Na’il Benjamin Takes on Mentoring, Giving Back and Being a Working Parent

n-benjaminThis month we are profiling Diversity Pipeline Programs Advisory Committee member Na’il Benjamin. He will be returning to the private sector after almost three years at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office and prior to that he was at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass. In his new role, he will represent clients in labor, employment, and business litigation matters. Read below for his thoughts on being a working parent, diversity, and advice for the younger generations.

1. Work-Life Balance

Being a husband and a father are the most important responsibilities in my life. And they bring me the most joy. I enjoy “lawyering” almost as much as I enjoyed playing football. It is very difficult feeling, like there are times when you cannot excel at them simultaneously. The demands of my practice, at times, make it difficult to be home to feed my daughter, bathe her, and put her to sleep. I also miss weekend birthday parties and down time to do lessons with her. And now that I have an infant son, being home with my family has new meaning. At the end of the day, most of my time is focused on my family and my clients. My hope is that I can continue to exceed their expectations.

2. Advice to New Attorneys

Take your time! Learn the ropes. Master the small things. The details matter. Become an expert at the things you learn. Practice great habits. Legal writing is everything.

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3. Giving Back

“Giving back” is something that I am passionate about. I’ve been blessed, immensely, throughout my life. So I feel connected with the principle of helping others. But I think each individual has to have a personal relationship with the idea of giving, and my hope is that people will challenge themselves to be true to that relationship. Most of us give in different ways, but I’d bet many of us also feel slightly guilty when we know we can give more.

4. Why I Am Involved

I began mentoring high school students when I was a sophomore at UC Berkeley. My mission then was to push students to invest in themselves and their futures by going to college. I love doing this type of service, especially knowing how much talent exists within our under-represented neighborhoods. These students have amazing perspective and drive. So I love watching the results when they have a little bit of guidance and access to resources. It is unbelievably rewarding.

While in law school, I participated in a diversion program as a mentor. The program was for first time drug offenders. As an attorney, I became the chair of a board for a program called Student Program for Academic and Athletic Transitioning. We increased the number of students entering college exponentially. I later joined the board for the Charles Houston Bar Association as the chair of the Diversity Pipeline Committee. So when I was honored with the opportunity to do similar work in San Francisco for BASF, I jumped at it. I love coordinating efforts and resources to build our youth.

5. Resources

While in college and law school I enjoyed visiting professors during office hours. Most educators are passionate about educating people. They love to have students engage them in their office and discuss the material that they’ve mastered and decided to teach. I believe you can learn a lot from a professor during office hours, in addition to getting answers to questions you might have about lecture or the assigned reading.

6. Advice to High School Students

The world is much larger than your family and neighborhood. The leaders of the future will have at least one degree beyond an undergraduate degree. Set your sights on competing with the world’s future leaders, not the superstar in your neighborhood. Pursuing education is a part of pursuing greatness.

Check back next month for a profile on Advisory Committee member Theodore Miller of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office.

The purpose of the Advisory Committee is to build unity between all diversity pipeline programs and get input from young and creative lawyers. Learn more about the Justice & Diversity Center’s pipeline programs at www.sfbar.org/jdc.