From Serving Pancakes to Justice: Attorney Jessica Dean Shares Her Secret Ingredients for Success

 

Jessica Dean attorney has balanced trial law with waiting tables over the years. Here is a scale with a judge's gavel on the left which outweighs a stack of syrupy blueberry banana pancakes with a green garnish on top on the right hand side.
Attorney Jessica Dean shares an entertaining story of waiting tables to practicing law and back to waiting tables while running a personal injury practice alongside her law partner, Amin Omar.

 

A partner at the Dallas law firm of Dean Omar Branham Shirley, Jessica Dean grew up with seven brothers and sisters in a working-class family in St. Louis. Her mother and her father served as powerful role models, providing a template for the outstanding work ethic and inner drive that have served Dean well as a litigating attorney and a leader.

Jessica Dean got her first waitressing job at 16, at a local International House of Pancakes when she wasn’t studying or competing as a member of her high school debate or swim teams. When asked about her skills as a waitress, she recalls, “I was terrible, but energetic.”

Jessica Dean Gave It the Old College Try

After high school, Jessica Dean attended Boston University, where she studied economics and political science. Discovering that there was an IHOP restaurant on campus, she took a job there and continued to serve pancakes with her characteristic energy. Approaching her schoolwork with similar vigor, she graduated magna cum laude with her Bachelor of Arts.

Jessica Dean subsequently enrolled at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin.

“Law school was hard, but I loved the way I was trained to think and evaluate problems,” she says. The University of Texas was where she met Amin Omar, her future partner in the law firm of Dean Omar Branham Shirley.

After earning her Juris Doctor cum laude and gaining admission to the State Bar of Texas in 2003, Dean moved to Dallas to embark upon her law career. From the beginning, she cultivated her career to reflect the morals instilled in her as a child and to fight for equal justice for all. “The idea that I get to work almost entirely with people who are very similar to those of my family, socioeconomic status, and core values while using my mind to fight for people is what makes this work so special. This job just seems tailored for me.”

Mentored by ‘The Statesman’

Jessica Dean was introduced to asbestos-based mesothelioma litigation during an early interview with a firm specializing in the practice. She was particularly impressed by the passionate conviction of this firm’s leadership and legal staff. “They wanted to take on corporate greed and fight for individuals who, for the most part, were strangers to the legal system.”

In addition to her principles and firm belief in equal justice, Dean views understanding her strengths and weaknesses as a crucial component of her success. She illustrates this with a personal story from the early stages of her career. “My first mentor at my first asbestos job was called ‘The Statesman,’” she said. “He was just an incredibly eloquent person that just made judges like him and want to go have a drink with him. I’m the opposite of that. I was not meant to be a judge. I was meant to be an advocate. I, at least, know that about myself.”

‘In Love With the Practice of Law’

Enthusiasm, conviction, and self-awareness: The same essential values that drove Jessica Dean as a young girl and a new attorney continue to drive her work with Dean Omar Branham Shirley today. Reflecting on just how far she’s come, she remarks, “I had so much to learn, but I fell in love with the practice of law where I was on the side of those who had terrible things happen to them and where their losses were preventable. When I started a firm with two of my friends, I wanted to continue that work but find a way to focus on fewer cases.”

This approach has positioned Dean Omar Branham Shirley at the top of its field and allowed the firm to take on clients who might otherwise struggle to find representation. For her part, Dean is incredibly grateful to have found like-minded practice partners in her old law school friend Amin Omar, and Trey Branham and Lisa Shirley. “One of our core values as a firm is consistency in the care that we give,” says Dean. “I actually think that that’s one of the most difficult things to do.”

To inform and augment her professional activities at Dean Omar Branham Shirley, Dean holds membership in the International Academy of Dispute Resolution, the American Board of Trial Advocates, the American Association for Justice, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association. Her outstanding legal work has earned her designations as a Texas Super Lawyers Rising Star and a Texas Super Lawyers Honoree. She’s also ranked on prestigious lists of the “Top 40 Under 40 Lawyers in Dallas” and the “Top Young Lawyers in Texas.”

‘People Fighting for People’

Leading legal news media platform Lawdragon honored Jessica Dean with a place on its list of the 500 Top Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers in the world. This award was especially touching to Dean because it came from an organization that “looks for people that have made a difference fighting for people.” She regards the award as particularly important because it transcends the civil and criminal law worlds. “I mean, it is an award that goes to criminal and civil lawyers alike,” Dean says. “If you look at the description, they talk about people that fight against sexual predators, and people that do such important things really matter to me.”

Looking back on a career that’s served so many clients in need and resulted in so many accomplishments, Jessica Dean sees a direct line to her childhood and her early employment experiences at IHOP. “While I have taken a path different from that of my parents and grandparents, I want to honor what they taught me in the work I do,” she says. “I want to use our justice system to enforce important rules that are in place to protect people from serious harm.”

Jessica Dean Jumps In

Jessica Dean’s protective nature extends beyond her family and her clients to include her partners and staff members at Dean Omar Branham Shirley. Speaking about Amin Omar, she remembers a time when he was in his first year at a very demanding law firm. While gaining his footing in his legal career, Omar and his engineer wife decided to have a new baby and open a new restaurant at the same time. “I mean, you don’t do all those things at once,” recalls Dean.

Dean decided to do what she does best: step in and lend a hand. “He’s such a good businessman, he literally got everyone to pitch in.” When a desperate Omar asked his legal colleague to help out at his restaurant, Dean jumped right in with the same energy she displayed at IHOP when she was just 16.

Jessica Dean was certainly amused to find herself waiting on tables after so many years practicing law, but she was far from disconcerted. “I was a waitress before I was a lawyer, and I love waitressing,” she said. “So now, I was a waitress and a lawyer!”

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