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Trailblazing Change: Creating the Structures of a More Inclusive Legal Profession with Ben Wilson

Trailblazing Change: Creating the Structures of a More Inclusive Legal Profession with Ben Wilson
Trailblazing Change: Creating the Structures of a More Inclusive Legal Profession with Ben Wilson

Ben Wilson is truly, truly the definition of a trailblazer, and if you joined us for part one, you’ve already experienced a glimpse of his incredible journey

Ben’s dedication to advancing diversity and inclusion, environmental advocacy, coupled with his strategic vision for leadership offer so many invaluable lessons for all of us. I hope that his stories and the strategies he shares inspire you to think about your own impact and how you can contribute to positive change in your community and beyond.

In this episode of the Branding Room Only podcast, you’ll learn about Ben’s visionary approach to creating support structures that contribute to a more inclusive and diverse legal profession. You’ll also hear about his unique insights into mentorship and the legacy he wants to leave behind.

Now get ready for more thought-provoking wisdom, inspiration, laughs, and actionable advice from a true trailblazer in the profession.



Available on Apple Podcasts

Available on Spotify

Available on Deezer


1:15 – How Ben formed The Diverse Lawyers Network, its impact, and why groups like these are necessary for Black lawyers

14:44 – The key to getting chosen over those more qualified than you and what makes a brand great

20:05 – A shoutout to Ben’s wife and to mothers who illustrate why the people who support you are a big part of your brand

23:31 – What Ben does for fun and some of the work he’s involved in now since retiring from his firm

27:42 – How Ben’s daughter describes his Branding Room Only moment and the importance of holding the door open for others

About Ben Wilson

Recognized by The Environmental Law Institute with its Environmental Achievement Award in October 2022, and The American Lawyer with its Lifetime Achievement Award in December 2021, Ben hails from Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Ben worked at the law firm of King & Spalding, focusing on litigation and tax matters. He joined the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice in 1979. At the Justice Department, he gained substantial trial expertise in commercial litigation matters, appearing on behalf of the government in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the United States Court of Claims, and district courts throughout the U.S. While at the Justice Department, Ben received Special Achievement Awards in recognition of his performance in 1981 and 1982.

Before joining B&D, Ben was an associate at Rose, Schmidt, Chapman, Duff, and Hasley in 1983. In 1985, he became a partner in the firm, focusing on civil litigation. Ben joined B&D in 1986 and retired from the firm in December 2021 after serving multiple terms as Firmwide Managing Partner and as the firm’s first Chairman.

At B&D, Ben was lead counsel in numerous complex environmental litigation and regulatory matters for major consumer product corporations, retailers, oil and gas companies, municipalities, and developers. He served as the Court-Appointed Monitor for the Duke Energy coal ash spill remediation project and as Deputy Monitor for Emissions & Environmental in the Volkswagen AG emissions proceedings. He previously served as lead counsel at the largest chromium site in the United States. Ben also counseled clients on environmental justice representations and is a recognized leader on diversity and inclusion issues in the legal profession.

Ben represented a number of municipal government agencies on Clean Water Act enforcement, litigation, and project development matters, including the City of New Orleans, the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water), the Metropolitan Water District of Greater Chicago, the San Antonio Water System, and the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority.

Mentioned In Trailblazing Change: Creating the Structures of a More Inclusive Legal Profession with Ben Wilson

Diverse Lawyers Network

Black General Counsel 2025 Initiative

Leadership Council on Legal Diversity

Minority Corporate Counsel Association

DC Bar Foundation

Santa Clara University’s Black Corporate Board Readiness Program

Books by Isabel Wilkerson

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by PGE Consulting Group LLC.

PGE Consulting Group LLC is dedicated to providing a practical hybrid of professional development training and diversity solutions. From speaking to consulting to programming and more, all services and resources are carefully tailored for each partner. Paula Edgar’s distinct expertise helps engage attendees and create lasting change for her clients.

To learn more about Paula and her services, go to or contact her at [email protected], and follow Paula Edgar and the PGE Consulting Group LLC on LinkedIn.

