The Media School

Ken Nunn, from troubled teenager to law firm legend

April 1st, 2021 by
Photograph Courtesy of Ken Nunn

Ken Nunn, founder of the Ken Nunn Law Office in Bloomington and Indianapolis, has lived in Bloomington since 1962. He grew up poor, living with his single mother and younger sister. He often spent time looking after his sister while his mother supported their family.

When Ken Nunn was a child in Jeffersonville, he was only able to feel completely warm while he sat in school, because many of his childhood homes didn’t have heat. More often than not, Nunn ate mayonnaise sandwiches at home.

Much of his time outside of school was spent caring for his little sister, while his mother worked two jobs to support them. His family was evicted from their homes 10 times in 12 years for non-payment of rent. 

“Growing up poor was an advantage for me,” he said. “It made me stronger and taught me a lot.” 

Nunn has been practicing law in Bloomington for over 40 years, and opened his own practice right after law school. On his first day in the office Nunn had no staff, and no furniture other than a card table and homemade bookshelf. Today, he has over 100 employees and Ken Nunn Law Offices in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Photograph by Kyra Miller

Nunn did his undergraduate degree in Business at IU and attended the IU Law School. He wanted to become a lawyer after viewing the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird," in his junior year at IU.

Nunn didn’t always want to be a lawyer. While he watched trials in Saturday court as a teenager, practicing law seemed boring. He always felt sympathy for the defendant on trial, because he made trouble as a teenager too. 

Nunn spent two weeks in jail when he was 16 after being caught stealing golf clubs from a lawyer. When he was released, the judge ordered him to apologize to the lawyer. He went to the man’s office and expected to be yelled at. However, the lawyer gave him money, and told him to get a haircut. 

“I grew up a little bit, you know, you grow when you make mistakes,” he said. “I assure you I made my fair share of mistakes.” 

After Nunn graduated from IU’s School of Law in 1967 and became a lawyer, he argued cases in front of the Indiana Supreme Court, where the lawyer from his childhood, Dixon W. Prentice would come to sit on the bench. 

“He was one of five justices that walked into that room,” he said. “I knew him and he knew me, and it was embarrassing.”

Nunn attended Jeffersonville High School until his sophomore year, when he dropped out and began working a part-time job that paid 50 cents-per-hour. It was during this time Nunn and his family were evicted from their home for the final time and moved to nearby Clarksville. 

Clarksville was a fresh start for Nunn. Initially, he had no plans to return to school. Then, his new friends asked if they could ride to school with him. Nunn was too embarrassed to tell them he had dropped out, so he re-enrolled at Clarksville High School. 

“Growing up poor was an advantage for me. It made me stronger and taught me a lot.” – Ken Nunn, founder and attorney, Ken Nunn Law Office.

After graduating from high school at 19 in 1959, Nunn attended an IU campus near Jeffersonville. In order to complete his degree, he moved to Bloomington to complete his last two years at IU, and fell in love with the city. 

“I love Bloomington a lot. Never have traveled to another city and said ‘I’d like to move away from Bloomington’,” he said. “I always say ‘Bloomington is my home.’” 

During his junior year at IU, Nunn saw “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Princess Theatre. After leaving the movie, he knew practicing law wasn’t boring, and he wanted to become a lawyer, thanks to Gregory Peck. 

While the law was always interesting to Nunn, he didn’t believe he was smart enough to get the grades he needed for law school. He made the grades to be accepted to IU’s law school, and graduated third to last in his class. 

“I’m not the smartest guy in town, ” he said. “I out-work them. That’s my strength, I out-work them.” 

Valery Todd is a legal assistant at the Ken Nunn Law Office in Bloomington. When she first began working, Todd said she was slightly nervous and intimidated, but Nunn’s humor and kindness made her feel comfortable. 

“He’s just so generous and funny,” she said. “He’s just that kind of person.” 

Although Nunn had a difficult childhood, when he reflects back on his experiences, he said he was lucky to meet his wife, and blessed to be in the position he is in after growing up the way he did.

“If you really love what you’re doing, it’s not work,” he said.