Living Legend Jerry Strasheim 2/14/17 02/14/17 9:23:22 AM
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Even after 50 years of practicing law, local attorney Jerry Strasheim says “there’s a lot to learn and a lot of things you might miss” in the legal profession.
Living Legend Jerry Strasheim
‘Better than Ever’ After 50-plus Years
By Dennis Friend
The Daily Record
You won’t find Jerrold L. Strasheim in a multi-story steel and glass west Omaha structure, working in a spacious office behind a door with a sign that strings several attorneys’ names together.
Instead, this longtime attorney’s hard at work in a modest, unspectacular, utilitarian one-story structure on Dodge Street, a structure resembling a small mini-mall, across the street and down a block from the Mutual of Omaha building in the city’s midtown area. He has an office there at 3610 Dodge St., in Suite 212, sharing the building with firms like Sandhills Heating and Cooling, H&R Block and Omaha Communications.
His small office is filled with piles of files. He knows where everything is located since he is his own staff. He’s not a newly minted lawyer who is just starting out. Strasheim has been practicing law for decades: in many cases, longer than some of his colleagues have been alive.
“I don’t know what it was that got me into law, but I’ve been at it for well over 50 years,” Strasheim said, adding before being asked, “I’m 85 years old. I was born in 1931.”
As a child, he and his parents lived in a one-room house in Lincoln, Neb., that rented for $10 a month. Their oven provided the heat. The family moved to Hastings during World War II, returning to Lincoln after the war. Young Jerrold then decided to go to college.
“I worked my way through college as a janitor, living with my parents for room and board.”
Of course, he pointed out, law school at the University of Nebraska was different back then. “In those days, you could go to two years of pre-law and four years of law school,” which meant he graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science in Law. “I would have had to pay another $25 to get a Juris Doctor, and I didn’t want to pay it,” he recalled.
Consequently, his resume reads, “University of Nebraska College of Law, LL.B., cum laude (1957).” Strasheim was admitted to the Nebraska bar the same year.
There also was a break between starting and finishing college because he had been in high school ROTC. “That took me out of law school for two years,” he said. “I was in the ROTC Finance Corps. My drill wasn’t very good,” he recalled with a laugh.
“Then I came back and finished law school. That was a wonderful faculty; they were all good. Those guys were exceptional.”
He specifically remembered he, Pat Healy and Jim Knapp participated in a national moot court competition and “our brief was picked as the best in the nation.”
After graduation, he became a law clerk for U.S. District Judge Robert Van Pelt – in fact, Strasheim was “his first law clerk,” – for one year before going into private practice with Mason Knudsen Dickenson & Berkheimer. After that, he can rattle off an extensive list of accomplishments.
Strasheim was minority counsel on the Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Improvements in Judicial Machinery in 1959-60, where he said he was able to “learn how Washington works.”
He returned to Lincoln, where he was appointed a bankruptcy judge for the U.S. District Court, District of Nebraska, “for a few days,” he laughed. “I did that for 11 years. I started in 1962 and left in 1973 to go into private practice.”
“I opened my own shop. I thought people would come a-runnin’, but they weren’t showing up,” he recalled. That’s when “I got involved as an attorney for large Chapter 11 debtors and, eventually, creditors.”
He was the chair of the Nebraska State Bar Association Section on Banking, Insurance, Corporate and Commercial Law from 1974 to 1991.
“I had an office on Douglas Street, on about 16th Street. It was about 1,200 square feet,” he said. It was also around that time he was offered a position as an adjunct professor at the Creighton University School of Law.
“I initially taught Creditor’s Rights, but I had to quit because I just didn’t have any time,” Strasheim said.
By the 1970s, he had become partner in a small firm of “about five or six lawyers. I stayed a few years, then went to Baird Holm and stayed there for 20-some years.”
“That’s the good thing about being a lawyer. You can be adventurous.”
Over the years, Jerry Strasheim’s affiliations have grown to include the Nebraska State Bar Association, the Iowa State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Omaha Bar Association, the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys and the American Association for Justice (formerly known as American Trial Lawyers Association).
He’s listed in Best Lawyers in America® and in Chambers USA.
He and his wife of almost 50 years have raised five children. Mary Ann Strasheim owns Custom Cruise and Travel.
Now, at age 85, Strasheim states with certainty, “I think I’m a better lawyer now than I’ve ever been.”
His caseload suggests his clients agree. In one recent 30-day period, he argued one case in the Nebraska Supreme Court, two in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and one in the Bankruptcy Court of Appeals.
Strasheim has noticed a few changes in the approach to law over the past half-century. The biggest change, in his opinion, is the impact of computers.
“Computers have just changed the world. All the judges and law clerks have computers,” he said. “When I started, court reporters used pens [and] we had big electric typewriters.”
Even after 50 years, Strasheim suggests “there’s a lot to learn and a lot of things you might miss.” For instance, Strasheim pointed out he has never practiced criminal law.
“I have a lot of respect for those who do criminal law, but I never got into it,” focusing instead on “commercial litigation like breach of contract and obligations under contract.”
It’s not likely he’ll ever dip his toes in the waters of criminal law, but one never knows what the future may hold. As for how much longer he thinks he’d like to practice, he said, “maybe a couple of years. I don’t want to do this much longer.”
He thinks he’ll retire by age 90.
After a fulfilling and meritorious law career spanning over half a century, if anyone is deserving of a little ‘R&R’, it’s Jerry Strasheim.