Paula Edgar: Welcome to The Branding Room Only Podcast where we share career stories, strategies, and lessons learned on how industry leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Hey, y’all, welcome back to The Branding Room Only Podcast. Get ready for part two of my absolutely delightful conversation with trailblazer Ben Wilson. In this part of the conversation, we dive deeper into the profound impact of leadership and so many of his fantastic stories.

If you joined us for part one, you’ve already experienced a glimpse of Ben’s incredible journey. But if you didn’t already listen to part one, stop right now and go back and listen to part one, and then join us back here for part two of the conversation where today we are going to hear more of Ben’s stories, his visionary approach to creating a more inclusive legal profession, his strategic insights into mentorship, and the legacy that he aims to leave.

Now get ready for more thought-provoking wisdom, inspiration, laughs, and actionable advice from a true trailblazer in the profession.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the legal profession generally. Particularly as I mentioned in my intro of you that you have been a staunch advocate for diversity and inclusion in the profession.

One of the ways I know that you’ve impacted lots of folks is by setting up some of these networks, making sure that people connect with each other. Why is that important? Just tell me sort of what your thoughts are around diversity at this time we are in this moment.

Ben Wilson: Well, big questions. I’ll try not to take too long. I was approached by two people who came to me and said, “Ben, we need to organize the Black partners in the Washington DC law firms.” I remember saying to them, “You don’t understand, I tried that and people did not want to do that.”

They said, “What do you mean they didn’t want to do it?” I said, “Well, I’d host a first meeting, I’d host a second meeting, but I couldn’t get anyone else to host a third meeting. My wife says it’s not potluck if you’re doing all the cooking.” But, Paula, and they happened to be men, they reminded me of my mother. They were trying to get me to do the right thing, and my mother always tried to get me to do the right things.

I thought again, and I called together a group of 15 people. There were a couple of women in that group, but mostly men. I said, “If we do this, will you host the second meeting? Will you host the third?” They said, “Yes.” I said, “If we do this, this will not be like the church where the women do all the work and the men do all the talking. We’re going to take turns. If the men is honored this year, we’re going to honor a woman next year. Then a man and then a woman until we get to the point where we all know that we’re treating women fairly. But I think it’s going to take a while.”

They bought into that. So I knew about 30 or 40 people, Paula. What happened was that there’d be a young woman, 37, who just made partner in her firm. I didn’t know her. Someone sent me her name. A young man, 39, he just made partner in his firm. I didn’t know him. So I thought maybe we’ll get 20, 25 people at our first meeting. It was a hot day in August and they packed the house. We had 95 people there.

We had called it a PowerPoint today, we called it a slide show, it was so long ago. It would say, Paula Edgar, her college, her law school, the firm that she was with, and whoever was next in the alphabet, and it was shown for 15 seconds, the next picture would come up.

As people were enjoying the hors d’oeuvre and cocktails, someone would say, “I knew Paula, we were in school together.” “I knew Robert, his sister went to Howard with me.” “I knew so and so,” or “I didn’t know they had anybody Black at that law firm.”

I’ll never forget there was a young handsome fellow, Alan Dial who’s a white-collar criminal practice and he was describing what he was doing and I said, “Well, you know, we have some amazing people here. There’s Billy Martin, he represented the NBA player who unwittingly shot his chauffeur.” Remember that big case? There’s an amazing woman who later became the head of the NBA National Basketball Association Players Association.

I think she’s a Brooklyn native and she’s a white-collar criminal defense. There were all these remarkable people and I said, “You guys can help each other.” There were former United States attorneys. African Americans in that room. Then we almost killed the idea by lawyering it to death.

Someone said, “How much should the dues be?” I said, “Well, wait a minute. If I come over to your house and you cook out, do you charge me for the hamburgers? Of course not. When you come over to my house, do I charge you for whatever we have? Of course not. So If we’re all so successful, when you come over to my firm, I’m going to cover everything. When we come over to yours, you’ll do the same. You don’t have to collect any dues.” There goes the administrative stuff.

Then it was going to be partners. Is that equity partners, non-equity partners? I never wanted to be a part of a club that wanted me. So my view is we’re going to admit everybody. Yes, it was called Diverse Partners Network, but if you’re a council, come on. If you’re an associate, come on. If you’re with a government and you’re not with a, come join us.

