John J. Reister got a taste of the world as an Air Force lieutenant. Soon after, he earned a ticket to seek his fortune anywhere in the country, if not the world, when he graduated from Cleveland Marshall College of Law.
But no big city or exotic locale held the appeal of coming home to Hamilton, where he was born and raised. “Roots run deep,” Reister says. “I decided ‘What the heck, I’ve been to a lot places but Hamilton is where I want to be.’”

Reister followed in the footsteps of his father, the late Fred Reister, by joining Millikin & Fitton in 1978.

Few firms can boast of community roots like those of Millikin & Fitton, founded in Hamilton in 1860. The firm has responded to the region’s growth by modestly expanding, but voluntarily remaining small compared to Greater Cincinnati’s major firms. There were six partners and three associates when Reister arrived 31 years ago, compared to 12 partners and three associates today, operating offices in Hamilton, Fairfield, Oxford and Mason. Attorneys ranging from senior partners to young associates allow the firm to affordably serve clients with a range of talent.

“Our expansion is driven by our client base,” he says. “I think we’ll stay between 10 to 20 attorneys, depending on business.”

This environment gave Reister the opportunity to practice in a wide range of areas, which he dutifully explored. “I like to tell people I’ve developed my practice by being involved in things one time and eliminating them,” he jokes.

Reister’s changing areas of concentration reflect the transformation of Butler County and its explosive growth. “At first, I was doing a lot of residential real estate closings — title exams and closings,” he says. “In the 1980s, interest rates soared and my practice moved into the area of not representing people buying houses but those buying and selling businesses — representing people getting business loans and families who were grappling with succession planning.”

Meanwhile, Reister established himself as a fixture in his community. A long list of accomplishments includes past service as secretary-treasurer of the Butler County Bar Association and special counsel to the Ohio attorney general. He is a member of the Hamilton-Fairfield Estate Planning Council, provides legal counsel to the Butler County Port Authority and is a registered land-title examiner.

Reister plans to stick around, looking toward future growth in his region. “There isn’t any commercial real estate (development) now, but we are working with our clients that have companies in the area. There’s always business out there.”