Archives for April 2013


court gavel on top of a law book Even in straightforward legal situations, disagreements over fees, practices or other decisions can lead to accusations of malpractice, bad faith and other disagreements.  When these issues occur, the first thought is often a lawsuit to both punish the alleged transgressor and obtain relief from the court.  But lawsuits – in any field – are never simple matters.  They are costly, with attorney’s fees piling up, sometimes eclipsing the original fees being disputed, they are lengthy, and their outcome is never guaranteed even if the issues appear clear-cut.  It doesn’t matter if the case is heard in Oakland or Alameda County, California or anywhere in the world, frankly – the golden rule is that it is always worthwhile to seek an alternative dispute resolution first.  Among the common alternative dispute resolutions that is available is arbitration.

If the key to settling disputes without the mess and cost of a lawsuit is arbitration, the key to arbitration is, obviously, the choice of arbitrator.  The arbitrator must have experience in professional arbitration – like John S. Preston.  The arbitrator must have varied and lengthy experience in legal, personal and business issues.  And the arbitrator must be recognized by his colleagues and the larger legal community as a reliable and expert arbitration professional.  With over thirty years of experience behind him, John Preston has served as a smart, creative and effective arbitrator for local business interests, large international corporations and individuals.  Whether it’s a local real estate dispute or a complex personal injury case, he has the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively bring parties together for arbitration and potential solution.

Arbitration is not a magic bullet.  It takes cooperation, a judicious guiding hand, and a spirit of civility.  If the parties involved can offer the former, John Preston stands ready to offer the latter.



No matter where you live, whether in Oakland or Alameda County, California, or anywhere else in the world, one fact pertains to any legal action that threatens to go into a courtroom: It is always worth attempting mediation first.  Mediation is less costly, less time-consuming and less combative, and often solves disputes long before they clog up the local resources of the court system.  When conducted by an experienced and knowledgeable professional such as John Preston, mediation is not only a better solution than litigation; it is also often mutually satisfactory.

John Preston has been serving individuals and the local business community as a first class mediation professional for decades, tapping his immense experience in legal matters, business both local and international and arbitration.  He’s served as an official arbitrator in over 500 mediation cases, including civil lawsuits, personal injury suits, contract disputes, and real estate disputes.  His mediation skills have helped settle disputes valued in the tens of millions of dollars and he’s also helped individuals in more modest disputes find mutually acceptable solutions without the expense and anxiety of a court proceeding.

John Preston knows the law, he knows how business works, and he knows the people of his community.  He can combine these assets in his role as mediator and sift through the issues, seeing the legal implications clearly and drawing on his experience to offer creative and unique solutions that are much more effective than the brute force typically employed by the courts.

Mediation is always worth a try.  To give it the best possible chance of success, the right choice of mediation professional is crucial.  John Preston is always that right choice, regardless of the specific issues involved; he takes pride in his ability to fairly and creatively bring resolution to the issues before him.

Personal Injury

personal-injuryWhenever someone is injured on your property, in your business or in your service, the possibility of a personal injury lawsuit is raised.  Few things are more intimidating and stressful than a personal injury lawsuit, as it brings with it feelings of guilt and personal responsibility that can lead to poor decisions.  The guidance of an experienced attorney and mediator can ensure that any business or individual in Oakland or Alameda County, California can protect themselves from the entire category of personal injury litigation: premises liability, slip and fall injuries, products liability, personal injury stemming from vehicular accidents, bicycle or pedestrian accidents, sexual harassment, accusations of discrimination, even dog bites.

John S. Preston is the man to contact in the event that personal injury mediation or representation is needed.  He understands that the key to personal injury cases is not always the letter of the law or the legal precedent – it’s in the research, diligence, and investigation of the case.  Many cases of personal injury are settled over the discovery of key evidence that can cast a new light on circumstances.

If investigation does not help, a thoughtful and expert mediation process can often prevent a costly and damaging court battle.  John Preston has acted in this role many times over the course of his thirty-five years in practice.  His deep connection to the local community and his vast experience in all facets of personal injury law make him an ideal arbitrator for these cases.  Mediation can save time, money, and stress when conducted properly.

Whether an incident involves your business or employees or your personal property, whether it involves alleged negligence or malice, John S. Preston understands the issues and can assist in any aspect of a personal injury case, from litigation to mediation.

