Clements Marries Litigation With Community Involvement 1/14/14 01/14/14 2:10:16 AM
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James Clements Jr. is heavily involved in community activities along with the demands of his busy law career.
– Photo by Michael Tran
Clements Marries Litigation Practice
With Lots of Community Involvement
By Matt Goodlett
The Daily Record
Attorney James Clements Jr. says what he likes about practicing at Welch Law Firm, P.C., for the past three years is the small firm atmosphere that he says feels almost like a family business.
“You have the opportunity that, instead of being focused on one specialized area, you can try your hand at a lot of different things,” Clements said.
Among the seven attorneys at the firm there’s a pool of varied experience, which he said is important for a young attorney to have in order to learn the craft.
“One hundred percent of my practice is litigation, with a majority of my focus on commercial litigation, insurance defense litigation and employment law litigation,” he said. He’s a member of the Omaha Bar Association and the Florida and Nebraska State Bar Associations.
Clements went to Mount Michael Benedictine High School, and then Creighton University for his undergraduate degree in journalism – where he was managing editor for the university’s newspaper.
While at Creighton he served as a College World Series ambassador. Clements said he believes that one of the reasons the event has been so successful in Omaha for so long is because of the different service clubs – like Rotary – that support the players while they’re in town.
“It was neat to be a part of that and to see how the city really embraces the event and makes the teams feel at home.”
He left Omaha for the Univers-ity of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law in Gainesville where he graduated cum laude. There he was named Trial Team president, Outstanding Graduate, and received the Outstanding Service Award. He was a law school mentor for at-risk youth.
After graduation, he practiced law in Tampa for two years. He spent some time in and out of Omaha, before settling down here to raise a family.
“Everyone says that Omaha’s a great place to raise a family … and it really is. There’s just a lot of stuff to do,” he said.
Clements met his wife, originally from Uruguay, while she was performing for the Omaha Ballet. “We met through a friend of a friend, and ten years later we’re still together,” Clements said. He said they try to visit her family in Uruguay every couple of years to give the children a chance to connect with them and their culture. In turn, her family visits Omaha regularly too.
The children are being raised to be bilingual in English and Spanish. “We’re trying to make sure that they know both so they can communicate with their whole family,” he said.
What interested Clements about becoming an attorney was the opportunity to advocate for other people. He continues to do so in his practice, and regularly did pro bono work through the Nebraska Bar Association for the Heart Ministry Center legal clinic – until recent Supreme Court changes resulted in the Bar closing the clinic.
“I gave clients general advice. I think they’re just looking for help [finding out what to do],” he said. “A lot of these clients are indigent clients so they don’t know where to go or how to answer questions, so sometimes it’s not even legal questions.”
Clements also serves on the Mount Michael Benedictine High School Alumni Association Board and served as coach for their Mock Trial team for three years after his return to Omaha from Tampa.
“It was fun to work with the kids and they were always really enthused.” He said anytime an attorney can advise or mentor young people who are interested in the law, they should try to do so. It’s a good way to help them become good attorneys.
Clements continues his community involvement as the president of the Hanscom Park neighborhood association. There he championed the plan to construct the city’s first “cycle track,” a physically protected, two-way bike path that’s part of a roadway, in the Hanscom Park neighborhood. He told the Omaha World-Herald, “I’m for it. Generally, people in the neighborhood are for it. … Speeding has been a long-standing issue.” Unfortunately, the popular idea was squelched by city officials, citing several reasons including concerns about the designated historic district, the expense, and lack of time to address all the concerns in time to use a federal grant.
Serving on the neighborhood association is “really just another way to get the community together, working on different projects in the neighborhood. Those are kind of the things that I focus on outside of work, so it keeps me pretty busy,” Clements said.
Hanscom Park Association leaders also initiated something called Front Porch Fridays. Neighbors are invited to stop by the front porch of a host family’s home for a few hours on Friday evenings. Lawn chairs, snacks, introductions and information are all shared and new friends are made. Clements and his family have already hosted and will undoubtedly do it again.
He also keeps busy as an advocate for Omaha, serving on the Chamber of Commerce’s Greater Omaha Young Professionals Board and the Leadership Omaha Alumni Association. He started his three-year term in July and describes the board’s purpose as an attempt to get young professionals out in the community, and to attract and retain talent in Omaha. He is a graduate of the Chamber’s Leadership Omaha Class 35.
When at home Clements spends his time figuring out activities that will get him and his two young children, Cecilia and Killian, out of the house while his wife Magali teaches ballet in the afternoons at Nebraska Dance and on Saturdays at El Museo Latino.
The class at El Museo is open to anyone and they bring a donation of a few dollars that goes towards the museum. Clements said, “It’s a little less formal but it gives them a chance to have access to the arts.”
The Clements children have also gotten in on the dancing fun. Clements said his wife doesn’t want to push them towards it just because it’s been her passion, but the two have shown an early interest in it. His son, the older of the two, was enrolled in dance classes after it was noticed he danced around the house.
During a recent Christmas pageant, Clements’ daughter joined in for the dancing even though she’s not yet in the class.
Family is paramount, but community involvement is also obviously important to Clements. He said, “I think that’s why Omaha is the kind of place that it is, because people are involved.”
– With additional reporting
by Lorraine Boyd