Ken Carlson is a partner with Constangy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, one of the nation’s oldest labor and employment defense firms with offices in 23 states across the country. He is a senior litigator, mediator and arbitrator whose legal practice is concentrated in virtually every aspect of employment law. Most of his practice now consists of serving as a certified mediator, especially in the areas of employment law, covenant not to compete/trade secret matters, FLSA and wage & hour (including collective and class actions), and ERISA issues. Ken also regularly consults with companies in how to avoid legal problems before they occur, and frequently conducts training on appropriate management and employee practices in the workplace.

Ken is consistently named to Business North Carolina magazine’s annual “Legal Elite”, to the list of North Carolina Super Lawyers, and to Best Lawyers in America for labor & employment law and/or alternative dispute resolution. He has repeatedly received Best Lawyers’ “Lawyer of the Year” recognition in alternative dispute resolution for North Carolina or the Winston-Salem/Greensboro metropolitan area, and is a former chair of the Dispute Resolution Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.

Ken is also a Fellow with the American Bar Foundation, and an adjunct professor at the Wake Forest University School of Law where he teaches courses in negotiation and trade secrets/unfair competition law, and for many years also taught trial practice and advanced trial practice. He has been a frequent speaker through the years at continuing legal education seminars and has published numerous articles and CLE materials on various employment law topics – including trade secret/unfair competition law and such ADR topics as mediating in a manner to help avoid impasse, “best practices” for a successful mediation, legal ethics in mediation, and the pros and cons of employment law arbitration. Ken received his J.D. degree from the Wake Forest University School of Law, is a 1976 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and also holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University.

Honors & Recognitions

  • Named to North Carolina Lawyers Weekly's 2023 Power List in Employment
  • American Bar Foundation, Fellow (2015 - present)
  • Recognized in The Best Lawyers in America® for Arbitration, Employment Law - Management, Litigation - Labor and Employment, Mediation, and Trade Secrets Law (2007-2024)
  • Recognized as The Best Lawyers in America® "Lawyer of the Year" for:
    • Mediation, Triad (2023)
    • Litigation - Labor and Employment, Triad (2022, 2024)
    • Trade Secrets Law, Triad (2021, 2024)
    • Arbitration, Triad (2020)
    • Litigation - Labor and Employment, Greensboro (2015, 2017)
    • Arbitration, Greensboro (2013, 2016, 2018)
  • Chambers USA Guide (2007-2023)
  • Legal Elite, Employment Law, Business North Carolina (2013, 2018, 2023, 2024)
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent® Peer Rated for Highest Level of Professional Excellence
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers (2006-2024)
  • Top 100: North Carolina Super Lawyers (2013, 2019-2021)
  • Top Lawyer for Trial/Litigation, Triad Business Leader Magazine (2008)

Professional & Civic Associations

  • American Bar Foundation
  • American Bar Association
  • Wake Forest University School of Law, Adjunct Professor
  • North Carolina Bar Association, Alternative Dispute Resolution Section, Former Council Member
  • Winston-Salem Society for Human Resources Management
  • Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, Inc., Former Chairman
  • Timothy's Episcopal Church
  • Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, Government Affairs Committee, Member and Former Chairman

Press Room

About Me

Ken is married to Melanie Carlson, and has three daughters, two sons-in-law and a growing number of grandchildren. He enjoys travel, reading, most sports, and especially likes to hike and camp where smart phones don't work.

News & Analysis

Client Presentations & Firm Publications

Speaking Engagements & Industry Publications

A sampling of publications and presentations through the years include the following:

  • "From Bluffs to Big Sticks: Litigating Covenant Not to Compete and Trade Secret Cases", Lorman Webinar, February 2023 
  • “HR Ethics: Beyond Simply Doing the Right Thing!," Winston-Salem Society for Human Resource Management, November 2022
  • "#MeToo and Investigating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace," Winston-Salem Government Affairs, February 2018
  • “Covenants Not to Compete and Trade Secrets: Protecting Against Unfair Competition,” manuscript and presentation at Annual or Bi-Annual National Teleconference CLEs through Lorman Education Services, 2005-present
  • “Ban the Box – A Legal Perspective,” manuscript and presentation at Addressing Workplace Challenges Seminar, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, May 2016
  • “Advancing the Ball at Mediation,” manuscript and panel presentation at American Conference Institute EPLI Conference, January 2013
  • "Employment Law Mediations: Boldly Going Where Many Have Gone Before," Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Docket, June 2012
  • "The Road to Redemption: Saving North Carolina Noncompete Law From Itself," Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law, Spring 2012
  • "To Arbitrate or Not to Arbitrate -- Is That The Question?," North Carolina Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section Annual Meeting & CLE, March 20, 2009
  • “Advancing the Ball at Mediation,” presented for North Carolina Advocates for Justice CLE, February 2009
  • “The Yalta Conference of Employment Law Meets Wendy's - Back Pay, Front Pay and Punitive Damages,” presentation and paper for the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, Month 2006
  • “Covenants Not to Compete and Trade Secrets: Protecting Against Unfair Competition,” manuscript and presentation at Bi-Annual National Teleconference CLE through Lorman Education Services, 2005-present
  • “Opening Statements and Closing Arguments: You might not win it here but you sure could lose it,” presented at NBI Powerful Evidence in North Carolina Seminar
  • “Now or Never: Protecting Trade Secrets and Other Information,” Business North Carolina, June 2004
  • “Be Careful What You Ask For -- You Just Might Get It (An alternative view to mandatory arbitration of employment disputes),” North Carolina Bar Association, ADR Section Newsletter, November 2002
  • “Noncompete Agreements and Trade Secrets in North Carolina,” presented at the North Carolina Bar Association, Corporate Counsel Section Annual Meeting
  • North Carolina Bar Association Labor & Employment Section Newsletter, Editor 

Blogs, Videos & Podcasts

Blog Posts


  • "Man can live profoundly without masses of things." 
  • Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Alone

Practice Emphasis

  • Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation and Wrongful Discharge
  • Trade Secrets and Unfair Competition
  • Drafting Employment Contracts, Confidentiality and Noncompetition Agreements, and Independent Contractor Agreements
  • Drug Testing and Substance Abuse
  • General Employment Law Advice and Management/Employee Training
  • Mediation and Arbitration in All Aspects of Employment Law


Wake Forest University School of Law

  • J.D., 1990

Yale Divinity School

  • Master of Divinity, 1981

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • B.A., English Literature, 1976

Bar & Court Admissions

  • North Carolina, 1990
  • United States Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Court
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina
  • U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina
Back to Page