Richard S. Cleary

T 502.779.8562
F 502.581.1087
400 West Market Street
Suite 3200
Louisville, Kentucky 40202-3363

Rich represents employers exclusively, including in collective bargaining; the litigation of labor claims before the courts, the National Labor Relations Board and arbitral forums; the defense of employment and wage and hour actions; and counseling concerning the labor and employment law implications of corporate restructuring.

As a nationally recognized lawyer, Rich is a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers. Rich has been selected for inclusion in Kentucky Super Lawyers® since 2007, in the "Top 10 Attorneys in Kentucky" every year between 2011 and 2017 and received the most votes of any Kentucky lawyer in the 2012 and 2016 Kentucky Super Lawyers® surveys. Rich has been included in The Best Lawyers in America© since 2003. He is consistently ranked first-tier in Chambers USA® for labor and employment law practitioners. Rich served on the leadership council of the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section from 2006 to 2014.

Rich has edited the Kentucky Employment Law Letter since 1989 and written and presented extensively on the National Labor Relations Board and collective bargaining.

Highlights & Recognitions

  • "Top 10 Attorneys in Kentucky", Kentucky Super Lawyers®, 2011-2017 (Top vote recipient in State, 2012 and 2016)
  • "Top 50 Attorneys in Kentucky", Kentucky Super Lawyers®, 2008-2018
  • Kentucky Super Lawyers®, 2007-2018 
  • College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, Fellow
  • Chambers USA, Labor and Employment, 2003-2018, Band 1
  • The Best Lawyers in America®, Employment Law – Management, 2003-2016; Labor Law – Management, 2003-2019
  • The International Who's Who of Management Labour and Employment Lawyers, Who's Who Legal, 2007-present
  • Quotes From Clients and Peers/Chambers USA
  • “Richard was unanimously commended as a ‘leading authority with a national reputation in the labor and employment field’. With his ‘incredible expertise he is a well known highflier at the NLRB’.” - 2003
  • “’Excellent at weighing up the risks’ Cleary has been spending a lot of time on traditional labor work. Commentators describe him as a ‘multi- dimensional’ character who can be relied upon to fight hard for his clients’.” - 2004
  • “Richard Cleary is a confident, responsive and effective attorney who affirms his position at the top of the table for another year. He serves an ‘impressive client base’ and self described ‘difficult clients’ could not praise him enough for his ‘effective management, client training and friendly demeanor’.” - 2005
  • “Clients emphasize how he ‘he always gets to the point’. With comments like ‘he is outstanding in every respect’ and I ‘have never had a complaint about him in over 26 years’ clients are clearly delighted with the service he provides." - 2006
  • “Richard Cleary is ‘smart, energetic, and creative’. ‘He works incredibly hard for his clients. He is praised for his skills in collective bargaining and valued as a tenacious litigator’.” - 2007
  • “His expertise in labor relations leads one peer to label him ‘a great practitioner who does everything well’.” - 2008
  • "Richard Cleary is one of the few lawyers who is effective in both employment litigation and labor law matters say sources." - 2009
  • "Expert in both labor and employment law Richard Cleary has been especially busy on the labor side, negotiating with unions on plant closures and restructurings for labor clients. ‘He is outstanding—incredibly responsive, extremely bright and aggressive when necessary'." - 2010
  • “Described by clients as a ‘pragmatic…attorney with top notch knowledge, Cleary acts exclusively for employers defending a wide variety of claims including wage and hour collective bargaining and labor and employment aspects of corporate restructuring'." - 2011
  • “The highly regarded and ‘proactive’ Richard Cleary has been labeled ‘first class’ by clients and is seen as an ‘incredible business partner'." - 2014
  • “Richard Cleary is known for his representation of employers in a range of disputes including employment defense and wage and hour actions. He is also experienced in counseling employers on the legal effects of corporate restructuring." - 2016
  • "Clients 'always love' Richard Cleary, an 'outstanding' traditional labor attorney who is praised for his handling of collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Commentators say:  'He is really helpful for negotiations, he is very client service oriented, he is collaborative and he is creative.'" - 2017
  • "Richard Cleary ably represents employers in a range of matters including significant discrimination and wage and hour litigation. He also is 'very well regarded by peers' for his experience handling collective bargaining matters." - 2018
  • Quotes from Clients:
  • "Richard is a gifted practitioner who is servant oriented and professional at all times. He is the genuine article who always delivers the goods. I have worked with Mr. Cleary on a variety of labor and employment issues for over a decade. He is a skilled negotiator in collective bargaining and a superior litigator before the NLRB, the courts, and in appellate work. His briefs are always clear and right on the mark. He has a gift for instantly recalling case names and decisions, as well as detailed facts of cases he is handling. He is very intelligent, straightforward, honest, and cost conscious. He has never missed a deadline and is a pleasure to work with. I would highly recommend him." - Associate General Counsel, national logistics company
  • "Richard Cleary is extremely bright, capable, and responsive. He is one of the best outside counsel that I have ever worked with. He has represented every company for which I have worked throughout my career due to his fabulous expertise and representation."- Associate General Counsel, international hotel franchisor
  • "I have had the honor of working with Rich Cleary on multiple labor negotiations and other labor/management issues. During my 20 years in human resources, I have never met an attorney or any other professional with more class or expertise than Rich. Rich is an exceptional attorney, but that is not what makes him different from others like him. His trust, integrity, and ability to communicate at all levels of management and genuine concern and respect for all individuals are only a few of the traits that set him apart. As an attorney, he represents his firm and clients with a passion and he is well respected by both sides of the table. His ability to understand situations, prepare himself and witnesses, and present our position is truly exceptional. Rich truly is one of the best." - VPHR, major metals producer

