Wayne Positan - Lawyering: A Way of Life
Working as a lawyer is not just a profession for Wayne J. Positan, Managing Director at Lum, Drasco & Positan; it’s a commitment to resolving problems and finding solutions for clients and the greater community alike.
“Being a lawyer is not a job, it’s a way of life,” he says. “It’s stepping up to the plate and showing what you can do to make things better.”
Toward that end, he maintains an active role within his profession, the state, and community. He has been involved with the American Bar Association (ABA) since the 1970s, where he has held numerous leadership roles and currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors and as Chair of the ABA Operations and Communications Committee; is a past president of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) (2006-2007), and has been a member of the Essex County Bar Association throughout his career. He served on the Board of Trustees at Montclair State University (1999-2006), on the Board of Trustees of the Columbian Foundation, as Co-Chair of the Newark YMWCA Sports Legends Dinner Committee, and is a lifetime member of the New Jersey Historical Society. He received a Distinguished Service Award from the New Jersey Institute of Legal Education in 2007 for his efforts in the continued education of lawyers; the Professional Achievement Award of the Essex County Bar Association in 2001, and the Humanitarian and Achievement Award from the Columbian Foundation in 2002.
Although he is not a graduate of Seton Hall Law – he earned his law degree from New York University – he agreed to serve on the Leadership Team for the Seton Hall Law Rising campaign.
“When asked to serve, it was easy to say ‘yes,’” he says, “since Seton Hall Law is important to the legal community and New Jersey. Dean Patrick Hobbs also has always been there for the profession along with many of the law school’s great alumni like Joe LaSala and Patrick Dunican. When I spoke at the law school’s orientation in 2006, I was truly impressed with the positive vibe of the incoming students and everyone associated with Seton Hall Law School.”
More than 10,000 attorneys in New Jersey are Seton Hall Law alumni, many of whom have assumed leadership roles on the bench and bar. Through its strong clinical and pro bono programs, law school faculty and students assist the community, from the local to national level, addressing such issues as real estate fraud, immigration rights, and educational equity. As the price of a legal education has continued to increase, Positan notes, it is becoming even more critically important that the legal community assist future generations in reaching for their dream of becoming a lawyer and carrying on Seton Hall Law’s strong tradition of giving back. The goal of the Seton Hall Law Rising campaign is to make that possible now and into the future.
As Positan views it, being part of a community means being responsible for assisting where and when you can.
“You’re not really a lawyer if you go home at 5 p.m. and leave a good part of the day behind,” he explains. “The other half of the day starts at 6 or 7 p.m. when you can be applying yourself for the benefit of your community and your profession.”
Three efforts he is particularly proud of is having led a successful effort to modernize the ABA’s ethics code to make it easier for lawyers to handle cases across state lines as chair of the ABA Commission on Multijurisdictional Practice; creating a Pipeline Task Force in the NJSBA and State Bar Foundation during his term as state bar president to help increase diversity within the profession; and the NJSBA Military Assistance Program to provide New Jersey armed forces personnel with pro bono legal assistance following their return from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the practice side, his accomplishments as a labor and employment lawyer are just as wide ranging. He represented Pepsi Bottling Group in the largest wage and hour case in the history of New Jersey, defended the New Jersey Attorney General in the case involving the termination of the State Superintendent of Police, acts as Special Labor Counsel to the Administrative Office of the Courts, and has been involved in numerous appellate decisions that have shaped the development of labor and employment law in the state. He has been named one of the "Best Lawyers in America" in that area of practice every year since 1993, and a “Top Ten” attorney in New Jersey Superlawyers.
His first exposure to the legal community came as a junior high school student helping his father with his floor waxing and janitorial business. Many of his father’s customers were lawyers, including Judge Gibbons, Judge Michels, and Clint Conant, which is how Positan landed his first position as a summer law clerk at what was then known as Lum, Biunno & Tompkins. When Conant came home with a stack of resumes that included Positan’s, Conant’s wife put in a good word for him.
“I wanted to be a lawyer because they struck me as truly admirable people who were involved and had a very positive standing in the community,” says Positan. “They had an impact on how things got done, and provided excellent role models as to what you could try to accomplish in life if you applied yourself.”