Law School Cured Vacanti of Career Boredom 11/21/17 12/07/17 11:47:53 AM
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Law School Cured Vacanti of Career Boredom
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record
For Christopher Vacanti going to law school was a “whim,” but it was one that has paid off, giving him a challenging and rewarding career that he loves.
“I get asked when I’m going to retire, and I don’t have any plans to,” he said. “I love and respect the people I work with and the work I do.”
Vacanti was born and raised in Omaha. He went to Burke High School and, after graduation, went to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where he majored in finance. He graduated in1983, and immediately got a job in the investment department of a life insurance company. “It was boring to me, I wasn’t finding what was exciting me,” he said. “I had an acquaintance who had started law school, so on a whim I took the test.”
He applied to and was accepted to Creighton University School of Law and University of Nebraska School of Law. He chose the latter. “I drove back and forth to go there, I had a small child at the time. I hustled through the program - took summer classes – and did the three years in two-and-one-half. I enjoyed law school. It was more high paced.”
After graduation, he decided that he didn’t want to work for another firm, so he shared an office with Mark Cohen. Six months later, Cohen & Vacanti added another person – Matt Higgins. By 1995, another lawyer had joined – Kelly Shattuck. “We’ve been together for 22 years,” Vacanti said.
Over time, several lawyers went their own way: Cohen moved to Colorado; Higgins split off. But Vacanti and Shattuck remained. The firm is now called Vacanti Shattuck.
Because it was a small firm, they didn’t specialize. “In the beginning we took anything: criminal cases, bankruptcy, and divorce. When we were young we were trying to find a niche.” They found that in father’s rights. As he explained, not long ago, fathers couldn’t fully participate in their children’s lives during or after divorce because of limited custody and visitation rights. Depending on the children’s ages, “often fathers were little more than a footnote in a child custody equation.” Their focus on father’s rights got Vacanti Shattuck press, including regular spots on Z-92’s Todd-N-Tyler show.
“We only found that niche to get business, and we pushed it for 10 years. We haven’t pushed it as much the last 10 years,” he remarked. “We haven’t been on the radio for 15 years. When we first started, the mother almost always got custody, and the father got Friday to Sundays, every other weekend. That’s not being a parent. But times have changed. We have younger judges, and most couples look at joint custody. There isn’t that niche anymore. We also have more female clients now; it’s about 50/50.”
Vacanti Shattuck has evolved over the years, but Vacanti still focuses on divorce law. “I found I have a knack for it,” he said. “My personality is pretty calm and stable. I can stay objective, and give good advice. It’s like being a surgeon. You do your job, and don’t worry. You don’t get emotionally attached. You just want to have a good result for your client. Our success comes from being objective and commonsense, being respectful and fair. We try to do everything the right way. Our clients see that they are being treated well. That we give them good advice and try not to overpromise.”
Their clients, in turn, refer others to Vacanti Shattuck. In fact, Vacanti said that 100 percent of his clients are from referrals. It also helps that the firm is on the Better Business Bureau’s Honor Roll for Excellence in Customer Service, and that he is recognized by The Best Lawyers in America. “I was recognized for the first time in 2012, and then every year since then.”
In addition to issues involving divorce and legal separation, the firm still takes cases dealing with criminal and DUI defense. “We are doing more cases involving family owned businesses. Custody is still important,” he noted. We get some calls about same-sex marriage and custody disputes, but not many. We welcome that business.”
Vacanti Shattuck employs five lawyers and seven support staff. “Four of us focus solely on divorce – me, Kelly Shattuck, Charles Grimes, and William Finocciaro. We have a former city prosecutor, Jonathon Crosby, who does criminal law,” he said. “We have a great group of employees; they are part of our family.”
If someone would have told Vacanti when he was starting out that he would be a divorce lawyer, he wouldn’t have believed it. “I took a broad array of classes, and I thought that maybe I would be in corporate law. All I knew was that I wanted to be my own boss. It has its up and downs but I really wouldn’t change it.”
Vacanti and his wife, who is an executive coach, have two sons, ages 31 and 23. They enjoy traveling, and have a home in Arizona, where they live, part-time, during the winter months. “With a cell phone and laptop, I can work while I’m gone,” he said. “Everything is electronic.”
When asked if he might relocate to Arizona in the future, he said no. “My roots are in Omaha. I like to come back and see the other lawyers. Also, it’s hard to establish a practice (in another state).”
Vacanti said that he would encourage anyone with an interest in law to follow their dream. “I was told that law school was going to be expensive, and that I wouldn’t find a job. Everyone tried to discourage me,” he remarked, “look at him now.”
Vacanti Shattuck is at 2051 Harney St. For more information, go to www.vsfamilylaw.com, phone 402-345-7600, or find them on Facebook.