When James “Jess” Wortman began his career at Caliber Home Loans, the company was just over a year old. Wortman saw his move to the young company as an exciting new opportunity with a lot of room to grow. “When I began the role, I got everything out of it that I could,” recalls Wortman, who is now Caliber’s senior vice president and deputy general counsel.
That was in September 2010, and Wortman and Caliber have grown together as he approaches his tenth anniversary at the company. In the beginning, Caliber had about thirty thousand borrowers and five hundred employees. Wortman was tasked with supporting customers and the growing business. A year later, he was promoted to overseeing the entire servicing portfolio—a role he has held since, as Caliber has evolved into a full-service mortgage provider with more than five thousand employees and more than five hundred thousand loans.
“Large corporate environments rely so much on lawyers having an understanding of the business,” Wortman explains. “Having a good amount of tenure at a company gets you to a point where you can understand the business and provide relevant legal guidance.”
Today, his work focuses primarily on overseeing the servicing portfolio of Caliber on the legal end, including identifying opportunities to enhance the customer experience.
“One of the things we really pride ourselves on is the idea of ‘a customer for life,’” he says. “We originate the loan, we service the loan, we have a relationship. Throughout the life cycle of the loan, we cater to the needs of the customer and identify opportunities to support their mortgage loan.”
Another important aspect of his work is providing guidance on emerging legal trends in areas including data privacy and mortgage servicing compliance. He identifies new laws and regulations and provides guidance on their potential impact through involvement with such organizations as the Mortgage Bankers Association.
“We have to make sure we have very good relationships with representatives and experts in all areas,” Wortman notes. “We have a concise way of consolidating and leveraging those relationships to identify trends in areas that may need further attention. We also create a balance so that we can filter through a lot of this information and provide guidance to the business on areas that we see as significant and having a potential impact on Caliber.”
In addition, he has made important contributions to Caliber’s strategic initiatives, including the development of several technology platforms that assist borrowers and clients. He also looks into new technologies and how a mortgage company can leverage those technologies while identifying potential risks they pose in such areas as security.
“It involves working very closely with other members within the leadership team to identify those opportunities and explore them to see if they work with the construct of where Caliber is right now—and also if they can support where Caliber wants to be,” Wortman shares. “We’re doing a review of what the needs of the consumer are in the current technology space and also reviewing new technology, such as blockchain and other technology providers who may be able to provide solutions.”
Wortman began his legal career at Locke Lord, where he represented banks, mortgage companies, and other financial institutions in defensive litigation matters. Five years later, he took a job with a different firm, where he represented other financial institutions and their affiliated entities in litigated matters throughout Texas.
He also worked as a Dallas County interim prosecutor, and though he served in that post for just three months, it proved an invaluable experience.
Wortman has much to be proud of as he marks a decade with Caliber. He has overseen both loan servicing and loan originations and served twice as interim general counsel, most recently in 2016. What he takes special pride in, however, is helping the company grow over the last decade.
“That’s what I love the most about what I’ve done. I was a good litigator; I represented companies very well,” he says. “Frankly, I was very good in the courtroom working for the Dallas County District Attorney. But I really think that I can show my best value in working with this business as it’s grown and developed.”
None of this growth would have been possible without building partnerships with the business to achieve common goals. “Partnerships and relationships are perhaps the most important element of a successful in-house counsel,” he says.
He adds that working for Caliber in his earliest days was a lot like working for a start-up, and he helped build the company from the ground up.
“Every one of the leaders of Caliber looks back and says, ‘Wow, I’ve really had a helping hand in building what we’ve built,’” he explains. “To look back and see the progress we’ve made, as well as knowing I built it with people I respect and trust: that’s what makes coming to work worth it every single day.”
Locke Lord LLP:
“Locke Lord congratulates Jess Wortman on this well-deserved recognition. Having long worked with Jess and our friends at Caliber, we celebrate how Jess collaborates with outside counsel, his industry knowledge, and his commitment to excellence.”
–Rob Mowrey, Partner