Then I realized that I received these requests, “Would you come to Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia?” [I sound like Antwerp.] We started doing the same thing. We got groups together, Toronto, Dallas, all across the country, and then I said, “Geez, we should have a newsletter.” So we sent out a newsletter, you’ve been in it, you’ve seen it, goes out each week to 6,000 lawyers, most of whom are diverse, but we also changed our name to the Diverse Lawyers Network.

I have an adult daughter and you and she are friends. It occurred to me if she was in Dallas or she was in San Francisco, African American might not be the only diverse group there and we need to have allies among groups. We changed our name so we were more inclusive among diverse people.

Quite frankly, I remember seeing Ebony Magazine used to have kind of a faces in the crowd section where they’d show Paula Edgar, young woman in charge of diversity, first diversity director in the history of the XYZ company, and they’d have your lovely picture, we’re doing the same thing and I wanted people to know.

Then we decided to get the management partners together and then we decided to get the general council together. They can learn from each other. We can reveal opportunities so that others can advance. That helped lead to the General Counsel 2025 Initiative, that wonderful man Ernest Tuckett, and a wonderful woman April Miller Boise, have led and they’ve done an amazing job.

Our newsletter features jobs. People are always looking. I have search firms who want to include positions. There’s no cost. Then we have a website. What happened, true story, I go to a Fortune 10 company and the general counsel is a Tom Brady friend but he knows that my nephew is Russell. What he doesn’t know is that his CEO played football in college with my brother. His CEO was a tackle. My brother was an end, which meant they played side by side for three years.

He tells me, “I know Ted Wells. Who else do I need to know?” Ted and I had gone to school and I might have given him three names that had gone on about my business. But I took 30 days and I gave him over 300 names of African American women and men and firms all across America in over 30 different practice areas. That list has grown to about 500 now.

When someone says, “So I’m in Germany, I’m in Berlin,” then I’m flying to Frankfurt, which is like DC to New York, it might be eight o’clock in Berlin, which means it’s two in the morning in New York. I’ve gotten an email from someone saying, “I’d like to find diverse lawyers who do M&A work and not just New York.”

So I send this note to our network. I get to Frankfurt and I have seven names. It’s a seven-hour flight to Dallas from Frankfurt. By the time I get there, I have 35 names from all over America and able, capable people.

That’s the point is that when people said they couldn’t find somebody, I wanted to show them the list. True story. I’m at a major company in North Carolina. They’ve decided they’re going to hire me. The general counsel is a woman and her chief of litigation is a woman.

They say to me, “Ben, I see you do a lot on diversity. We care about diversity here. Our team here is diverse, but our outside counsel isn’t very diverse. Do you have any ideas for us?”

Paula Edgar: No, I don’t.

Ben Wilson: Well, they were women of a certain age, Paula, and I said to them, “Do either of you have teenagers or young adult children?” They said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, what happens on Friday night if your daughter or son wants to go out and they’re not dressed properly?”

One woman puts her hand on a hip, she says, “She changes.” I said, “Well, maybe your law firm shouldn’t get any more work until they change.” Then the first woman said, “Well, Ben, that’s unfair. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to find people.” I then said, “What if there’s a list? A list of over 300 African American men and women who went to the same colleges, the same law schools as the people you, they’re in the same firms.”

She said, “It would be nice, but it doesn’t exist.” I reached down into my elephant bag. Are you a Midwest player?

Paula Edgar: I am not.

Ben Wilson: I would have put my list to my forehead, but I didn’t think they would understand the import of that so I just slammed it down. This is the list. I went to companies that use a preferred counsel list, but they had work that’s not on the preferred counsel.

One person’s crumbs may be someone else’s meal. One company spent about $50 million, not with their preferred counsel, which tells you how much they spent with their preferred–

Paula Edgar: Yeah, I going to say wow.

Ben Wilson: That’s the point. I want to be clear, there’s Laurie Robinson with CCWC, there’s Robert Grey with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, there’s Michele Lee with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, there’s Sandra Yamate with the Institute.

