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Title: MemberCompany: O’Reilly, Jensen & Preston LLCEducation:  Cum laude bachelor’s in criminal justice, University of Arizona, and cum laude law degree, University of Missouri-Kansas CityFamily business roots: Preston grew up working in his family’s service repair and gas station in Sparta, which he says has tuned him into the challenges faced by small-business owners. Contact: craig@ojplaw.com
Title: Member
Company: O’Reilly, Jensen & Preston LLC
Education:  Cum laude bachelor’s in criminal justice, University of Arizona, and cum laude law degree, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Family business roots: Preston grew up working in his family’s service repair and gas station in Sparta, which he says has tuned him into the challenges faced by small-business owners.
Contact: craig@ojplaw.com

A Conversation With ... Craig Preston

Posted online
What cases do you focus on in your practice?
Business disputes. I have represented a few consumers in the past, but normally, my practice is limited to actually representing the companies themselves. … Probably 40 percent of my practice is what we call transactional-related – issues with business formation, general real estate … forming corporations, reviewing real estate transactions, business closings or the sale of any business. And it’s probably 60 percent litigation.

You joined the firm in 2008. How has your role changed since you were named a member in late 2011?
Even as an associate here, they involve you in almost every decision, but as a member, (there is) a lot more work just regarding the company itself and business decisions. … As an associate, all you have to focus on is legal work, so it really takes a lot more time out of the day to focus on the odds and ends. … We’ve got about six full-time and a few part-time staff in addition to the (members), and we have one other associate attorney we just hired from law school. So that’s kind of a fun experience now, trying to teach him the ropes.

At 32, you seem fairly young to have achieved firm membership. What goals do you have now?
I’ve been lucky. … Typically, in the firms in Springfield, normally, partnership track or membership track is anywhere from about six to nine years. If it’s longer than that, you’re at a bigger firm, or maybe it might be time to move on. Now, I’ve shifted my goals to trying to expand my client base.

Being a member, I hope it’s going to be easier to get the types of clients I want – lifelong clients with which I can build relationships. … I’ve got some great clients, but I would certainly like to (expand) my book of business. And I’m really looking forward, now, to donating more of my time, whether it be for the bar association or through some other charities.

Is there a case that stands out as most memorable for you?
Recently, I had a case that had lasted for quite some time, several years, and it seemed like every single thing we tried to do, the defense fought us tooth and nail. I had to call this client once a week to give a status update. … We just moved forward, and finally, after several years of ongoing battles back and forth, we had a trial and this client prevailed at trial, and we actually got a judgment for him. He was really excited and relieved, and that phone call that I was able to make to him after I got the judgment in the mail was one of the best phone calls I’ve made to a client.

What common legal mistakes have you seen among business owners?
I get people who come in who either bought a business or formed their companies on their own. Although that will work a lot of times, typically, when something goes wrong in the future, they haven’t protected themselves. … If you can get some good legal advice on the front end, it will save money on the back end.

Also, I think a lot of times, business owners are caught up in the emotional side of business, just because the business is their baby and … they want to make sure everything is perfect. So in certain litigation disputes, everything becomes personal. I think the job of a good attorney is to try to take some of the personality out of it, and to sit down and explain, ‘Here is why this makes sense business-wise, or money-wise, and not necessarily on an emotional level.’
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