Craig O’Brien, partner, Nelligan O’Brien Payne

2017 Forty Under 40 recipient

Craig O'Brien
Craig O'Brien

Age: 39

Birthplace: Ottawa

Company: Full-service law firm based in Ottawa

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

Education: Bachelor of laws, University of Ottawa (2005); bachelor of humanities with honours, Carleton University (2001)

Charitable involvement: County of Carleton Law Association

Biggest biz achievement: As one of the youngest lawyers ever to be named a partner at Nelligan O’Brien Payne, I am now the only partner at the firm asked to lead and manage two areas of law. I am responsible for over $8 million in revenues and the work of 11 associate lawyers. My biggest business achievement has been to influence the partnership to modernize, including getting the firm to update our IT services, being on the hiring committee for our new executive director and, most importantly, shifting the firm’s focus away from institutional clients and back to the individuals and small businesses that Nelligan O’Brien Payne has made its name representing well.

Biggest obstacle: Succession planning is of particular importance in the legal industry. Clients develop significant trust relationships with particular counsel, which poses particular challenges to any law firm when attempting to transition clients to younger lawyers. In addition, clients often have a bias towards more senior counsel. Being the youngest partner is an accomplishment; however, it is also a challenge I need to overcome in terms of client bias. I have driven a strategy of introductions and engagements between clients and associates or younger partners so that succession planning carries less inherent risk of clients departing when senior partners retire.

Biggest influence: My father, Al O’Brien, is a named partner at Nelligan O’Brien Payne. I learned to love the law and its nuances around the dinner table. My dad taught me the value of hard work and all about legal ethics.

Biggest lesson learned: Business is a team sport. Lawyers operate in a context that frequently appears to be rather individualistic. However, those with a solid team of intelligent and ethical colleagues are able to achieve far more for their clients with less frustration and effort. Being able to assemble a solid team of trustworthy colleagues really has been the key to my success.

First job: Camp counsellor at St. Brigid’s summer camp in Low, Que.

Advice I’d give the younger me: Worrying accomplishes nothing. Doing does.

What’s left to do: Personally, I have three young children and a loving wife. Watching, loving and mentoring them over the years will be what I want to see accomplished. Professionally, I want to continue to participate in the growth of Nelligan O’Brien Payne as the premier independent law firm in eastern Ontario. I want to continue assisting local businesses to address their legal issues in a timely and affordable way.

Favourite pastime: Skiing

I’m currently reading: Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis

Favourite movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Favourite song: Stay by the Tragically Hip

Favourite local pro sports team: Ottawa RedBlacks

Favourite local summer event: Canada Day

Preferred social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn

Twitter handle: @craigonthecob

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