John R. O’Brien, Of Counsel
John R. O’Brien is the firm’s senior business attorney. Although he “retired” after 50 years of law practice in 2018, he is available for consultation by appointment. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska. He specializes in real estate law; business and corporate law; estate planning, probate and trust administration; and non-profit law. He represents many closely held and family owned businesses and helps clients plan and execute their business, contract and real estate transactions, and their estate and succession planning needs. Mr. O’Brien has also represented numerous non-profit, tax-exempt organizations.
Mr. O’Brien received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Creighton University. He graduated from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in the top 5% of his class. (Hastings is the oldest law school west of the Mississippi.) He was a member of the Hastings Law Journal, a member of the Order of the Coif (top 10% of all law school graduates) and admitted to the Thurston Society (Hastings’ scholastic honor society). After law school, he served four years as a Captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps including an overseas tour of duty in Korea. Following his military service, Mr. O’Brien was an associate at the San Francisco law firm of Bancroft, Avery & McAlister. In 1975, he moved to Santa Rosa and joined its then oldest and largest law firm, Spridgen, Barrett, Achor, Luckhardt, Anderson, James & Zeigler, becoming a partner in 1978. In 1981 he started his own law firm which soon became the existing firm of O’Brien Watters & Davis, LLP in 1982. He served as the firm’s Managing Partner for many years. Mr. O’Brien is a member of the State Bar of California and the Sonoma County and American Bar Associations and the Redwood Empire Estate Planning Council.
Mr. O’Brien has served in many leadership positions on the Boards of Directors of numerous charitable and civic organizations and chaired numerous committees. He was a long-time member of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation Sonoma County (President, 1993-1995). He served two terms as President of the Sonoma County Unit of the American Cancer Society (1984-1986) and served on the Legal Advisory Committee of the California Division of the American Cancer Society. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce for six years (Chairman, 2001) and served on the Board of Trustees of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and on the Board of Directors of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Foundation (Chairman, 1999-2001); and on the Board of Directors of the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation (2004-2010). He also served on the Board of Directors of the Catholic Professional & Business Breakfast Club (President, 2006-2008) and now volunteers at Catholic Charities Center for Memory Care and is a volunteer driver. He has been the top individual fund-raiser for the Volunteer Center’s annual Human Race event for many years where he has personally raised one-half million dollars to date for charity. He was awarded the Spirit of Santa Rosa award by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Cancer Society and the 2010 Keegan Leadership Award from Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Foundation for his outstanding public service.
John O’Brien holds the AV® rating from Martindale-Hubbell®.
Mr. O’Brien stresses the use of preventative law for the firm’s clients by the proper planning, negotiation and documentation of all client transactions to achieve successful results and to avoid later problems. Providing excellent client service and helping clients succeed in their goals are the priorities of his law practice. Enjoying his family and community service are his priorities away from the law office.