Securities Law

Securities Law is a complex and dynamic area of the law has become difficult to litigate or mediate due to its ever-changing nature and the speed of transactions.  Its international nature can also add an additional layer of complexity, so that transactions initiated in Oakland or Alameda County, California can have incredibly complicated implications.  When it comes to alleged fraud, non-suitability, trade execution failure, breach of standard of care, non-disclosure, or excess and breach of fiduciary duty, you need someone local who understands the implications and procedures of securities law.  You need John S. Preston.

Securities Law Mediation in CaliforniaIn a career spanning more than 30 years, John Preston has been involved in every aspect of securities law, ranging from advising on asset purchases, acquisitions, mediating disputes between brokers, litigating and mediating cases of failure to execute trades as authorized and breaches of fiduciary duty.  Whether involving offerings, investments, securities exchanges, or corporate governance, John S. Preston has the experience and knowledge to quickly cut to the bone of the issue and offer solutions.

Having served as general counsel, CFO, litigator and mediator over the course of his career, John Preston has a uniquely complete background making him an excellent asset to any business or individual in need of advice and counsel, arbitration services for disputes, litigation in lawsuits, or expert testimony in any situation.  There are few people in Oakland and Alameda County, California who can offer the depth and variety of experience that John Preston brings to the table.

The scope of John Preston’s experience allows him to advise and mediate on a comprehensive list of securities-related matters, from large to small, from the ordinary everyday due diligence issues to the extraordinary disputes that require an expert guiding hand, serving both individuals and the business community on a daily basis.

International Law

International Law OaklandThe legal issues encountered by individuals and businesses involved in real estate and other transactions just in Oakland and Alameda County, California in general are complex enough.  Add in the world outside of California and the issues become incredibly complex very quickly.  Anyone involved in commerce outside of the United States needs an experienced guide to help them ensure their business is conducted legally and fairly in other countries – as well as according to local laws that may apply to the transactions.

Having conducted business in Japan, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Germany, Nigeria, and Denmark, John Preston is no stranger to international law and commerce between countries.  He has assisted in transactions valued in the tens of millions of dollars and understands the diligence and prep work required to make sure every agreement and transaction goes smoothly.

His experience has taught him the value of mediation pre-litigation in the event of disputes, and he has served in this role many times, helping to bring about a calm, mutually beneficial solution to international disputes clouded and complicated by differing local laws and unclear international agreements.  John Preston has represented the local Oakland Association of Realtors in international disputes as well as many local brokers, a testimony to his experience and effectiveness in matters of international law.

Most importantly, John Preston has not only legal experience in the international sphere, but solid business experience too.  This gives him the very useful ability to see all aspects of international business deals – the legal and the commercial – and to know how to make the former work for the latter.  International waters can be choppy and very intimidating – but not if you have an experienced, local advocate on your side who can help you understand the issues, pitfalls and rewards of conducting successful business internationally.

Business & Contract Law

Business and Contract Law Oakland

The cost of doing business in Oakland and Alameda County, California – or anywhere else in the country – is attention to detail.  The details of any contractual agreement between your business and another entity can be advantageous and profitable if carefully crafted with full knowledge of all aspects of the law, or costly if the contracts you negotiate do not fully protect your interests.  As a lawyer in practice for more than three decades, John S. Preston has deep connections to the local business community and an encyclopedic knowledge of the law as it pertains to local businesses.

Whether your business is service-oriented, retail or business-to-business, the contracts you sign with customers, suppliers, financiers or employees must protect your business from future disputes, litigation or other unforeseen event.  Litigation is expensive and incredibly damaging to both your peace of mind, your reputation and your financial outlook.  The easiest way to prevent litigation is to ensure that your contracts are comprehensive and clearly written in the first place.  Attorney review of all contracts, amendments and other formal agreements can solve problems before they actually are problems.  When it comes to contracts, John Preston has seen it all and brings a keen knowledge of the local business scene to every contract review or negotiation.  John Preston brings experience in all the ways contracts affect your business: Formation documents, employee contracts and non-compete or non-disclosure agreements to contracts with suppliers, clients, or municipalities.

And if a lawsuit is brought, John Preston stands ready to advise and assist in that situation as well, helping to clarify contractual language and bring the weight of precedence and experience to bear.  Contractual agreements exist to protect involved parties but can only do so if they are crafted correctly.

