Joseph E. Tilson is Co-Chair of Cozen O'Connor's Labor & Employment Department and a member of the Management Committee and Board of Directors. Joe represents employers in large-scale employment litigation and labor arbitrations. In the past 35 years, he has tried more than 150 jury and non-jury cases before the full range of courts, administrative agencies and labor arbitrators. His clients include a number of the country’s largest public and private employers, and Illinois’ most prestigious universities, whom he represents in both traditional labor law matters and employment litigation. Joe is nationally known for his knowledge and success in handling large wage and hour class action cases, but he also has vast experience in collective bargaining involving large and complex bargaining units.
In his role as Co-Chair of the Labor & Employment Department, Joe has been instrumental in the growth of the practice, which has more than doubled in size to over 80 attorneys since 2015.
In addition, Joe is currently the chair of the ABA’s Labor and Employment Law Section, one of the largest Sections of the ABA with over 12,000 members, and he continues to serve on the ABA's Council, the governing body of the ABA's Labor and Employment Section.
Joe has been repeatedly recognized for being one of the top labor and employment lawyers in Chicago. He was named the 2018 Chicago Employment Law “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers for the fourth time in the past eight years; he has also twice received Lexology's Illinois Client Choice Award for outstanding client service; he has been named one of the "Nation's Most Powerful Employment Attorneys" by Human Resource Executive and Lawdragon in every year since 2010; and he has consistently achieved a Band 1 Labor and Employment ranking from Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business.
Joe is also a frequent lecturer, author and bar association leader. He regularly speaks on labor and employment issues for the American Bar Association, Practicing Law Institute, Northwestern University's Corporate Council Institute, Chicago-Kent College of Law and many other educational institutions and associations. Joe is a fellow of the College of Labor & Employment Lawyers and is the former chair of the American Bar Association’s Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee. Joe also serves as vice-chair on the Board of Managers of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.
Prior to entering private practice, Joe served as law clerk for the Honorable Stephanie K. Seymour, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
Admitted to Practice:
- Illinois (1979)
- Cozen O'Connor (2015 - Present)
- Meckler Bulger Tilson Marick & Pearson (1994 – 2015)
- Katten Muchin (1989 – 1994)
- Pope Ballard (1980 – 1989)
- Clerk for Judge Stephanie Seymour of the tenth Circuit (1979)