New Attorney Sharon Hansen 4/8/13 04/08/13 8:30:52 AM
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Sharon Hansen embarked on a new profession when many would be retiring.
New Attorney Sharon Hansen ‘Driven’
By Dennis Friend
The Daily Record
Sharon Hansen, the newest addition to the Koukol & Johnson law firm in Omaha, received her juris doctor in 2011 from Creighton University School of Law and she was admitted to the state bar last April. She quickly joined the Omaha Bar Association.
But a career in law was never something that occurred to her when, as Sharon Lesac, she was growing up in the St. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic parish in South Omaha, attending South High School or graduating from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a degree in accounting.
In fact, “I certainly didn’t think about law. It’s not like I always wanted to be an attorney,” Hansen admitted.
That idea came up later. Much later. Long after she married Bruce Hansen. Long after she went to work, first as a computer programmer at USWEST and Northwestern Bell in 1979, then as an IT manager at Qwest and USWEST in 1986, finally reaching a senior manager position at QwestDex in 2000.
“I worked at the phone company and I was planning on retiring there, but three years from retirement I accepted a buyout,” Hansen said.
That was in 2001.
But, Hansen admitted, “I’m driven.”
She started running in her 40s. She competed in three half-marathons in her 40s and 50s. And somewhere in there, when she was doing secretarial work for an attorney, the idea of law school came up. She and the attorney tossed the idea around.
At first, “I said I was too old,” Hansen said, but she eventually decided to apply for law school at Creighton University.
She was accepted. Hansen was 51 years old.
“Not only was I older than the students, but in many cases I was older than their parents. I hung around the teachers when I started,” she said.
Hansen’s competitive. “I have always liked learning, and I’m stubborn,” she said, so law school and a new career in law seemed to be a good fit.
Sharon Hansen (center) has fit in quickly with her colleagues David Koukol and Michele Lastovica.
That stubborn streak – some might call it tenacity – combines with a ready sense of humor and many years of experience in the business world. The Koukol & Johnson website describes Hansen as bringing “a wealth of experience to her new role as attorney, through her prior employment in the telecommunications industry, to her long-standing participation in community activities and organizations,” including positions on the Bellevue Planning Commission and the Sarpy County Board of Adjustment.”
“She was a non-traditional law school student who had a career in the corporate arena. She brings in a much different insight. She has a good sense of humor, she’s enthusiastic and she has the experience of dealing with people on a corporate level. She has a knack for identifying issues. She’s thorough, organized and she’s nice to be around,” David Koukol said.
That business background also gave her a more-intense focus when she opted for a shot at law school, Hansen said.
“I was not in school for the social life. I’ve been there and done that,” Hansen said. Law involves many areas of life and “I wanted to learn. You learn something from every experience.”
She cites, for example, her years with the Sarpy County Board of Adjustment and the Bellevue Planning Commission. These were non-paid posts, but “It’s easy to get involved, and I learned a lot about zoning and plans.”
She stepped down from the planning commission last year but is still on the Sarpy County Board of Adjustment.
Volunteer commitments also included 12 years with the Bellevue Board of Adjustment between 1987-1999, mentoring efforts with Goodwill Industries and four years as a Sarpy County poll worker.
“She’s had a lot of practical experience, and we can use her land-use and planning perspective. She’s empathetic as well as strong. She has contributed a lot to the Bellevue community,” Koukol said.
Her drive, energy and that stubborn nature also helped when, during her first year of law school, she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I had an unusual mammogram with finals coming up. I found out I had breast cancer in the middle of finals,” Hansen said.
She decided to complete those exams, and “instead of taking classes, I spent that summer going through radiation. I would go to the gym, work at a proofreading job, then do radiation five days a week for 33 days.”
As a result of the unexpected intrusion of cancer, she altered her class schedules but still was able to get through Creighton in four years.
She now visits her oncologist annually and the cancer appears to be in remission.
Hansen’s drive and energy is evident simply by considering her list of activities and accomplishments. She was the City of Bellevue Volunteer of the Year in 2008. She received the Loretta Ludemann Award for “Excellence in Planning in the State of Nebraska by a Woman,” and she was awarded a “Jewel of Bellevue” in recognition of her service in planning.
At Creighton, she was a member of the school’s International Trademark Association Competition team, which earned both a first place award and a third place award in the February, 2011, competition. She also represented Creighton regionally at the American Bar Association’s Client Counseling and Negotiation competitions, and nationally at the American Bar Association’s Negotiation competition while in law school.
Her husband, Bruce, has been supportive throughout her career change and cancer treatment, she said. Now, after 35 years with OPPD, he is retired.
“Bruce is proud of me, and I’m proud of myself, too. I’m working and I’m having a ball. I really like this stuff,” she said.
Her involvement in civil litigation means she handles such things as contracts, wills, estate planning and divorce.
The self-described extrovert concedes, “it’s easy for me to get involved. I walk into a room and start talking,” Hansen said. That willingness to engage indirectly helped her land her current job.
“I met Dave (Koukol) 10 years ago and I knew his paralegal. Michele was in my running group,” Hansen said.
Michele Lastovica told Hansen that Koukol & Johnson might be looking for another attorney, and Lastovica told Koukol that Hansen had passed the bar.
The five-year-old firm consisted of Koukol, law partner Karisa Johnson and paralegal Lastovica.
“We were getting busier,” Koukal said, and Koukol already knew who knew Hansen was: “She’s been active in Bellevue for years and I met her at a function where we talked about public service.”
The partners met Hansen for lunch and “We felt it would be a good fit. Now Koukol & Johnson is comprised of three attorneys and a paralegal.
“They’re great people,” Hansen said, adding with a laugh, “They haven’t fired me yet.”
Koukol countered, “She’s Czech, she loves to bake and she brought in a great dessert.”