There’s my brother’s keeper, my sister’s keeper, there’s our friend [inaudible]. There’s so many, there’s you, there’s so many talented. But my goal was to try to make sure that this group is advancing the cause every year at the NBA, and I think you were there last year, we had over 300 people at our dinner.

Paula Edgar: I was.

Ben Wilson: We honored the general counsel of the United States deal. We honored a young woman who was up-and-coming in-house counsel. This year, we’re honoring Sharon Barner, Lifetime Achievement, Longtime General Counsel of Cummins. The whole point here is to bring these people in the room. The accomplished and the starting out are side by side.

Paula Edgar: It is one of my favorite events of the year because it is a reminder of the power of us in our collective and the opportunities that come from it. Certainly, it is a part of your legacy to have brought together so many of those networks to really think strategically about how we can all be the wind together and make a mighty gale force.

Ben Wilson: If I could say one thing, listen, I became the managing partner and chairman of my firm, not because of my intelligence, and as your viewers will be able to tell, it wasn’t my looks, I had business.

A disproportionate number of my clients were women and a disproportionate number of them were women of color. I owe Black women not a little bit, I owe everything. They chose to give me a chance. You might say, “Well, Ben, why did they give you a chance?”

That’s a good question. I don’t know this. I’d like to think is that I listened. I don’t know a woman who hasn’t been in a room, has made a point, have it ignored and five minutes later, a man says the same thing and it’s treated like manna from heaven.

I listened and they took a chance. They took a risk when they gave me the work. I did try and we won and when we won, they sent me something else and they told their friends and they sent me something else. I owe them, I can never repay that debt.

The other thing that I think is so important is we have to care about the other person. Again, I don’t know what law school where they teach you this, but you have to care about the other person. Years ago, Denzel Washington made a movie in our neighborhood, and my wife and the middle-aged women went out and made cookies. Paula, do you know why she didn’t run off with Denzel?

Paula Edgar: Tell me.

Ben Wilson: Oh, no. We’re grown-ups. This is an adult audience. Go ahead.

Paula Edgar: Because they don’t have a mortgage together. I don’t know why.

Ben Wilson: Everybody strikes out. The answer is he didn’t care about her.

Paula Edgar: Mm-hmm.

Ben Wilson: If he did, think about what if he was on the screen right now? You talked about Oprah.

Paula Edgar: I can’t wait until Denzel is on the screen.

Ben Wilson: That’s what I’m saying. You would just kick me to the curb. But I learned a lesson there. I cannot be out-cared. There’s always somebody smarter. In my case, always somebody better looking, always, always, always. But if the other person cares about you, they will choose you even if that other person is more qualified. Why? Because I know he cares about me.

Then how do we show people we care about them? We should say thank you, of course. But when they’re looking, we help them. When their kids or their friends need a break, we help them. When they’re going through something in their life, we are there.

Think about your best friend. When her mother’s in the hospital, she has cancer, you’ll go there. When she meets Mr. Right and she’s the happiest she’s ever been, you’re right there cheering her on.

I think sometimes we forget that caring is as important as anything. You see, one of the people, well, there are a lot of them, but Wiley Branton did influence me, Dennis Archer influenced me, [John Milwaukee], but they all influenced me, but they were kind to me when everybody else ignored me.

With Wiley, I would go with him to these functions. I thought I was his favorite young person, and there’d be a young woman like you or another young man, and they thought he was their favorite. I couldn’t get mad at him because all he’d ever done was treat me with kindness, respect, and encouragement.

What I learned was I always felt better after speaking with him. That’s why what Maya Angelou said is so important. It’s how you make the other person feel. If we can change our pronouns from I, me, mine to we, us, our, we have a chance.

The last point about brand that I would make, I met the Coca-Cola CEO a few years ago. I’ve heard you mention this, but obviously, Coca-Cola has a great brand. He said, “A brand is nothing more than a promise and a great brand is a promise kept.”

Paula Edgar: Yes. Oh, I love that.

Ben Wilson: So I try to be someone that keeps his promise. If I say I’m going to do something, I try to do it. If I can’t, I tell you I can’t and then tell you when I can. I think that those are really, really important things.

