Milwaukee welcomes Ricky C. Benjamin from Denver, Colo., to his new position as a partner at the law firm Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. He will practice in the areas of Litigation-Tort/Business and Labor & Employment Counseling/Litigation. Drawing on a successful career as a senior in-house counsel and as an attorney at national and regional law firms, Mr. Benjamin will also lend his client perspective and legal talents to other practice areas offered by the firm in both its Milwaukee and Madison offices.
His decision to move to Milwaukee in January and join WHD was sealed when he confirmed that WHD’s attorneys shared the same convictions about providing quality legal services that exceeded expectations with a client-first focus.
“We are very fortunate to have Ricky join our firm,” said Paul Eberle, WHD’s chief executive. “His broad experience and outstanding advisory skills allow us to deepen the services we offer to our clients. His hiring underscores our ongoing efforts to better understand and serve our clients through diversity and exceptional legal talent.”
A graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law, Mr. Benjamin brings more than 20 years experience providing legal and business advice to corporations. Most recently, he was general counsel to Park Avenue OculoPlastic Surgeons in Denver, Colo. There, he led complex litigation and provided counsel on a range of topics from medical device patents and employment issues to intellectual property, contracts and business acquisitions.
Perhaps most notable were his contributions at Zurich Insurance Company in Denver. Zurich hired Mr. Benjamin as in-house trial counsel, later promoting him to assistant VP and managing attorney. At the time of his promotion, he was the youngest and newest attorney, and first African American to hold that position. He managed 50 junior and senior lawyers, staff and claims personnel in the Colorado Staff Legal Office, while also handling his own caseload.
While at Zurich, Mr. Benjamin acted as general and trial counsel to insurance clients’ insured and represented an array of commercial entities, which included software, architecture and engineering companies, banks and retail stores, airlines, hospitals, physicians and educational institutions. In addition, he managed 100 team members, including staff, claims personnel, in-house attorneys and outside counsel in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. It is this wide-reaching, in-house perspective that gives Mr. Benjamin the ability to see things from a client’s viewpoint.
Mr. Benjamin explains: “I understand what a client wants out of their law firm, because as in-house counsel, I’ve made the same decisions on selecting attorneys as clients make, and I know what their expectations are. To me, responsiveness, integrity, and authentic trust are important characteristics for an attorney, whether providing as in-house or outside counsel.”
Mr. Eberle concurs. “Ricky’s perspective embodies our client-first focus. It shows our clients that their law firm understands where they’re coming from,” he said.
Those same characteristics led Mr. Benjamin down the path to becoming an attorney.
The second oldest in a family of five children, Mr. Benjamin grew up in New Orleans, La. After high-school graduation, he worked as a longshoreman on the docks of New Orleans beside his father. “I learned what hard work was, and my dad was proud to have me alongside him displaying a work ethic and passion for hard work his colleagues envied,” Mr. Benjamin said.
He later joined the Army National Guard and attended Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, La. A self-professed “computer geek,” he graduated with a B.S. in computer science.
While in college, Mr. Benjamin became interested in pursuing law school after studying the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This clause prohibits state and local governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without certain steps being taken to ensure fairness. “My dad was a strict disciplinarian who always preached honesty and integrity to his children. As a child I craved for a process whereby I had more of a say in whether, and to what extent, parental discipline was administered. To me, this clause embodies the process I craved for,” he said.
A long-time, avid basketball player, fan and youth coach, Mr. Benjamin applies that same philosophy to the basketball court. He teaches kids to focus on perfecting the fundamental skills of the game while practicing discipline and integrity as a team and as an opponent.
He believes this approach to the game also provides a good metaphor for life, which he carries into his law career. “I counsel clients with the best legal advice about how the law is applied. I know what’s going to win the case, and that’s what I focus on,” he said.
What are his plans for Milwaukee? In addition to wanting to coach youth basketball, Mr. Benjamin is a supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, due to a close friend’s diabetic children. He is also passionate about education and would like to teach labor and employment law at a high school, college or law school.
“Teachers have the opportunity to make an impact on someone’s life,” Mr. Benjamin said. “I love to share knowledge with others and help them understand that there are many ways to gauge success and achieve it.”
As an attorney at WHD, Mr. Benjamin will have ample opportunity to practice that philosophy.