Jerald P. (“Jerry”) Keene is an attorney licensed in Oregon and Washington who enjoyed a thirty-year career as lead appeals counsel for the workers’ compensation defense firm of Reinisch Wilson Weier, P.C. and its predecessor firms before “semi-retiring” to pursue his long goal of establishing an “Institute” devoted to improvement of the workers’ compensation system and the laws that govern it.
Both as a teacher and as a legal advocate, Jerry Keene is known for his distinctive presentations that blend wit and enthusiastic advocacy with a comprehensive knowledge of the case law, statutes and rules. His knack for explaining complex workers’ compensation issues in clear, understandable terms has gained him a reputation for effectiveness in the class room and in the court room.
Jerry Keene is an Oregon native who graduated from the University of Oregon in 1978 with a B.A. in Journalism and History. He then spent three years in Chicago obtaining his law degree from Northwestern University before returning to practice in Oregon, where five generations of his family have lived.
Early in his legal career, Jerry fell prey to the politics bug and ran several times for seats in the Oregon Legislature. His interest in workers’ compensation policy issues became known to legislative leaders, who repeatedly asked him to play a lead role in crafting and promoting major reform legislation enacted in 1990, 1995, and 2005. Those reforms became a national model.
Workers’ compensation offers a rare opportunity for young attorneys to gain appeals experience, and Jerry Keene took advantage of it. Between 1981 and 2010, he handled hundreds of cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, including over two hundred cases meriting published opinions. He also handled literally thousands of cases for employers, insurers, and managed care organizations in litigation before the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board and regulatory disputes with the Workers’ Compensation Department. Since 1990, Keene has handled similar appeal cases for Washington self-insured employers and third-party administrators.
In addition to his effective appearances in the appellate courts, Keene became well-known for his lively legal presentations to industry groups. When Oregon started to require examiner education and certification in 1991, it was only natural that he created the first, state-approved course, “Basic Workers’ Compensation,” which has since certified over 500 Oregon examiners.
In 2010, Jerry Keene “semi-retired” from Reinisch Wilson Weier, P.C., to found the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Institute as both a training organization and a solo law and consulting practice. Today, through OWCI, Jerry continues to offer claims examiner training courses and specialized appeals representation and legal services to Oregon and Washington employers, insurers, and third-party administrators.