Again, when I speak and I speak to people aged 18 to 70 three or four times a week, and they are ready to throw in the towel, they’re ready to wave the white flag of surrender, I see it as my mission first of all to ask, “What is it that you wanted? What is your dream?”

They’re young, some are young, and they’ve forgotten their dream. I said, “What’s your dream? What would you like to be?” Then I asked them, “What are the steps we need to take to get there?” Because seldom is it a baby step as a, what was that game we used to play in the street? Mother May I.

One baby step and you’re there. There are a lot of giant steps. But we talk about what those steps are and how to get there. Just the mere taking action is empowering.

When you get off your rusty dusty and you make the calls and you send the emails, and you know this in your world, it’s empowering. So that’s all. I think we have to get to the point where it’s not just about us. At some point, it has to be about the other person.

Paula Edgar: I’m going to ask you three final questions and I have already taken up more time than I promised.

Ben Wilson: No, you haven’t. By the way, when you need to cut all of this, you cut whatever you need.

Paula Edgar: I’m only going to cut that one part and that’s all.

Ben Wilson: Oh, by the way, my friend’s name was John Daniels.

Paula Edgar: There we go. Perfect, done.

Ben Wilson: A remarkable man.

Paula Edgar: Now I’m not going to have to cut it, even perfect. Well, let me preface this really quick, I moderated a panel that you were on at the National Bar Association Convention in New York, whatever it was in 2019, 2018. You spoke about your wife.

Ben Wilson: Yes, yes.

Paula Edgar: I remember being like, I mean, I’m married, my husband’s the best, I’m like, “I want my husband to talk about me like that.” It stuck with me because I thought to myself, you had talked about a down part in your life but that how it was her love that brought you out of that. I thought there was no way I could have you on my podcast and not bring that up because I do think a big part of our brands is the people who support us.

Ben Wilson: Yes, amen.

Paula Edgar: So I just want to give you a little space to give a little shout-out.

Ben Wilson: Well, thank you. Listen, when I wanted to quit, my wife said, “Not yet.” When I thought my ship would never come in, she said, “Your day will come.” So there has to be someone that believes in you before anybody else does.

Paula, that’s why mothers are the most important people in the world, because when the father’s giving up, when the doctor’s giving up, when the teacher says your child can’t learn, when your child rejects you, curses you, reviles you, the mother still never gives up.

First of all, my wife’s a great mother, but she’s also a great wife. She believed in me and I’m grateful for that. She was tougher than me. My wife is from Pittsburgh and she’s tough, but that’s redundant, those things. She grew up on the hill. I met her the first day in law school.

Paula, the one thing I learned in college was where to stand so you could see the whole room. The first day of school, they have organizations, I saw her and oh boy, I was smitten, but I was scared to talk to her. I finally got up my courage. It was The Isley Brothers Who’s That Lady. Of course, I wanted to give her a tour of Cambridge.

All I knew was where the football stadium was. But I could see like a mile away. Her vision was not great. It couldn’t have been great if she saw me. But the fact is, hey, she saw through that ruse too, but I’ve learned in life you’re not going to get everything done in one date. My goal was to get a second date and the rest is history, but she was tough.

She was a terrific trial lawyer. I remember her blistering cross-examination, the AT&T litigation, and the antitrust litigation, so she is remarkable. She was the first Black woman partner at Sidley Austin and in any of their offices. She was tough and and I’m grateful for. You know our daughter Rachel and almost all of her success, you should blame on her mother who believed in her. I’m sure you feel that way about yours as well.

Paula Edgar: I definitely do. Okay, so everybody who comes on my podcast has to answer two questions. They have to answer more than that, but before I move to those two questions, and I’m excited to take every minute of your time, is this, what do you do for fun?

Ben Wilson: Well, so I exercise regularly. I was on the elliptical this morning for 65 minutes, greatest hits of Stevie Wonder. I take an artist and I get through the greatest hits. I do that.

Paula Edgar: I listened to Stevie this morning. I listened on repeat all morning. We’re so aligned.

Ben Wilson: That reduces a lot of stress. Now I’ll tell you what, one of my favorite songs of Stevie was I Was Made to Love Her. But I like Whitney Houston’s version. You know, he says, “I was born in Lil’ Rock.” She says, “I was born in Newark.” That’s one thing.

