Wayne Is Working for Change 4/2/14 04/02/14 11:14:09 PM
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Justin Wayne is not only a solo practitioner of law, he’s also in charge of the Omaha Public Schools Board of Directors, the Midwest Trailblazers, and participates in a number of charities.
Wayne Is Working for Change in Omaha
On Several Fronts: Law, Education, Sports
By Andy Roberts
The Daily Record
It’s a Saturday afternoon, and this one finds Justin Wayne in a meeting with the Omaha Public Schools Steering Committee, planning potential new directions for the district’s children. He is currently serving as the OPS Board of Education president.
Later that evening, he’s in the bleachers, watching some of the area’s upcoming basketball talent develop.
Or, depending on the season, football talent, working toward their dreams in the Midwest Trailblazers, the youth organization where he serves as president.
This wasn’t always the plan.
“Growing up I thought I wanted to be a trauma surgeon,” Wayne said. “After graduating from Northwest High School, I attended the University of Kansas and tried to walk on and play basketball.”
However, he had been hit by a drunk driver when he was a high school senior, and playing college hoops led to more back problems, and a decision to return to Omaha to be closer to his family.
Following his return to Omaha, Wayne met with his mentors: Douglas County Judge Darryl Lowe; U.S. Attorney Fred Franklin; educator Elmer Crumbley; and Arvin Frazier, now with Building Bright Futures and formerly with the Nebraska Department of Education.
“They suggested I consider becoming a lawyer.” Wayne recalled. “So I applied for Creighton’s 3/3 program and started school that summer.” (The program provides students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years instead of seven.)
Now focused on a new path, Wayne earned his bachelor’s in business administration followed by his law degree in 2005. Along the way he was awarded the Frances M. Ryan Scholarship, the CALI Excellence for the Future Award for Federal Taxation Class, was a Best Brief Nominee in Moot Court, was named president of the Student Bar Association and Black Law Student Association, and served as a member of the Sports & Entertainment Law Society, ABA student division.
Wayne began working at Union Pacific as a law clerk while still in school and continued there for several years after graduation. But deep inside, he knew those days were numbered.
“Although I appreciated the experience and knowledge I was gaining in the corporate environment, I always knew I wanted to have a more direct impact on people’s lives by having my own clients,” Wayne said.
There also was the matter of having a family. Wayne and his wife, Katie, are the parents of 2-year-old daughter Mya.
“When my wife got a job as a career law clerk providing a steady income and benefits for our family, I knew the time was right for me to start my own firm.”
He now runs a general law practice, and stresses the focus is on the needs of his clients, and building long-term relationships with them.
Wayne’s firm handles business and civil litigation, criminal defense, family law, DUI/DWI defense, personal injury lawsuits, and railroad law and injuries. He prides himself on separating from the pack by being, “focused and dedicated,” at a higher level than his courtroom opponent.
“My practice is focused on getting my clients’ desires fulfilled as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Wayne said. While many attorneys, in his view, take the approach of maneuvering and generating paperwork with the hope that a settlement will come along at some point, he prefers to start a case out by setting an end date and working toward that.
“I have found that being willing to go to court is the smartest way to get the outcome my clients deserve,” he offered.
While he recognizes that all attorneys have multiple clients and heavy demands on their time outside the office, Wayne is “focused and dedicated” to making sure the people he represents have his full attention.
“I am selective in the cases I accept and do not take on more work than I can properly do,” he shared. “I understand that my clients deserve an attorney who is fully dedicated to each individual case, because for them, their legal issues are the most important thing going on in their lives at that time.”
With that comes the recognition that questions and issues do not always arise conveniently or during normal business hours, so he makes an effort to be available around the clock, or whenever his clients need him.
With that in mind, he knows there are limits, even as his biggest challenge is building a client base. Client referrals are a special source of pride, as those affirm the good work he has done previously.
“Choosing an attorney in any matter is one of the most important decisions a person will ever make,” he said. “If there is an area that my client needs help with and it is not my cup of tea, I partner with other local small firms to make sure my client’s needs are met.
“But all my clients know that going through a legal issue or law crisis is stressful and I will provide trusted and consistent advice throughout the rest of their lives.”
Wayne’s community involvement doesn’t end when he leaves the courtroom. In addition to serving as president the of Midwest Trailblazers Youth Program, he also coaches, an activity he believes helps him in his legal practice.
“Coaching sports and working with kids allows me to step away from a tough case and get perspective and the opportunity to see the bigger picture.”
But, Justin Wayne is not done there. He is a board member of Goodwill Industries, a member of the Nebraska, Iowa, Omaha, and Midland Bar associations.
He is a Head Start Community Council member, served from 2006-2008 as the North Omaha Committee member for the Boy Scouts of America, belongs to the Florence Kiwanis, and is a brother in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
With his fraternity he was vice president from 2007-2009, director of the Guide Right Youth Program of the Omaha Alumni Chapter from 2006-2009, and was Middle Western Province St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Committee Chair during the years 2008-2011.
“While serving as St. Jude’s Chair, I helped raise over $1 million through a five-state area for St. Jude’s,” Wayne proudly said.
It was through his former coach, Judge Darryl Lowe, who was coaching with the Trailblazers, that he came to be involved in the organization.
“I saw the benefits the coaches in my life had on me, so I decided to coach with him,” Wayne explained. “The Trailblazers is a mentoring program that uses sports as its hook. We have a 100 percent high school graduation rate over the last eight years.”
It was those young people who spurred him to run for the Omaha Public School Board.
“I ran for the kids I was mentoring and the Trailblazers,” he stressed. “I am a proud Omaha Public Schools product. I attended Hartman Elementary, then King Science Center, formerly known as Horace Mann Middle School, and graduated from Northwest High School.”
Wayne said it was that public school system that laid the foundation for his success in life. But, after talking to many families involved in the Trailblazers, he came to believe that there now was room for improvement with the district.
“So one of my mentees, Kevin Harkins (now a senior at South), said ‘get on the board,’” Wayne recalled. “So I ran.”
It is Wayne’s fundamental belief, he emphasized, that every child should have access to a high quality education. He further believes that should not be by chance – as in getting a great teacher, or by lottery (the hope the child gets into a magnet school), and not by privilege (the parent’s ability to send their child to private school).
”But by right,” he stressed. “I ran for OPS Board to try to ensure that every child has that opportunity to a high quality education.”
“No matter where a child lives there should be a school in his or her community that he or she can be proud of and to which any parent would be happy to send their kids.”
For now his legal practice provides a great deal of gratification.
“The biggest reward that I get from practicing law is helping kids, families, and businesses resolve their legal issues and gain the ability to go back to their normal lives,” Wayne noted. “The biggest reward I get from having my own firm is the ability to choose clients that I truly believe in and want to help and working with them personally from the very beginning through resolution of their issue.”
And being his own boss – hanging up his own shingle – has additional benefits.
“I also appreciate that having my own firm allows me to set aside time in my day for other things that are important to me,” he admitted. “Such as the OPS Board, Trailblazers, and spending time with my family.”
As for speculation he may be laying the foundation to run for a higher office, when asked about his future political ambition, he quickly responds: “NONE.”