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Updated: November 27, 2023

Maine legal legend Robert Preti remembered for 'generous spirit, ready humor'

Photo / Hobbs Funeral Home
Robert Preti

Robert F. “Bob” Preti, a Maine legal legend who was a founding partner of Portland-based law firm Preti Flaherty, died Nov. 10 surrounded by family. He was 99.

Born in Portland on March 5, 1924, Preti attended South Portland schools, Hebron Academy, the University of Maine, Wesleyan University, the University of North Carolina and Boston University Law School.

During three years of active duty in World War II, he was a pilot in the U.S. Navy. Preti flew fighter aircraft and also served as a flight instructor in advanced flight training at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., followed by five years attached to the Air National Guard Fighter Squadron. 

'Part of the family'

Preti was the principal founder of Preti Flaherty, formed from the merger of several legal practices under one partnership in 1971.

With 77 attorneys in Maine, the law firm was ranked No. 2 among Maine’s largest law firms in a Mainebiz list published Nov. 13. Besides Portland, the firm has regional offices in Augusta and Bath, as well as in Concord, N.H., and Boston.

“We at Preti Flaherty are deeply saddened by the passing of one of our founding partners and longtime friend, Robert Preti,” the firm said in a tribute on its website. “Bob was not just a part of our firm; he was a part of our family.”

The firm noted that Preti was an integral part of the firm's early success and contributed to the Maine legal community in many ways, including as president of the Cumberland County Bar Association and as a fellow in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

“Within the firm Bob was known for his generous spirit and his ready humor. He mentored young lawyers with patience and wisdom, always ready to share his vast knowledge,” the firm said. “As we mourn his loss, we also celebrate his extraordinary life. Bob’s legacy will continue to inspire and guide us at Preti Flaherty. Our thoughts are with his family."

In addition to his long-time involvement in trial and appellate matters, taxation, commercial and corporate law, Preti was managing partner of the firm and senior partner until his retirement. 

Wide influence 

Preti's influence extended well beyond Maine, as the architect and author of structural agreements that were published in legal textbooks and adopted by many law firms around the country. 

As a member of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, he became a sought-after speaker and lecturer at state bar association events on legal economics and law office management.

Under appointment by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, he served as a member of the Board of Overseers of the Bar for eight years, and as its chair for two years. 

Preti was leading draftsman of the Maine Bar Rules, adopted by the Supreme Judicial Court in 1978. He was a former member of the Commission on Professional Responsibility, and member of the Maine State and American Bar Associations. He was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Preti’s affection for the law and his fellow lawyers may have been best expressed in an interview published by the Maine Lawyers’ Review in 1987 and cited in his obituary: "This is a fabulous profession, and it has been so good to me that I will, to my dying day, be deeply indebted to it.”

He was also involved with many civic and charitable organizations over the years.

Preti was predeceased by Elizabeth (Betty) C. Preti, his wife of 72 years, who died in February, and by a daughter, Katherine, in 1962.

He is survived by his daughter Ann and her husband Eliot Bryan, of Canton, Conn.; son Richard and wife Laura Preti of Cape Elizabeth and Houston; daughter Nancy and husband Dr. Benjamin Russell of Scarborough; 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren; sister Patricia Soule; and many nieces and nephews.

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