, Colorado (2021-2023)
    • “Rising Star,” Insurance Recovery, Colorado (2012-2013)
  • U.S. Department of Justice, Special Commendation Award for Outstanding Service (2002)
  • American Bar Foundation, Fellow