Chair of Barnes & Thornburg's Labor and Employment Department for two decades, Ken Yerkes has spent over 30 years successfully fighting for his clients' rights and business objectives at the bargaining table, in arbitration and federal and state court, as well as in plants across the country through proactive training, counseling and union avoidance campaigns.
Ken's ability to transform complex scenarios into workable strategies has earned him not only his clients' trust, but also acclaim as one of the country’s recognized leaders in labor and employment law. He is a fellow in both The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and the Litigation Counsel of America and has also been interviewed, quoted and/or featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inside Counsel Magazine, Corporate Counsel Magazine and Law360.
Ken’s unwavering drive to serve as a comprehensive resource to his clients has allowed him to design a practice that balances litigation, counseling and traditional labor matters. With respect to collective bargaining, Ken's experience runs the gamut from first contract negotiations to pattern bargaining, mid-term contract modifications, decision bargaining, effects bargaining, plant closing agreements, managing strikes, and successfully implementing lockouts without union charges resulting in a complaint. He has bargained with and run union avoidance campaigns against virtually every union in the country, and regularly trains employers on best practices for remaining union free.
At the same time, Ken is an active litigator and trial attorney with numerous reported decisions that illustrate his effective collaboration with clients in planning and executing the right strategy at the right time. On those rare occasions when summary judgment or an acceptable settlement are not forthcoming, Ken is willing and able to take the case to trial and has done so successfully in multiple jurisdictions. Understanding how cases are tried to juries has been instrumental in Ken's development as a trusted counselor and adviser, particularly when critical employment decisions need to be implemented.
Ken’s dedication to extraordinary service and the development of personal relationships is manifest in his commitment to understanding each client’s often unique business operations, goals and financial drivers.
Ken has been a featured speaker and presenter at numerous law partnering conferences and in-house law training programs in cities including New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Toronto. Topical subject matter included a focus on managing litigation as a business and effective strategies to maximize legal services.
Of particular interest, Ken presented on "Reconnecting Cost with Value" at the ACC Corporate Counsel University. He previously participated in the ACC Value Challenge program, where he had the opportunity to interact with in-house counsel on best practices for collaboration.
Ken’s passion for the law make him a willing partner and collaborator with clients and colleagues alike, while his people skills have helped him to develop a keen understanding about what clients actually value in outside counsel and the delivery of legal services. While many lawyers "talk the talk" of value and partnering, Ken has “walked the walk.” At the end of the day, Ken seeks to offer clients what they value most: the highest caliber legal representation in the context of a relationship based on trust and the ability to recognize and execute on business objectives.