Attorney Fee Disputes

Having acted as a panel member as arbitrator and mediator for both NYSE and PSE, a private mediator, and as an expert witness on cases large and small, John S. Preston has the experience and tools to settle any attorney fee dispute in Oakland and Alameda County, California.  He has an intimate knowledge of the workings of California law and law firms, and can utilize that knowledge to help determine the reasonableness and necessity of all attorney fees in a wide variety of situations.

Attorney Fee DisputesJohn Preston has helped settle fee disputes at every level: As an expert witness he has helped guide the courts in disputes valued at over $3 million, as a private mediator he has helped determine reasonable fees for private and commercial property owners, as well as cases involving excessive billing, unjustified costs and general malpractice issues.

Real estate law often brings contention and conflict and in this acrimonious atmosphere, the conflict often spills into the private relationship between client and lawyer, especially when the outcome is not what the client expected.  Attorney fee disputes are best handled in private mediation where both sides can present their view and a mediator with experience on both sides of the issue can help determine what fees are reasonable under the circumstances and what relief has been established by precedent for the injured party, if any.  John Preston has that experience and has been called upon to serve in this capacity repeatedly by the courts, his fellow lawyers, and individuals.

Reasonable arbitration can settle these disputes before they become an expensive litigation process and John Preston has served Oakland and Alameda County, California for decades in this role.  No one knows both sides of these disputes better, and no one works harder to bring them to a mutually satisfactory conclusion.

Real Estate Law

Real Estate Law California

Businesses, investors, homeowners and commercial property owners know that when they need local real estate law expertise, they can come to John S. Preston.  No one knows the real estate market or legal issues in Oakland and Alameda County, California in more depth and no other attorney is a stronger advocate for his client’s rights, interests and investments.


John S. Preston has deep experience dealing with all facets of real estate law in California, including:

  • Landlord-tenant disputes
  • Foreclosures
  • Leases
  • Co-op and condo disputes
  • Commercial disputes
  • Co-op and condo conversions
  • Real estate transactions/financing
  • Land use and zoning
  • Real estate administrative proceedings, and
  • Bankruptcy and creditors’ rights.


John S. Preston’s knowledge of real estate law is cutting-edge and comprehensive.  He has extensive experience in litigation, mediation, and negotiation – a triple threat that ensures your real estate dealings, large and small, will be handled professionally and effectively.  Focused on problem-solving and a detail-oriented approach to securing the best possible outcome for his client, John Preston can leverage more than 35 years of professional experience in both legal and business ventures to the advantage of his clients.  There are very few real estate issues that he hasn’t dealt with in his career, making him an ideal investigator, researcher, expert witness, arbitrator and litigator for any real estate dispute or transaction.


Whether a first-time home buyer, a commercial property investor or a local landlord, John Preston is happy to consult and offer his services in your interests.  Through aggressive, tireless research and vast experience, he will secure the best possible outcome for your project and stand behind you every step of the way to ensure no detail is overlooked.  After 35 years of successful practice, he is among the most sought after lawyers in Oakland and Alameda County, California.

Real Estate Mediation: How Mediators Can Help When Clients Don’t Like Each Other

John S. Preston“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” William James, noted American philosopher and psychologist, wrote these words when he discussed the crucial steps to navigating human conflict. Although he wasn’t referring specifically to real estate disputes–he might as well have been.

The scope of real estate transactions and property ownership is often a slippery slope of things that can go wrong: including disputes are liquidated damages, faulty repairs, in which the former owners fail to disclose that the sewage backs up four times a year. All of these situations create high levels of tensions between parties and their brokers, with each party holding stubbornly to the reasons and justifications for his or her “side” of the argument.

Real estate conflicts easily produce situations in which relationships between parties deteriorate. This is especially true if one party feels that the conflict was initiated by the other party in an intentional act of disregard or disrespect. When property and ownership and someone’s life savings hang in the balance, tensions can run higher than normal and “likeable” can turn into “detestable” quickly. The good news is that mediation, as a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a perfect forum for this type of scenario. In most California contracts, mediation is required to avoid the forfeiture of attorney fees. If approached in the right way, mediation can quickly turn a “detestable” disputant into someone worth hearing out, even if you disagree with them, including your real estate broker.

The key to this is the non-adversarial process of real estate mediation. Unlike litigation, mediation allows each party the opportunity to see the conflict from both sides of the fence and to negotiate with the other in a fair and reasonable manner. If James’ advice is heeded, with the right attitude, disputants in a real estate transaction or problem can walk away from mediation with a broader perspective and a changed frame of reference regarding how the dispute began in the first place. This becomes the first step to reaching a resolution.

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