J. Tanner Watkins


Tanner has spent much of his career representing a wide range of companies, from smaller local businesses to well-known brands in the logistics, agricultural manufacturing, pharmaceutical, banking, trust, insurance, and investment banking industries. He also has experience handling a variety of consumer finance claims, including creditors' rights and FDCPA, FCRA, and TCPA compliance and defense. As a litigator he focuses in the areas of commercial litigation, business and fiduciary litigation, banking law, appellate advocacy, personal injury, product liability, pharmaceutical litigation, insurance coverage, transportation, premises liability, toxic torts, fire/explosion, constitutional law, employment torts, property and zoning, contractual disputes, intellectual property disputes, internal investigation and compliance, and government investigations.

He handles trials, injunction hearings, and appeals in state and federal courts. Understanding that every client has unique circumstances, Tanner places a premium on thoroughly analyzing each matter before crafting a strategy that meets his client’s objectives, whether it’s negotiating a settlement or building a defense for trial, which enables him to quickly tailor his approach to fit each client’s needs.

Tanner is dedicated to advancing the legal profession. In 2015-2016, he served as chair of the Kentucky Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. In that position, Tanner was the head of Kentucky’s 5,000 young lawyers. As head of the KBA YLD, Tanner, along with the attorney general of Kentucky, created and implemented the Legal Food Frenzy, an annual fundraiser which seeks to raise $150,000 for Kentucky’s food banks. In 2018, Tanner was elected to the Kentucky Bar Association Board of Governors, the youngest member elected to the Board of Governors in the past 20 years. He was also appointed by the Kentucky Supreme Court to serve as the Louisville representative to the Commission on Continuing Legal Education. In addition to Tanner’s work with the Kentucky Bar Association, he is very active in the American Bar Association, serving as the Kentucky Bar Association’s representative to the House of Delegates as well as the Kentucky State Membership Chair. Because of Tanner’s successful professional career, as well as his professional and community involvement, he was named Kentucky's 2017 Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year, and in 2018, was awarded the Outstanding Young Professional of the Year from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Tanner is also a leader in the Louisville community, primarily in the arts and community building. Currently, he serves as a member of the Speed Art Museum Board of Governors, where he chairs its governance committee. He also serves on the board of trustees for the Kentucky College of Art and Design, where he sits on its executive committee. At the age of 35, Tanner successfully chaired its $12 million capital campaign. Tanner was also actively involved in NeXt!!, a leadership development program instituted by the Louisville Fund for the Arts. Tanner was named NeXt!! Alumnus of the Year in 2014, and now serves on its Alumni Council. In 2020, Tanner created Enrich Louisville, a coalition of out of school time providers working together to reduce barriers and increase access to enrichment opportunities for all students.


  • University of Kentucky College of Law  (J.D., cum laude, 2008)
    • Moot Court
    • CALI Award for Advanced Torts
    • CALI Award for Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Centre College  (B.A., 2004)

Bar Admissions

  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee

Court Admissions

  • Kentucky Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana


  • Kentucky Bar Association, 2008-present
    • Board of Bar Governors, governor, 2019-present
    • Kentucky Lawyers Assistance Program, director, 2019-present
    • Legislative Committee, 2019-present
    • Kentucky Bar Association Annual Convention, co-chair, 2019
    • Diversity and Inclusion Summit Planning Committee, 2019
    • Continuing Legal Education Commission, commissioner, 2016-2019
    • Annual Convention Planning Committee, 2012-2019
    • Young Lawyers Division, 2009-present
      • Chair, 2015-2016
      • Executive Committee, 2010-2017
    • Legal Food Frenzy, chair, 2016-2017
    • Board of Governors, Executive Committee, 2015-2016
    • Taskforce on Mandatory Liability Insurance, 2015-2016
  • Louis Brandeis Inn of Court, 2016-2019
  • American Bar Association
    • Kentucky Delegate, ABA House of Delegates, 2017-present
    • Kentucky State Membership Commission, chair, 2019-present
    • Host Committee for the Louisville Spring Conference, co-chair, 2017
    • American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, fellow, 2017-present
    • Young Lawyers Division House of Delegates, Kentucky Delegate
    • Young Lawyers Division, Kentucky and Tennessee, representative
    • Kentucky and Tennessee Disaster Legal Services, chair
      • Successfully presided over two FEMA declared natural disasters
    • ABA Young Lawyers Division Governing Council, 2015-2017
    • Section of Litigation, 2009-present
  • Louisville Bar Association
    • Board of Directors, 2019-present
  • Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company of Kentucky
    • Board of Directors, director, 2016-2019
  • Speed Art Museum
    • Board of Governors, governor, 2014-present
    • Governance Committee, 2015-present
    • Governance Committee, chair, 2019-present
  • Louisville Fund for the Arts
    • NeXt!! Alumni Advisory Council
    • Endowment Committee
    • NeXt!! Leadership Development Program
  • Kentucky College of Art and Design
    • Board of Trustees, 2017-present
    • Executive Committee, 2017-present
    • Capital Campaign Committee, chair, 2016-present
  • Greater Louisville Inc.
    • Business and Competitiveness Committee, 2017-present
    • Energy and Environment Committee, 2017-present
  • Louisville Legal Aid
    • Volunteer Attorney, 2009-present
  • Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players
    • Board of Directors, 2009-2016
    • Board of Directors, president, 2011-2014
    • Merger Committee, chair, 2015


  • Martindale-Hubble Rated AV Judicial-Preeminent
    • Highest honor offered by Martindale Hubble to less than 1 percent of attorneys, 2018-present
  • Louisville Business First Forty Under 40 Recipient, 2020
  • Bingham Fellows Graduate, 2020
  • University of Kentucky Outstanding Young Alumni of the Year, 2018
  • Kentucky's Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year, 2017
  • Leadership of Louisville graduate, 2017
  • Kentucky Rising Stars®
    • For Business Litigation (2015 - Present)
  • Louisville Fund for the Arts, NeXt!! Alumni of the Year, 2014
  • KBA Young Lawyers Division Outstanding Executive Committee Member, 2014