Tom Prewitt lacks an off switch. He leaves the office but not his work. He lives with a certain sense there’s always more that needs to be done. His cases get shower time. He says his best breakthroughs come when he’s not at the office. He does his best thinking when he’s working in the yard, gardening, pulling weeds, mowing, seemingly mindless tasks that clear the distractions.
He likes to cook, occasionally following a recipe, although he’s more inclined to improvise. He commits a few winter Sundays to a labor-intensive delicacy known as beaten biscuits. It’s a tradition from his Central Kentucky upbringing that blends White Lily Flour, lard, sugar and salt. The ingredients are mixed into an unleavened dough, then kneaded and kneaded – and kneaded some more, until the dough is silky smooth. He uses a set of crank-operated kneaders given to him by his aunt, a heavy metal roller contraption reminiscent of the wringer on an old-time washing machine. It’s an all-day endeavor, providing thinking time in the cold season.
He’s one intense guy. That comes through clearly. His wife, Jamie, furnished his office with a beautiful saltwater aquarium. Complete with fish, rocks and gurgling water, it adds a dash of calm to an otherwise intense environment. As former chair of Graydon’s litigation department, he will tell you nothing is more stressful than trying a case. The odd thing, the factor that balances Tom’s story, is that he will also tell you nothing is more fun.
He’s the son of a small-town lawyer. His great-grandfather was a lawyer. So is his brother. From the time he could run without falling down, Tom figures he was destined to become a lawyer, too. He’s trying not to steer his daughter in the same direction, but he hesitantly admits the odds are she’ll follow the tradition. He says she has the natural-born characteristics of a good lawyer – the ability to do a thorough quality analysis, a natural disposition to dig beneath the surface and a reluctance to accept the first answer as the right answer. Plus a little attitude, which he says is important to the mix.
He admits to having been a bit difficult as a student in junior high school. It was his role, he says, to engage his English teacher in a manufactured debate during the last few minutes so that, once the bell rang, the class would get out without a homework assignment. After a month or so, the teacher pulled Tom aside and suggested he think about starting a debate team, which the school didn’t have. Those are the kind of experiences that quicken a young litigator’s heart.
So what makes him different? What, in his view, makes Graydon different?
“We tend to live our cases. We get paid to take from our clients their problems and make them our problems, and we’re paid well to do it. Our clients come in with problems, and they want you to solve those problems. They want to go home or back to work after seeing you without having that problem weighing heavily on their minds. They may not get to that nirvana completely, but if they know we’ve got the ball, they’re likely to sleep better.”
Asked what he does, Tom says “I keep clients out of trouble. And if they’ve already got a problem, I fix it.” In that way, Tom has been a fixer for nearly 35 years.
Tom counsels business owners, CEOs, and General Counsel on not just legal but difficult business issues. From startup and entity formation to strategy, contracting and deal structuring, Tom serves the trusted advisor role well. As an accomplished trial attorney, Tom knows the importance of sound advice on the front end of transactions – and the cost of not getting it right. While he loves the win in the courtroom, he recognizes the often high cost of time and treasure consumed in the process of litigation, and he is thus committed to counseling clients on how to avoid or diffuse disputes before they reach the point where formal proceedings are necessary.
When asked to describe Tom’s service, the President of a manufacturing client put it this way: “the breadth, depth of his skills / expertise, tremendous service / service levels / responsiveness, and his wisdom, business acumen, and partnership-type of approach / disposition . . . far beyond counsel service / transactional approach and truly an invaluable colleague – with great value coming from being able to come to him with a situation or share what I’m trying to accomplish and engaging with me in those terms, as an enabler and solution provider.” That pretty well sums up Tom’s approach.
For much of his career, Tom has been a community leader in the areas of economic development, entrepreneurship and business advocacy. He founded and chaired the board of the Northern Kentucky Innovation & Commercialization Center. He chaired the board of the business accelerator, UpTech. He has served on the Tri-County Economic Development Foundation Board, where he chaired the Entrepreneurship Committee, as well as the board of REDI Cincinnati. He helped found and served on the Northern Kentucky Entrepreneurship Council. He served Northern Kentucky University as a member of its Research Foundation Board. He is a board member at the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and he currently serves as Chair of the NKY Chamber Political Action Committee. Tom’s passion for the region and the success of its business community has been recognized by the Chamber’s Leader of Distinction Award.
Tom’s leadership is also displayed within the law firm. He has chaired the firm’s Litigation Department. He has served on the Executive Committee, including two terms as firm Chair. He is an avid consumer of information about the practice of law in the future and routinely consults with his peer leaders at other law firms in the region and around the country. Tom is proud of and committed to the firm’s vision of making Graydon the region’s “most innovative, vibrant, and inclusive law firm,” saying, “I’m not so bold as to say we are there yet, but we are well on our way.”