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Law Firm of the Month, The Law Office of John T. Benjamin, Jr., P.A.

Let The Competition Beware

By Bob Friedman

John T. Benjamin, Jr. loves an adventure, whether it’s hiking and fishing in remote Alaska or litigating in North Carolina. “I love the adventure of going to court. I love the competition,” Benjamin said.

The Law Office of John T. Benjamin, Jr. is located in an expansive, well-aged, house just off the North Carolina State Campus in Raleigh. The client list at the five-lawyer firm reads like what you would find at one of the big, downtown firms: Pulte, Beazer, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Food Lion. “Many corporations don’t want the fanciest lawyers, they want the most efficient lawyers,” Benjamin said. “We look for fast track resolutions. We get totally familiar with the case before filing an answer and in most cases attempt to secure dismissals at the outset of the litigation.”

Benjamin views the practice of law as a competition against opposing parties. The goal in every competition is to win within the confines of rules. He believes this applies to litigation as well. Even though the firm is relatively small, it can handle any size case against any size firm. The firm has handled cases ranging from regular state court lawsuits to a federal class action lawsuit. According to Benjamin, he can pull together his team of lawyers and marshal the firm’s resources to tackle any size project.

The firm’s concentrations include banking law, filing and enforcing liens, litigating real estate disputes, appellate law and construction law. Benjamin expects the part of the practice representing commercial and residential developers to keep growing as the construction sector continues to improve.

Appellate law is one of Benjamin’s favorite practice areas because he likes being able to craft an organized, well-prepared, written argument without being interrupted by the other side or the court. “You can craft arguments the way you want to,” Benjamin said. The firm has handled appeals before the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the North Carolina Supreme Court, The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Benjamin has handled 48 appeals to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and has disposed of numerous additional appeals prior to those appeals being docketed at the appellate court.

NEVER ACCEPTING DEFEAT

There was never any question that Benjamin was going to be a lawyer. “I was always very competitive,” he said. “I had a great passion for arguing. I always thought I was right.” Benjamin lived most of his childhood in Charlottesville, Va. He went to Bucknell University for his Bachelor of Arts and graduated from Boston University Law School. He and his wife, Christie, moved to Raleigh so she could attend North Carolina State University of Veterinary Medicine.

Benjamin started out working for a mid-size Raleigh firm practicing estate planning, which he says he hated. Then with a competitive verve, Benjamin relates the story of how he began the firm by himself 20 years ago. “I started with nothing; no clients,” Benjamin said. “I did whatever work came through the door.”

Benjamin got some work from the law firm that rented him his first office. “I also went to other lawyers and agreed to do work for them for $50 an hour in hopes of generating future referrals.” Benjamin says that his firm is now large enough that he can select the cases and clients he wants to work with, “I can handle cases my way,” he said.

He admits that there are the administrative headaches of running a small firm, but it also gives him the freedom to get away to watch his daughter play violin in the school orchestra or coach basketball for one of his son’s teams. He places a high value on the ability to attend all of these activities.

FROM THE COURT TO THE COURTS

Competitive sports have always been an important part of Benjamin’s life. He played football, soccer, tennis and basketball in high school and was the captain of his soccer, basketball and tennis teams in his senior year of high school. Benjamin believes athletic competition closely mirrors litigation. “In sports, athletes are able to compete full speed and then at the end of the competition shake hands and move on to the next contest with a smile. We try and do that here,” said Benjamin.

“Basketball is my favorite sport,” Benjamin said, which he coaches and plays on a regular basis. Despite spending hours and hours practicing as a kid, the NBA never came calling. “I couldn’t jump over a piece of paper and I’m only 6 feet tall,” he said.

But his time on the basketball court did pay off. Shortly after moving to Raleigh, Benjamin joined the Raleigh Athletic Club, which he said was the best gym in town at the time and which his wife said they couldn’t afford. His strategy of using the gym to network paid off when one of the people he played basketball with was an executive with a large local residential builder. That builder helped Benjamin get his first job at a law firm in Raleigh.

NORTHERN EXPOSURE

Weekends in the summer are often spent at Lake Gaston jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, swimming or playing sports with his wife and kids, Noah, 13, Julia, 11, and Sam, 9. For all his competitive zeal during the week, “When I’m at the lake, I can completely relax and recharge,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin has made three trips to southeast Alaska. “It’s like being in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “I wish I could go every year.” He and his family are returning to Alaska this year.

According to Benjamin, these trips made with his father, brother, brother-in-law and family to hike and fly fish make him feel like a part of nature. “You feel totally free and unconnected,” he said, “Being around the wildlife recharges my batteries. I’m a type A personality and I like the chance to get away from people and be out in nature.”

“We’ve had some unbelievable experiences,” he said, “including seeing numerous bears at very close proximity when fishing on the banks of the American River and having a wolf, come right up to us to explore what we were doing out there.”

Benjamin looks forward to the day he can retire and just fish, although he says none of his friends and family thinks that day will ever come. For now, Benjamin is satisfied executing on the firm’s philosophy, “We want to provide consistent excellent legal work while also providing top notch customer service,” said Benjamin. “We look forward to continuing our legal work in this community for many years to come.”

For more information visit, http://lawjtb.com/