It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your president. When I reflect on those who have served before me, it is also very humbling. For generations, NATA has been led by many fine lawyers, together with a dedicated executive director, all of whom have sacrificed to better trial practice across the state. As my term begins, I would like to thank all of those who served before me. I have looked up to you since joining NATA in 2003, and will undoubtedly continue to count on you for guidance throughout my term. I would also like to introduce the talented folks currently serving on our executive committee: President-Elect, Andrew Sibbernsen; Secretary, Brock Wurl; Treasurer, Todd Bennett; Immediate Past President, Dan Thayer; Board Oversight Chair, Pete Wegman; and NATA PAC Chair, Matt Lathrop.
Nebraska is a great place to practice law. The older I get, the more I know this to be true. I began my career at Locher, Cellilli, Pavelka & Dostal (now Locher, Pavelka, Dostal, Braddy & Hammes) in 2001, primarily handling insurance defense matters. I was fortunate to learn civil litigation from a talented and experienced team. I was also fortunate to meet and work with many talented NATA members. Despite being on opposite sides of the “v,” I can honestly say I do not recall one negative experience with a NATA member.*
In 2003, I was presented with the opportunity to represent plaintiffs in injury cases at Johnson & Welch in Fremont. Shortly after making the move, Chris Welsh was knocking on my door asking me to join NATA. If I am being candid, I was a little intimidated. Despite my initial hesitation, I joined, started attending seminars, and then a board meeting or two. I quickly realized these folks not only had a vast amount of knowledge and experience, but they were willing to discuss and share ideas to achieve a common goal: Better results for our clients. I can still hear Vince Powers telling me “Look, Jason, a rising tide lifts all boats.”
I started Ausman Law Firm in 2007. As I look back, I am convinced I would not have made this decision without knowing NATA was there to help. Whether in the form of a seminar, the list serv, talking to members during/after a board meeting, or picking up the phone and calling someone (which I still frequently do), I knew NATA was there. I will always be grateful for that. I will be forever grateful to those NATA members – “plaintiff’s lawyers” and “defense lawyers” alike – who took time out of their busy schedule to lend a hand, and then follow-up to see how things turned out. I use quotes because NATA members often cross sides of the aisle, which provides the potential for even greater insight into certain issues. Regardless of the party whom we represent, we are all trial lawyers dedicated to our clients and protecting the 7th Amendment. That is what makes Nebraska a great place to practice.
As we head into the new year, please allow me to remind you of a few important dates/events:
1. The upcoming legislative session begins on January 8, 2020. One of NATA’s most important responsibilities, through its Legislative Committee and lobbyists, is to promote legislation helpful to the civil justice system and prevent harmful legislation from becoming law. Please know that all are welcome to attend our legislative committee meetings. If you are unable to attend a meeting, please reach out to either myself or Andy Sibbernsen (legislative committee chair) and share with us any insight you might have.
2. Once again, NATA will provide at least three (and likely four) seminars during the course of the year: NATA Winter Seminar, February 28, Scott Conference Center, Omaha; NATA Spring Seminar, May 1, The Graduate, Lincoln; and, NATA Annual Meeting & Fall Seminar, September 25, Scott Conference Center. Please mark your calendars, and watch for details. Not only do we want you to attend, but we welcome your input and advice regarding seminar topics. Please feel free to share your thoughts with either myself or Todd Bennett (seminar committee chair).
3. NATA’s annual summer meeting will take place in Okoboji, Iowa, from June 25, 2020 through June 27, 2020. I would like to personally invite you and your families to join us for the summer meeting. The summer meeting provides a unique opportunity to learn about NATA and get to know its members.
NATA welcomes ALL lawyers and law students. If you are thinking of joining, or becoming involved in some way, I urge you to do so. If you have any questions or concerns about NATA, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am more than happy to help. Finally, thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve. I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2020.
* I was Dennis Crawford’s opponent when he obtained a $97,310.00 jury verdict in 2002. I filed an Offer to Confess Judgment in the $6,000.00 range. It was my first jury trial as lead counsel. This certainly was not a positive experience. In fact, I thought my career was over before it ever really began. However, to my point, Dennis was a pleasure to work with. Special thanks to Tom Locher who assured me, in a way only he can, that my career was not over.