High and Younes: Childhood Friends Find Success Together 2/6/17 02/06/17 10:32:59 AM
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Attorneys Frank Younes and Justin High say they are “busy and happy” running their Omaha law firm.
High and Younes
Childhood Friends Find Success Together
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record
Before becoming law partners, Justin High and Frank Younes had known each other for many years. Both grew up in central Nebraska – Bertrand and Kearney, respectively – and their families had been friends.
“I went to Creighton University with Frank’s older brother,” High said. “Frank and I have known each other forever, so we are very comfortable practicing with each other.”
Both High and Younes knew pretty early on that they wanted to become attorneys. “I knew I wanted to be a lawyer since the second grade,” High said. “My teacher told me I was destined to be a lawyer because I questioned things she said and had a tendency to argue with her. It was prophetic.”
“It was something I discovered in high school. I enjoyed participating in legal classes,” Younes said. “I gravitated to it. When it came time to pick a college, I chose Creighton so I could be a lawyer.”
Both have experienced tremendous success in their field. In 2015, Younes was named Rising Star – Super Lawyers, Top 10 Attorneys under 40 – National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, Distinguished – Martindale-Hubbell Peer Reviewed – 10 Best Attorneys for Nebraska for Client Satisfaction in the practice area of family law by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys, and Clients’ Choice Award – Avvo.
As a student at Creighton Law, High was awarded the CALI Excellence for the Future Award in Civil Procedure.
After earning his juris doctor degree in 2005, High moved to Washington, D.C. for a little more than a year, but didn’t like it there. “It’s completely different than it is here,” he said. “It’s so contentious.”
He returned to Omaha, and started work at Sodoro, Daly & Sodoro, which he left in 2010. Coincidentally, that was the same year that Younes clerked there. (Younes later went on to practice at another insurance defense firm in town.) By the end of 2012, both were unsatisfied with their careers.
High has handled hundreds of cases in state and federal courts in Nebraska and Iowa, and has won a variety of cases in the Nebraska Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. He said that one of his proudest moments was when he got sole legal custody for a father of four in a contentious custody dispute.
“I was never able to achieve a work/life balance that made sense,” High said. “For me, it got to the point where working so many hours was not sustainable. It was bad for me; it was bad for my children.”
Younes shared the sentiment: “It was a good job, and I put in a lot of hours. I just wanted to be the master of my own destiny; to be in charge of how I tried my cases.”
He reached out to High, and told him that he was thinking of starting his own practice, and asked him if would he be interested in joining him. High was, and in October 2012, they opened High & Younes at 50th and Underwood in Omaha.
The decision has been a great one. “We’ve been busy, and we’re very happy,” Younes said. “It’s different than working for others. We are masters of our own universe, and you get credit – or criticism, for better or worse – for what you do. Also, we get to make a difference in people’s lives.
“We see our clients as individuals; they are more than just the bottom line. We have a stake in the outcome of their cases. It’s personal.”
“We worry about getting the job done and done well, not just the number of billable hours we get,” High added.
After just three years in business, High & Younes had become successful enough to buy their own building, and, in October 2015, they moved to their new location at 6919 Dodge Street.
“Moving to 70th and Dodge was more about the building than it was the location,” High said.
Younes agreed. “We had outgrown our space after about a year, year-and-a-half, and this building came up on the market at the right time. It was a fair and reasonable price, and it gave us a spot where we could grow our practice.”
High & Younes, which began as a “small start-up” with just the two partners, has since grown to include five staff members as well. And, for the most part, they have grown only from referrals or, as they say, “word-of-mouth.”
“We do very little advertising,” Younes said. “We take time to build personal relationships, and we have also been selective about what we want to do and who we do it for. Clients choose [those] they’re comfortable with; they need to be with someone they feel they can trust and disclose these important things to.”
“We select cases that we can stay invested in,” High said. “We don’t get bored, and that’s reflected in the work product we put out and the results we get.”
High & Younes provide legal services in the areas of family law, workers’ compensation, personal injury, wrongful death, divorce, and insurance disputes.
High focuses on workers’ compensation, family law, and still does some defense work for self-insureds. “He’s been batting 1,000 with his case selection,” Younes said.
“I stick mostly to liability and personal injury. I did insurance defense, so I understand how the cases are handled on the defense side; it’s just switching sides of court. It’s been fruitful. I got into family law shortly after we started the firm. I had a client who needed help, so I took it on, and I found I had a knack for it.”
Fifty percent of their business is personal injury and workers’ compensation, 30 percent family law, and about 20 percent commercial work and litigation, he added, and they work with everyone from small start-ups to much larger companies.
“We offer free consultations,” High said. “99 percent of the time, someone calls our office and talks to the staff to set up a meeting. We answer their questions honestly. We talk with them and only take the case if we can add a lot of value. We’ve turned a significant number of clients away.”
“When they come in, we are focused on the client,” Younes said. “We listen to them and provide feedback. The last thing we talk about are our fees. We’ve had a lot of people thank us for that. They might sit with us for 30 minutes to an hour before we are even saying we’ll go forward. Money isn’t the most important thing to us. We first want to see if there’s a relationship where the client wants to work with us, and we want to work with [him/her].”
“We take our reputation in the community very seriously,” High said. “We want everyone, from clients to opposing parties, to have a positive experience when they deal with us.
“We understand that we’ll be doing this for a long time. As for helping other lawyers, I’m more than happy to spend some time on the phone talking to them about their cases. Not many people spend a lot of time on workers’ compensation.”
“We want to be reasonable, and get the case done quickly and efficiently,” Younes added. “But if we can’t reach a fair and equitable solution, we will have no hesitation to take it to trial.”
Having experienced such rapid growth in such a short time, the partners have talked about whether to bring on another attorney, but as Younes said, they don’t foresee adding another partner. “If the right person comes along, maybe we would add another associate, but we want a practice where we are happy.”
For more information regarding the law firm of High & Younes, LLC, please go to: www.hyattorneys.com, or call 402-933-3345.