Katherine Dawson Varholak
Katherine Dawson Varholak


Phone: 303.299.8428

Fax: 303.298.0940


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Legal Secretary

Theresa Bohrer

Areas of Emphasis

Insurance Recovery

Litigation, Trials and Appeals

Corporate Governance and Investigations

Trust and Estate Litigation


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

Katie Varholak is a seasoned trial attorney with more than eighteen 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 is the first female Chair of the firm’s Litigation, Trials and Appeals Practice Group. In this capacity, she oversees more than 95 attorneys, paralegals and staff, and holds 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. 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.

Representative Matters

Insurance Recovery

  • 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.

Corporate Internal Investigations

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

Trust & Estate Litigation

  • 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.

Appellate Litigation

  • 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.
Professional Activities

Firm Leadership

  • Chair, Litigation Trials and Appeals Practice Group 2016-present
  • Associate Recruiting and Development Member, 2014-2016
  • Co-Chair, Sherman & Howard’s Women’s Initiative, 2014
  • Summer Associate Program Leader, 2007-2009

Civic Activities

  • Stanley British Primary School Board of Trustees
    • Present-Elect, 2018-present
    • Chair, Risk Management Committee, 2018-present
    • Executive Committee, 2018-present
    • Head Support and Evaluation Committee, 2018-present
    • Development Committee, 2016-2018
  • Faculty, National Institute of Trial Advocacy, 2016-present
  • Girl Scout Troop Leader, 2013-2017
  • Yale Alumni Interviewer, 2013-2015
  • Site Coordinator, Girls on the Run, 2016-2017
  • Coach, Girls on the Run, 2015-2016
  • Member, Colorado Women’s Bar Association, 2003-present
  • Member, ABA Appellate Subcommittee on Rules and Statutes, 2009-2012

Bar Admissions

  • Colorado
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
  • S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth and DC Circuits
  • S. District Court for the District of Colorado
Honors and Awards
  • Best Lawyer; Litigation – Insurance
    The Best Lawyers in America
  • Fellow, American Bar Foundation
  • Listed as a Rising Star in Colorado 
    Super Lawyers
  • Special Commendation Award for Outstanding Service
    U.S. Department of Justice
Publications and Presentations



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


  • Author, “That’s a Wrap: Pitfalls to Avoid When Negotiating Wrap-Up Insurance Programs,Part One: Are Your Defense Fees Eroding The Policy Limits?“, Sherman & Howard Insurance Recovery Advisory, 2019
  • Co-Author, Colorado Civil Claims:  Elements, Defenses, and Sample Pleadings, Chapter 20 FRAUD, 2019 Ed.
  • Author, “Top Ten Ways To Manage Cyber Risk, The Rise of The Internet Has Its Downside,” CoBiz Magazine, March 7, 2013.
  • Author, “Top Ten Ways To Manage Cyber Risk,” JDSupra Business Advisor, January 22, 2013.
  • Tool Box Presenter, The Ins And Outs Of Construction Defect Coverage And Liability Claims, ABA 21st Annual Insurance Coverage Committee 2013 Mid-Year Program- Phoenix.
  • Author, “Statutes Defining Faulty Workmanship As An “Occurrence” – Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire?” ABA 21st Annual Insurance Coverage Committee 2013 Mid-Year Program.
  • Co-presenter, Risks To The Confidentiality And Integrity of Your Cyber Data, Financial Executives International, November 2012.
  • Author, “Practical Impediments to Obtaining Review of an Inter-Circuit Transfer Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a): ABA Section of Litigation, Appellate Practice Journal, Winter 2010 Edition, Vol. 29, No. 2.
Previous Experience
  • Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Arthur L. Alarcon, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 2000
  • Appellate Staff Attorney, Attorney General’s Honors Program, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, 2001-2003