On cold and dark winter nights, many residents might want to curl up with a good book in bed or in front of a roaring fireplace.

Whitney Christensen loves sitting down with legal documents.

“It’s funny, I know,” Christensen said. “The way someone would cozy up with a novel, I cozy up with a contract,” she said.

Christensen, a Philomath High School and Oregon State University graduate, recently started her own legal firm, Christensen Law, in Corvallis. She specializes in three areas of law: business, estate planning and financial distress.

She decided to become a lawyer after observing people in her hometown get taken advantage of and not knowing their rights.

Christensen’s father-in-law, Gregory Christensen, also has a practice in the same building that focuses on bankruptcy law, and he mentored her. The topic sounds dry, but it’s actually very interesting, Christensen said.

Her favorite area, however, is business law, because she gets to work with creative and energetic entrepreneurs. “I get to help them not make a bunch of bad decisions,” Christensen said. Her work includes helping small businesses form corporations and protecting owners’ personal assets.

With Oregon State University and Hewlett-Packard downsizing, there are plenty of startups in Corvallis.

While she was attending Lewis & Clark Law School, Whitney worked with the Oregon Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

She ended up working violent criminal cases, which can take a toll on the prosecution. “I get emotionally invested in the cases,” Christensen said. And she decided she wanted to focus on a different, and happier, area of law.

With a 7-month-old baby boy, Christensen wanted to own her practice to control her schedule better. And that also means that she’s willing to meet with clients on weekends, over lunch or after hours. That works out better for many businesspeople, as well, because it’s hard for them to tear themselves away from the shop.

She wants to break out of the industry norm for law practices, where many attorneys are expensive and hard to get ahold of. “I don’t nickel and dime my clients,” Christensen said.

But Benton County will always remain home for Christensen and her husband, Jeff Christensen. “I’m glad I’m here and not in some firm in Portland, lost in the mix,” Christensen said.

She also likes having clients who she went to high school with, or whom she knows through family.

Whitney is Native American, and she said she sees both sides of the Warriors mascot issue at her Philomath alma mater, where she was on the basketball and track teams.

“I take pride in it in a sense. I love seeing a Native American image, but I do understand the tribes not wanting to be exploited. I feel like it’s an opportunity to bring that culture off the reservation,” she added.

And people, even students, find Native American history very interesting, Christensen said.

Christensen Law is at 804 SW Fourth St. For more information, call 541-757-1229 or go to www.christensenlawcorvallis.com.

Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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