Attorney serves as senior counsel for Dow

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

As senior counsel for the Commercial Law Group at the Dow Chemical Company in Midland, attorney Kenneth Hemler provides legal support to the leadership of, and day-to-day counseling to, two of Dow’s global businesses:  (1) the Packaging & Specialty Plastics business, Dow’s single largest business unit, with 3,900 employees, 48 plants, and 28 sites in 16 different countries, and (2) the Olefins, Aromatics & Alternatives business, which provides inputs for nearly every one of Dow’s downstream businesses.

“Dow’s focus on the ‘Human Element’ isn’t just an advertising campaign – it really encapsulates Dow’s entire way of doing business,” he says. “Dow has a people-first approach when dealing with any of its stakeholders, whether they are customers, investors, employees, or members of the community.

“Combine that with the fact that Dow is a Fortune 50 Company where I still get to work on the same type of sophisticated, cutting-edge legal work that I was doing at a white shoe law firm, and it’s easy to see why Dow is such a great place to work.”

Hemler, who has received several recognition awards from Dow, started work there in 2010 in the Human Resources, Employment & Labor Law Group.

His new role is the culmination of a career path that started as early as ninth grade, when he chose the law as the topic of his “What do you want to be when you grow up?” paper.

He earned his undergrad degree, summa cum laude, in business administration and finance, from the University of Detroit Mercy, where he earned the Finance Department Award for demonstrating scholastic achievement and exceptional promise.  He chose his major as offering a great deal of flexibility in his future career. 

“Regardless of the field you end up working in, nearly all of them require at least some basic business knowledge,” he says. “Plus, you acquire a lot of important skills you’ll use in your everyday life, like personal finance, basic investing, and interpersonal communication.”

As he neared graduation, Hemler was torn between going for an MBA or a law degree. His academic adviser and father convinced him to do both.

“My early 20s weren’t very much fun, but the work has paid off in the long run,” he says.

He earned his MBA, summa cum laude, from UDM and his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Detroit Mercy Law, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Law Review and received awards for outstanding academic performance in legal research and writing, real property, evidence, federal taxation, corporate transactions, and estates and trusts. A member of the Frank Murphy Honor Society for graduating in the top 10 percent, he also received an award from the Kemp Klein Law Firm as the top-performing student in the Law Firm Program.

As a UDM alumnus, Hemler chose Detroit Mercy Law even before taking the LSAT.

“It was the only place where I applied,” he says. “I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Detroit Mercy Law provides a great mix of an intimate, small school feel combined with a practice-based approach to learning where I could obtain the practical legal skills I needed in order to hit the ground running after graduation.”

His first job right out of law school was as an associate at Shearman & Sterling in New York City, where he first worked in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group and later in the Compensation, Governance & ERISA Group.

“The work was sophisticated and challenging,” he says. “My clients were leaders of their industries. My colleagues were some of the greatest legal minds in the country. I worked mostly on mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. The deal work we were doing was fast-paced – almost addicting. It really gets into your blood.”

The Warren native and graduate of De La Salle Collegiate is happy to be back in the Great Lakes State, where he and his wife (whom he met in high school) Sarah – “the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever met” – make their home in Midland with sons Zane, 6, and Wyatt, 1; a third son is due in April.

Hemler gives back to both Midland and Detroit. In Midland, he is approaching his fourth season of coaching Zane’s Little League team; volunteers with Habitat for Humanity to help repair homes in the community; and also has provided pro bono legal services to a local agency that offers adoption services and helps children in the foster care system. In Detroit, he helped form Ben’s Encore, a nonprofit organization that honors the legacy of a fellow De La Salle classmate, musician Ben Borowiak, and provides opportunities to Detroit-area students and musicians.

He also serves on the Detroit Mercy Alumni Board of Directors.

“It allows me to give back to the school that gave me a lot,” he says. “I enjoy the opportunity to interact with our alumni, who practice in an incredibly wide range of areas all over the globe.  It also gives me a chance to help make the educational experience for current students as meaningful as it was for me.”

A member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and of the Society for American Baseball Research, baseball is a major passion for Hemler: playing it, watching it, coaching it, and collecting it.

“If you ask my wife, we’ve moved beyond baseball being a hobby – it permeates almost every aspect of our lives,” he says. “Baseball is the only interest I know of that can equally engage my 62-year-old father and my 6-year-old son. It creates bonds between fathers and their sons, grandparents and their grandkids, and even complete strangers.

“Tigers win the Series in five,” Hemler predicts. “You heard it here first.”
 

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