I read a lot. I’m only 10 years behind the times, but I finally got through Isabel Wilkerson’s books. I love them both. The Warmth of Other Suns, it’s absolutely amazing. I like Caste, but I love The Warmth of Other Suns. I’ve read a recent biography on King. I’ve read Medgar Evers. I’ve got about eight of them that I’ve read there. But that’s my way of listening, is to read.

Paula Edgar: If you love Caste, then you definitely should watch Origin if you haven’t seen it.

Ben Wilson: That’s what everyone says. But you gotta read The Warmth of Other Suns because that’s the one I would make into a movie. But I did see Origin actually, thank you. But I also support my family. My brother was sick. I went to all of Russell’s games in college. Went to many of his professional games, to his wedding. I wasn’t trying to displace my brother. He had a great father, but I was trying to be a good uncle.

People asked me about him, but his older brother was quite an athlete and quite an entrepreneur and has his own business, very successful, lives in Louisville, Kentucky with three daughters. I have a niece, Russell’s youngest sister, who was a point guard at Stanford National championship women’s basketball team.

Paula Edgar: Love it.

Ben Wilson: She was the best athlete in our family. Most of all, I have my own grandson, Rachel’s and [Cecil’s] son. He’s a cute little boy and I read with him every time I see him. We read for a couple of hours.

Those are the things that I do and I try to invest in others. In terms of my board work, in addition to the corporate boards, I serve on something called the DC Judicial Nomination Commission. We select the judges for our Superior Court and our DC Court of Appeals.

We don’t have a Supreme Court, that’s our highest court in DC. The DC Bar Foundation, I try to use my relationships to raise money for the groups that provide legal services to the poor in the District of Columbia. As in most major American cities, housing is a great issue. Single women are the ones who are disproportionately affected, single mothers, leading the families.

That’s another place where I spend a lot and then I teach it to Howard Law School. This is my 19th year. I love my students from Howard. They’re as enterprising as any I’ve ever seen from any law school in America. I wanted to see more people of color practicing environmental law. Working with others, again, we have almost 300 students who are out there now. They are having an impact. I’m very proud of them, very proud of them.

Paula Edgar: Speaking of impact, I usually ask this question about Branding Room Only is a take on standing room only and what would be your standing room only moment that people would come to see or experience about you. But I had the pleasure of getting a response about this from your daughter and I thought I would share it.

Ben Wilson: Ah, we better listen to her.

Paula Edgar: She says, “In a short window of time, when he is in the presence of someone, whether it is by phone, Zoom, or in person, he is able to connect and have an impact in a way that can change the course of someone’s career. He does this by sharing his long list of contacts with anyone and says, ‘Invoke my name and they will help you.’ In doing so, he has helped people keep their jobs, get a job, keep it together after losing a job. Stay married, be a better parent, et cetera. Not many people can connect with you and meaningfully impact you in a way that can change the trajectory of your life. He can.”

I read it and I said to myself, “I already knew that I was going to enjoy this.” For all of you who are looking at this on YouTube will see that my face, I’m going to have cheeks hurting because I’ve been smiling so much throughout this. But Ben, it has been a pleasure to have you on my podcast. If you ever want to talk about anything else again, you’re always welcome to come and drop some science to my people.

Ben Wilson: You have me back anytime you want. Listen, the one thing we didn’t talk about, and I realize this may not be sufficient time for, is the board service. I invest a lot of time, I’m not talking about my own service, but I teach or I participate in a program that Santa Clara University has. It’s called the Black Corporate Board Readiness Program.

We have about 25 to 30 Black women and men in each cohort. We’re up to 10 cohorts. About 95% of those in the first cohort are on a board. About 90% in the second cohort, 80% in the third, and so on. We have one guy who came in the fifth cohort, he’s on four corporate boards.

Paula Edgar: Wow.

Ben Wilson: The point here is we wanted to take advantage of the George Floyd situation where people said they wanted a change. We wanted to make certain that people are aware there are a lot of talent. Paula, I think I told this story, and I believe you were with me.

