From the first day to the closing argument, Dean remains focused on representing clients’ interests.
Attorney Jessica Dean has been practicing law since being admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2003.
After representing clients who were owed compensation for work and had been injured in hospitals and nursing homes, Dean — who earned a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Boston University and Juris Doctor, cum laude, from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law — co-founded Dean Omar Branham Shirley with her former mock trial partner from law school, Amin Omar, in 2015.
The firm specializes in cases involving product liability; catastrophic injury; unpaid wages; consumer class action complaints; shareholder liability and mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, which is responsible for one in three occupationally related cancer deaths in the U.S.
In addition to being a member of several legal industry professional organizations — including the International Academy of Dispute Resolution, American Board of Trial Advocates and American Association for Justice — attorney Jessica Dean currently focuses on asbestos-related litigation and has garnered a number of favorable verdicts for clients, including an $81.5 million judgment awarded posthumously to a former manufacturing company employee in 2015.
While the cases can be challenging, Dean feels working to obtain justice for people who have been affected by asbestos exposure has helped give her a sense of purpose.
“You’re in a scenario where you can financially help a family,” she says. “You proved to them, in the worst time of their entire life — and they’re not just vulnerable from sickness, but being in this crazy legal system — that they have someone who genuinely fought for them, and they got to see it.”
A Detailed Court Preparation Process
Dean’s approach to trial work includes conducting exhaustive searches to try to uncover hidden evidence, including clarifying if the opposing party hasn’t fully looked for certain records — or the items have been hidden or destroyed.
That type of investigative work, she says, involves asking diligent questions when corporate representatives fail to provide a concrete answer so she can determine what steps they’ve actually taken to locate information.
“Usually, you have to get a motion to compel just to force that answer,” she says. “It’s incredibly powerful to the jury. Tying how little they did — or what disappeared and what didn’t — to some effort by the bad actor to hide information is sometimes critical to getting the jury to accept your theory of liability.”
Generally, Dean favors authentic, unpretentious opening statements — introducing herself to the jury, for instance, by telling them she’s excited to speak to them, and no matter what they decide, their involvement in the trial is appreciated.
When identifying what damages to ask for, she often bases the amount on the number of years of living her client has lost.
“Some [attorneys] say, ‘Think about movie stars and professional baseball players, and how much money they make; certainly, this is more valuable,’” attorney Jessica Dean says. “I understand the concept; but it just doesn’t seem the same. When the [decision-makers] are deciding what should one year of a person’s life be worth, to me, it should be at least a million dollars. It’s a human life.”
Attorney Jessica Dean’s Formula for Trial and Career Success
By meticulously cataloging information relating to the verdict form, jury charge and other aspects of the case as it unfolds, Dean is able to gradually prepare to deliver a compelling closing argument that outlines key evidence presented during the trial.
She also tries to include references to the guidelines jurors have been told to consider when deliberating the verdict.
“I weave together the law, exhibits, and facts so you have a constant reassurance to the jury that everything I’m saying is not my interpretation,” Dean says. “I educate the jury that the law requires conceptually that I prove that somebody did something bad that caused the harm; whether we call it strict liability or negligence, those concepts are always there.”
Although Dean admits professionals in her field can struggle with work-life balance, particularly when preparing for or participating in a trial, she advises pursuing a career you deeply care about — even if it doesn’t involve a 9-to-5 role.
“There are so many things in the law that can connect you to your passion that it’s really extraordinary, but it’s not always obvious,” she says. “Finding someone [who] motivates you and will help you in that pursuit can be life-changing. I lucked out; I had three excellent mentors, and I was able to jump into what was in front of me. But don’t just assume if you don’t like what you have right now the law isn’t for you. It has so much to offer.”