Protect Your Rights


Photo of Dean Stowers and James Nelsen
Photo of Dean Stowers and James Nelsen
Your Best

Experienced lawyers
helping people in
Des Moines just
like you.

Photo of Dean Stowers and James Nelsen
Your Best Defense

Experienced lawyers helping people in Des Moines just like you.

Photo of Dean Stowers and James Nelsen

James Nelsen

Photo of James Nelsen


West Des Moines, IA






James Nelsen is a husband, father, avid football and baseball fan, and life experience enthusiast. He also happens to be a lawyer. His approachable nature and desire to help people provides representation that is intended to reduce the stress of your situation, but still ensure informative, insightful, and effective counsel. With the assistance of the team at Stowers and Nelsen, he provides client-centered, detailed, and results-driven counsel. From day one, James provides a roadmap for establishing the best defenses available, developing crucial facts, and analyzing legal issues involved in your matter. In cooperation with you from your initial strategy session, he will provide comprehensive and relentless representation.

James's journey to practicing law came by way of the University of Iowa and Dana College, where he earned his earned his Bachelor's degree in Sociology in 1998 with a minor in Psychology. Following graduation, he took a job with an insurance company in Des Moines, handling injury claims, managing coverage questions, and negotiating loss settlements with claimants, gaining valuable real-world experience. Disillusioned in his daily efforts, James developed a desire to be in the corner of the little guy and make sure good people better understood the totality of their circumstance.

Always having been determined to be a lawyer, his experience in the insurance industry strengthened his resolve. In 2000, James made it his mission to go to law school. He returned home from work one day, ordered the Law School Admission Test materials and enrollment packet, and registered to sit for the L.S.A.T. After he received his exam results, he was admitted to Drake Law School. In the fall of 2001, he resigned from his position in the insurance company and enrolled at Drake Law School. While in Law School he was a member of the Moot Court Board, represented criminal clients as a Student Attorney in the Legal Clinic, and was a member of the ATLA Mock Trial Team for two years. The team placed second nationally in his final year. He earned his J.D. in the Spring of 2004.

Following the 2004 summer bar exam, he was admitted by the Iowa Supreme Court to practice in Iowa, admitted to Federal District court in 2005, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008, and Missouri in 2012. Relying upon his legal knowledge, litigation skills and techniques, and his personal passion and life experience, he provides quality legal service to people across Iowa. He has dedicated his practice to representing good people who have found themselves in bad situations. He persistently pursues the best outcomes and best results for people based upon their circumstance. He helps you strategically and methodically address issues and resolve problems. Whether you have been accused of a crime that could cost your reputation, livelihood, or freedom, or you are attempting to navigate a criminal investigation, he handles your problems effectively while answering questions and providing sound legal counsel. He listens, offers his guidance, and provides you with effective and skilled representation. He is dedicated to providing forthright, quality advocacy and is committed to achieving the best outcome possible for every client he accepts.

James has handled in excess of a thousand criminal cases, including high profile criminal matters and various personal injury matters across Iowa and in Missouri. He has successfully litigated cases in State and Federal court, including complex multiple party litigation, high profile murder and kidnapping cases, and international drug conspiracies. With his results focused approach to criminal matters, legal knowledge and life experience, James brings a comprehensive method to case management, and provides a resolve which is evidenced by a proven track record of success. In his representation of you, James will provide honest and forthright advice as well as outstanding advocacy.

If you have questions and want answers about criminal allegations or if you are the subject of a criminal investigation and want to know your options, contact James to set up a strategy session.

- Successfully litigated high profile homicide, kidnapping, and drug offenses involving mandatory life sentences, and maintains the distinction of never having had a client receive a life sentence.
- Regularly attends national training seminars to remain knowledgeable of the latest and most cutting-edge legal issues
- Awarded 2016 Top Ten in Iowa Criminal Defense

- Maxim: to craft a defense, you must know how to deconstruct a case, factually and legally. To deconstruct a case, you must know how it is constructed.
- Provides straightforward, unfiltered case analysis and advice, doesn't make empty promises.

- Member: National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer
- Iowa Association for Justice
- NORML Legal Committee


Represented a client in a State drug offense which ultimately proceeded to trial. The client was acquitted in under 6 minutes, from the time the jury was dismissed to deliberate to the time they delivered a unanimous not guilty verdict after returning to the courtroom. The judge specifically noted the times the jury left the courtroom and returned the verdict in the Order of Acquittal.

As a walk on at the University of Iowa he played football under legendary coach Hayden Fry who once told James's mother and father James was nicknamed ‘Tuffy', a nickname James had never heard and is convinced Coach Fry may have created on the spot because he couldn't remember his actual name.

Professional Associations And Memberships

  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer, Member
  • Iowa Association for Justice
  • NORML Legal Committee

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