Diverse Partners Network the Courageous Cause of Benjamin F Wilson

by chris

What happens when you gather more than 300 minority and female law firm partners in the name of perpetuating diversity? Great things. If you’re Benjamin F. Wilson, Managing Principal of Washington, D.C.’s Beveridge & Diamond and founder of the Diverse Partners Network, you expect nothing less.

After all, the native of Jackson, Mississippi, grew up quite aware of great works: the Freedom Riders, the Little Rock Nine and the very brave African-American lawyers rooted in integration cases, such as A.P. Tureaud in New Orleans, Wiley Branton in Arkansas, and Fred Gray, who defended Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I admired them all,” he reflects, “and saw how the law changed the status of African Americans.”

As a child, Wilson was talkative, argumentative and competitive — traits that undoubtedly foretold his future in law. He was raised by a father who’d ask: “Why not you? Why not now?” Apparently, the “whys” and “great” run in his family. Ask Russell. (Not the app, his nephew.) Yes, the Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks NFL Super Bowl Champion (XLVIII). Benjamin’s brother, Harrison, asked Russell the same questions as a child.

“There is this expectation and necessity to prove yourself,” Wilson says of being an African-American lawyer, “and whether you are capable.” He has met this demand by coupling his inherited self-motivation to hone his skills with his drive to help others strive equally for greatness. A recognized leader on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, Wilson has deep experience with environmental justice issues.

In 2008, he formed the Diverse Partners Network (DPN), originally named Partners of Color in Washington, D.C., with the mission to create a network bringing together minority partners and helping prepare them for the challenges inherent in the profession. Initially a meeting invitation to 50-60 partners, the network has grown to include women, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and many other groups.

Among the roster: John W. Daniels, Jr., Chairman Emeritus, Quarles & Brady LLP; Allison Davis, Office Managing Shareholder, Littler Mendelson P.C.; Shemin V. Proctor, Managing Partner, Andrews Kurth LLP; Karl Racine, Managing Partner, Venable LLC; Grace Speights, Managing Partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; and Maurice Watson, Chairman, Husch Blackwell LLP.

Wilson says, “Every day, I receive calls from diverse attorneys who are seeking to move in their careers.” Sharing contacts nationwide, the DPN offers a huge advantage in the judicial nomination process by preparing diverse candidates for the bench and takes advantage of the increased corporate interest in diversifying boards of directors. “We’re giving people hope,” Wilson says, “that they can have the expectation of success.”

Key to the group’s success? Sharing in hosting networking events, such as receptions, luncheon meetings and panel discussions with Fortune 500 companies. “If you’re doing all the cooking, then it’s not a potluck,” Wilson quips. “If people take turns, we can do almost anything.”
Wilson received the National Bar Association Commercial Section’s coveted Outside Counsel Award for his outstanding work and service on behalf of his clients and for promoting diversity in the legal profession, and the Washington Lawyers Committee’s Wiley Branton Award for outstanding achievement in civil rights law. The Environmental Leadership Program’s Mid-Atlantic Network honored his work with “A Celebration of Leadership: Remembering Dr. King’s Environmental Legacy with Benjamin Wilson.” He received the Spirit of Excellence Award in 2014 from the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, the Commission’s highest honor. He was selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers Edition 2014 and named to the 2015 edition of Best Lawyers. He and his wife, Merinda, met on his first day of law school, and they have one daughter, Rachel.

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