Memberships & Affiliations

  • American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section, Council Member, 2006-2014
  • Employers Counsel Network, Kentucky representative, 1989-present
  • American Bar Association, Co-Chair (Management), Committee on the Development of the Law Under the National Labor Relations Act, Labor and Employment Law Section, 1999-2002
  • American Bar Association, Program Co-Chair (Management), Committee on the Development of the Law Under the NLRA, 1996-1999
  • Kentucky Bar Association
  • Louisville Bar Association, Member; Former Chair, Labor and Employment Law Section
  • NLRB Region 9 Practice and Procedure Committee, Member, 2002-2008

Press Releases

Civic & Charitable Organizations

  • University of Louisville Labor-Management Center Advisory Board, Co-Chair, 2008-2011
  • 2008 Ryder Cup, Governor's Advisory Board
  • Washington and Lee University, Parents Council, Member, 2005-2009 
  • Kentucky Country Day School, Athletic Boosters Club, President, 2006-2007 
  • Lawyers Club, President, 2005-2006
  • Washington and Lee University, National Alumni Board, 1997-2001
  • American Heart Association, Louisville Chapter Board of Directors, 1996-2001
  • Georgetown University Law Center, National Alumni Board, 1992-1996
  • Leadership Louisville, 1990-1991
  • The Denbarr Club
  • The Law Club

Non-FBT Publications and Events

Kentucky Employment Law Letter, M. Lee Smith Publishing Co., Editor, 1991-present

50 Employment Laws in 50 States, Kentucky updates, 2005-2016 

University of Louisville Annual Labor and Employment Law Institutes, Moderator, 1986-present  

"Ask the Arbitrator," Speaker, University of Louisville Labor Management Center, October 31, 2008

"Master FMLA Program," May 24, 2007

American Bar Association: Co-Editor (Management) ABA Labor and Employment Law Section Newsletter, 2003-2006 

"National Labor Relations Board Update," Speaker, ABA Annual Meeting, August 13, 2002

National CLE Conference, "The Year In Review: An Update of the Most Significant NLRA Decisions of 2001," Steamboat Springs, Colorado, January 2002

University of Louisville Labor-Management Center, "Technology, The Workplace and Legal Issues," December 2001

Society for Human Resource Management: "Workplace Privacy," August 2001

"National Labor Relations Board Update," Speaker, ABA Annual Meeting, August 7, 2001

"Developments at the National Labor Relations Board," Speaker, ABA Annual Meeting, July 9, 2000

National Conference on Labor - Management Relations: "Labor Law in the Year 2000 and Beyond," Speaker, June 8, 2000, Washington, D.C.

Other Contact Info


Pamela Booker
T 502.779.8118