Profile of James D. Faimon, Assistant City Attorney
The Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law
The story: I am James D. Faimon, Assistant City Attorney in Lincoln, Nebraska, where for over 39 years I have served the city of Lincoln in this capacity. I consider myself most fortunate to hold a job that does not have "typical" days; that is, each day has different challenges to address in resolving the problems presented to me in my job assignments. Some of these challenges include answering questions presented to the city attorney's office involving my area of assignment. My major area of work involves processing tort claims against the City of Lincoln, as well as collecting special assessment taxes and miscellaneous claims. Such assignments require negotiation of the resolution of claims as well as conducting litigation of those claims that cannot be resolved by the negotiation process.
Our office staff is primarily made up of lawyers, but there are a variety of people with whom I work such as professional secretaries, etc. Often I'm in contact with lawyers representing their clients who have claims against the City of Lincoln or have questions regarding municipal matters. Additionally, I have contact with members of the public. In a word, there are a variety of people with whom I must interact.
When I received my law degree and was admitted to the Nebraska Bar, this enabled me to practice law, and I continued my efforts at finding a potential employer. My applications went to a variety of openings—local, state, and federal government, as well as law firms. By volunteering to represent clients through the local legal aid society and volunteering to work on projects that law firms might wish to "farm out," I was able to obtain valuable experience in law practice. Another good habit during my college years was my philosophy to participate in campus organizations and campus activities to enable me to develop good social skills in meeting people. I was also an athlete, a wrestler.
The combination of a good education, good social skills, and networking by volunteering helped when I met my future employer at a Christmas party held by a local law firm. In turn, this led to the opportunity with the Lincoln City Attorney's office with which I am still associated.
My job provided a regular salary rather than the scattered fees I obtained while looking for work. The one year that I was looking for regular employment did not yield much income, but did give me much experience and made me visible to the legal community as I handled my cases in our local courts.
While I was looking for work and when I obtained my present employment (this was about 25 years before ADA) accommodations were never an issue. Of course, I needed the assistance of readers for research, and the use of a secretary to read documents and proof his or her own work. For most of my career I employed my own reader to do the majority of the reading requirements of my job. With the advent of computers I was able to access more material directly rather than through readers, but readers are still necessary to read materials that are handwritten and prepared in formats that do not work on the computer or the scanner. I would describe most of my accommodations as courtesy assistance. That is, my fellow office workers read materials to me, as well as court personnel. Most professionals will assist in identifying materials, etc. Obviously, though, the court personnel or the opposing lawyer cannot do my work for me, so I must have my materials prepared for my cases in braille notes, etc.
The variety in my work is what I like best. What I like least is that in spite of computers and related equipment it still takes more time to read materials and do research.
For persons interested in the practice of law, my advice would be that they develop good oral communication skills and personal contacts. I would suggest that they be active in community organizations and participate in community activities. Also, they need always to develop better ways of doing their work and improving their skills. While ADA has opened many opportunities, it is still necessary that job applicants can convince their potential employers that they can be as productive as anyone else.
The Contact: James D. Faimon
The American Foundation for the Blind is pleased to present "The Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law," funded by the Samuel N. Hecsh Fund at the American Foundation for the Blind. A new article in memory of Mr. Hecsh appears annually.
After losing his vision, Mr. Hecsh attended law school—with some help from a scholarship from AFB—and had a satisfying career. Feeling he could not continue his previous employment, he met with many lawyers who were blind and attributed his success as a blind attorney in part to his encouragement from these mentors. We thank his wife, Muriel O'Reilly, and daughters, Janet and Caitlin Hecsh, for choosing to honor his memory in this special way. The Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law is designed to encourage other people experiencing vision loss to choose to enter the field of law.