Kenneth J. Yerkes

  • 11 South Meridian Street
    Indianapolis, IN 46204-3535

For 35 years Ken Yerkes, chairman of the Labor and Employment Department, has successfully fought for his clients' business objectives at the bargaining table; in federal and state court matters; in arbitrations; and on the ground in facilities throughout the U.S., including California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and Wyoming. Ken's ability to transform complex matters into workable strategies has earned him his clients' trust and acclaim as a recognized leader in labor and employment law.

It is no surprise, then, that Ken is a Fellow in both The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and the Litigation Counsel of America, and has received the highest rating in every edition of Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business. In addition, Ken is rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale Hubbell™ and listed as a “Top Rated Lawyer in Labor & Employment.” Ken has been recognized on multiple occasions as one of Indiana's “Top 50” lawyers in Indiana Super Lawyers; has been listed in Best Lawyers in America for 20 years and was named “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers; and has been interviewed and quoted in numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal; Inside Counsel Magazine; Corporate Counsel Magazine; and Law360. Ken has also been named a “Distinguished Barrister” by The Indiana Lawyer.

Because of his desire to always remain a full-service resource for his clients, Ken has designed his practice to be well-balanced between litigation, counseling, and traditional labor matters. With respect to collective bargaining, in addition to negotiating countless contract renewals (some over several contract terms with the same client), 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 the best practices for remaining union free.

On the traditional labor law side, Ken functions as chief negotiator in contract bargaining and employer advocate in grievance and arbitration procedures. Since 1987, Ken has consistently helped his clients achieve successful outcomes in arbitration. His first-hand knowledge of clients’ bargaining history and the evolution of their contract language enable Ken more effectively to interpret and preserve key provisions in the resolution or adjudication of contract disputes. Importantly, Ken’s relationship with union representatives in these processes is one of mutual respect. Although a fierce defender of employers’ vested interests and cherished ideals, Ken is well-regarded among union adversaries for his hard bargaining, forthrightness, transparency, and integrity.

On the employment law side, Ken has been an active litigator and trial attorney. Ken's numerous reported decisions over his three decades of practice demonstrate his effective collaboration with clients in planning and executing litigation strategies. On those rare occasions when summary judgment or an acceptable settlement is not forthcoming, Ken is willing and able to take cases to trial. He 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 advisor when critical employment decisions need to be implemented.

That Ken is equally comfortable litigating, counseling, arbitrating, or bargaining is only one distinct aspect of his practice. Another is his dedication to client service and partnering. Ken understands that in order to be good at what you do, you have to enjoy the work and the people you are working with. Ken’s passion for the practice makes him a willing partner and collaborator with his clients. These relationships also have helped him develop a keen understanding of what clients value in each matter. While many lawyers “talk the talk” of value and partnering, Ken has walked the walk:

  • Ken has been a featured speaker and presenter at numerous law partnering conferences as well as in-house law training programs – including programs in New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Toronto, which focused on managing litigation as a business and effective strategies to manage the cost of legal services.
  • Ken presented on the topic “Reconnecting Cost with Value” at the ACC Corporate Counsel University and previously participated in the ACC Value Challenge program, where he had the opportunity to interact with participants on best practices for collaborating with in-house counsel.
  • Ken has been selected as a “BTI Client Service All-Star” based on clients anonymously singling out attorneys who deliver superior client service via client focus, understanding the clients' business and delivering results.

At the end of the day, Ken seeks to offer clients what they value most: the highest caliber of legal representation in the context of a relationship based on trust and the ability to recognize and execute on business objectives.


  • Admitted as a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
  • Admitted as a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America
  • 2015 Distinguished Barrister Award by The Indiana Lawyer
  • Selected as a 2015 "Lawyer of the Year" by Best Lawyers in America
  • Recognized by peers as one of Indiana's "Top 50" lawyers in Indiana Super Lawyers
  • Selection for inclusion in Super Lawyers Magazine for 10-plus years
  • Listed in Chambers USA's Leading Lawyers for Business
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America for more than 20 years
  • Selected to serve term as Chairman of ISBA's Section of Labor & Employment Law
  • Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year Award, 2000