A focus on righting wrongs against others is a thread that spans Jill Presley’s career.
From her early days as a prosecutor to her current work in personal injury law, seeking justice for her clients has been a key part of her work, she said.
“You try to make them as whole as you can when something bad has happened,” she said of her clients. “That really drives me.”
The lifelong Kansas City resident attended law school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and worked as a Rule 13 intern for the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office before graduating in 1997.
Presley joined the office full-time after graduation, working as an assistant prosecutor for about six years. She said she was fortunate to get a lot of trial experience early in her career.
“It really shaped me, and I was always interested in doing trial work,” she said. “It sparked a greater interest in that type of work.”
As a prosecutor, Presley largely focused on violent crimes, with an emphasis on sex crimes.
“I found it really fascinating with the DNA evidence and working with the forensic crime lab,” she said. “It was really rewarding to put people like that away.”
When she left the prosecutor’s office, she moved to the defense side of civil litigation, doing insurance civil defense. But she found she was philosophically more aligned with plaintiff’s work and transitioned to personal injury law, working for what is now Monsees & Mayer.
There, she met her now-husband and law partner Kirk Presley. In 2013, the two opened their own firm, where her practice is focused on personal injury and wrongful-death cases. She also specializes in insurance bad-faith claims.
Presley said what she likes most about her work is that it is rewarding to make people whole and to seek on their behalf “some sort of element of fairness and justice after something really wrong has happened.”
She also enjoys the part of her work that promotes safety, whether in terms of her aviation practice or in workplace safety. When large corporations are held to account, that tends to promote safety overall, she said.
An advantage of being with a small firm, she said, is being able to be more selective about the cases they take. She said she’s been able to spend more time with her clients and get to know them.
In some cases, she and her husband have established long-term relationships with their clients, which is also meaningful to her.
In addition to her legal practice, Presley also is a jury consultant, helping other attorneys to pick jurors at trial. During voir dire, she said, there is a room of strangers who often are reluctant to be there or unsure of the process, but they are asked to discuss their life experiences.
“It’s a chance to really talk to people and get to know them,” she said. “Over time, I’ve learned when you’re able to learn about people, you can make an educated guess about the way they may view our set of facts. It’s very complex, and you have to do it very quickly.”
Philanthropic work is also important to Presley. She and her husband support a number of Kansas City nonprofit organizations, from Operation Breakthrough, which provides educational programs and social services for children, to the Child Protection Center, which counsels and supports families experiencing trauma.