Several years ago, at a College World Series employee tailgating event, Paul grilled the burgers for everyone.
By Lorraine Boyd
Jessen’s Service to Legal Community
Earned Him Bar’s Public Service Honor
The Daily Record
The loss of attorney Paul C. Jessen is still fresh, so fresh that he was just named to Best Lawyers in America, again.
The co-founder and chairman of Koley Jessen law firm died on February 14 of cancer at the young age of 59. It was perhaps a life unfinished, but then, as his wife related, with his “never waste a minute” philosophy, he probably lived 120 years within those 59.
He is being honored today by the Omaha Bar Association with the Robert M. Spire Public Service Award. The criteria:
• The public’s knowledge of the law or the legal system has been enhanced in some significant way by the recipient’s efforts;
• The recipient has focused on providing service to the community for purposes other than pecuniary profits; and
• The recipient has demonstrated long-term commitment to the enhancement of the public’s knowledge of the law.
Paul Jessen spent more than 35 years providing service to the community, since his graduation from Creighton University School of Law, summa cum laude, and admission to the Nebraska Bar in 1977. He had already become a CPA.
When Paul decided to leave another law firm to co-found Koley Jessen in 1988, he didn’t specifically intend or expect the firm would grow from seven to over 50 attorneys and over 100 total employees, becoming one of the top law firms in Nebraska and the region.
Arriving early at the office each morning, he would make a to-do list for the day. “He knew that leading a growing and dynamic law firm and fulfilling – no, exceeding – the expectations of his clients and community meant that the rest of his day would be given to others,” the firm’s attorneys wrote on the company website.
“The standard that Paul set for conducting business with unwavering integrity, putting people first, providing over-the-top client service, and giving back to the community attracted people – clients, attorneys, and staff members – to Koley Jessen.”
Highly regarded in the legal community, Paul received numerous honors and was a fellow of both the American College of Estate and Trust Counsel and the Nebraska State Bar Foundation. He was recognized many times by Best Lawyers in America and Chambers USA for his work in tax law, trusts and estates, corporate compliance law and corporate governance law (including this year). He was a member of the American, Nebraska and Omaha Bar Associations, the Nebraska Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Omaha Estate Planning Council and was a past president of the Great Plains Federal Tax Institute.
“Just as he advised others to do,” they wrote, “Paul gave his time and personal funds to community organizations about which he was passionate. Community service was a key part of Paul’s and his family’s life and something he built in to the culture at Koley Jessen as well.”
That family life includes his wife Mary, children Kjirsten and Chad, and two grandchildren. Paul and Mary loved the outdoor life, realizing a dream in 2003 when they moved to the country where they could ride horses and Paul could indulge his love of hunting and woodworking. He was a “real cowboy.”
“Throughout his life Paul held top positions within several community organizations including College World Series of Omaha, Inc., River City Rodeo and Stock Show, Knights of Aksarben, and the Omaha Community Foundation. He was a key advisor to these and many other organizations. … He played a key role in the successful renewal of Omaha’s 25-year contract with the NCAA to continue to host the College World Series in Omaha at the new TD Ameritrade Park.”
‘Go Jump in a Lake’
His colleague and friend, Michael Hupp, said, “He has always wanted our firm to set the standard for law firms in the area of community service.
“In connection with this, one of the things we instituted a long time ago is to try to do something fun for the United Way fund drive. One year, the prize to the firm for reaching our goal was for certain members of our executive committee to jump in the lake outside our office on the last day of the campaign.
We reached our goal and Paul, along with three others, jumped in the lake. Most of the office either went outside or watched from our offices. It was about 35 degrees that day. The lake has lots of geese that hang around that make it pretty gross.” He noted that the event made the Omaha World-Herald.
Through his many professional and volunteer activities, Paul was the embodiment of why the Robert M. Spire Award was established. He led by example and enhanced the public perception of the law and how it should be practiced. And he did it all with a measure of humility, humor and optimism.
In the words of his colleagues at Koley Jessen, “It is with sadness and a deep measure of gratitude that we bid him farewell.”