Best Lawyers / Illinois' Best Lawyers 2016
Joe Yastrow, the president and most senior executive committee member of nationally recognized labor and employment law firm Laner Muchin, grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and his father was the third generation running the family apparel business. “My father believed that the future of that industry in the United States was not very bright, so my siblings and I were encouraged to stay away from it,” he says. One brother became an anesthesiologist, another became a Eurodollar trader, his sister became an educator and earned her master’s in education, and Joe Yastrow—partly inspired by his uncle who was a successful general counsel and worked for 22 years in that capacity for the McDonald’s corporation—became a lawyer. 

Yastrow has been in practice since 1978, works as hard as ever, and does not take his senior role at Laner Muchin lightly. “My firm expects me to have as much on my plate as is on anyone else’s,” he says. “I have more latitude in selecting what I do and don’t do, and my decisions are driven by my interest in my clients’ needs.”

Yastrow is less specialized, or, as he puts it, “less niche,” than others tend to be in the field of labor and employment law. He is a certified mediator through the DePaul College of Law Center for Dispute Resolution, and a significant portion of his practice involves negotiation, mediation, and arbitration. 

“Since a hugely disproportionate percentage of cases we get involved in are settled in some way, the ability to settle a case on favorable terms is much more a function of strong communication skills and understanding other people’s perspectives than just being very knowledgeable about the law,“ says Yastrow. He adds: “I think that what separates some of the better lawyers from others is their responsiveness and accessibility—they are not only effective at solving problems, but are accessible when the problems go down. The field is increasingly populated by legions of brilliant people who write beautifully and speak beautifully—who are brilliant—but none of that does any good if they’re not there when you need them.”

Rather than make himself the brightly shining center of attention, Yastrow’s strategy is to focus on winning by building and maintaining relationships, being reliable, and working hard—all time-honored values that he has held to and that have rewarded him—and his clients—with a lot of success.