Years ago, I was watching a boxing match and Leonard was fighting Wilfredo Benitez, and the announcer said, “Sugar Ray Leonard is handsome Black man.” He was and he is. But Benitez was handsome too and he was Black.

I said, “Can there be two?” Then I asked my wife, “Could there be a third, not brave enough to get in the ring?” She said, “No.” So she stuck with those two. But my point is there are these really talented people so I want people to realize their dream.

What I want more than anything else is when they get there, I want them to hold the door open for someone else. True story and I feel compelled to tell this. There’s a young man who called me. He was in Austin, Texas. He just graduated from the University of Texas.

He did not have a job, law school, his wife had a job. There was a sadness in his voice. It was like hearing Ray Charles sing. I said, “Well, I’m going to be in Austin to buy an intervention.” But we had an office in Austin. I said, “Well, meet me for breakfast.” He said, 8:30. I said, “No, seven o’clock. Bring your wife,” because I wanted to see how hongry he was.

He was there at seven, and we talked about what they wanted. I shared my list with him, and he dutifully called everyone. At that time, there was a new federal agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The senator from Massachusetts, Harvard professor, she was the head of that agency. Her name’s escaping me now. Short haircut, Oklahoma.

In any event, this guy gets a job. But then he brings his general counsel to our Diverse Lawyers Network meeting and there were 12 other Black partners and associates not happy at their firms who wanted to join this agency.

This man who had no job, not only finds a job, but he helps 12 other people. He delivers other people. Now, fast forward a year and a half later, I’m coming through the Baltimore Washington Airport, dog tired, and there he is with his wife. She’s pregnant with their second child, and I speak to them.

She has a job that she loves. He’s gotten three promotions and all is right with the world. The man who was as sad as you could ever meet could not have been filled with more joy. For me, that was gratifying. But what’s most gratifying is when he passes it on to someone else. That’s where we need to be.

Usually, you talk about mentorship and sponsorship. I checked you out and I love that. Mentorship I think is very important but what I find the young people I meet, they know how to dress properly for the most part and they exercise good judgment. What they need with anything else is a meaningful chance.

When I had all this work, I put three young Black associates on my work and they became partners in them. When I left, I left them clients. You know how your grandma leaves you 40 acres or she leaves you a garden and you look up next year and man, we got apples, we had pears. Where did those come from? Well, grandma’s been planting them for 30 years.

The point is that’s really where we want to be. But I appreciate what Rachel said. I hope it’s true, but I just think that’s what makes life worth living. In the Bible, they talk about begetting. So and so begat this child. Who did you beget? Whose career did you aid? What door did you open? What work did you give them? What job did you help them obtain?

Paula Edgar: What impact? What impact, right?

Ben Wilson: And all at the congregation say amen. When you can say that, whoo, then you live forever. You live forever in their lives, the lives that they touch. That’s a reason to live forever, to perpetuate good.

Paula Edgar: Well, I think that that is a perfect way for us to end this conversation, but I’m taking you up on your offer to have another one because there should be part seven, eight, and nine. Everyone, I implore you to listen, but also to share this because our impact should be catalyzed by other people’s inspiration and inspiring us.

I am so inspired to continue having impact. One of the ways I do that is with this podcast. So please like, download, share, and take something away. Do good by what you’ve heard today. Till next time in The Branding Room, see you then, bye, and thank you, Ben.

Ben Wilson: Thank you, and know you inspire me, too.

Paula Edgar: As we bring part two of our conversation with Ben Wilson to a close here in The Branding Room Only Podcast, I am truly filled with so much gratitude as I reflect on Ben’s kindness and the transformative insights and powerful narratives that he shared in both parts of our conversation.

Ben is truly, truly the definition of a trailblazer. His dedication to advancing diversity and inclusion, environmental advocacy, coupled with his strategic vision for leadership offer so many invaluable lessons for all of us. I hope that his stories and the strategies that we discussed have inspired you to think about your own impact and how you can contribute to positive change in your community and beyond.

As always, thank you so much for turning your dial to Branding Room Only. Remember to share this episode with any others, that’s everybody, who would find this inspiring, and subscribe to the podcast on all platforms for more conversations about the impact of authentic personal branding.

Ben, so much love to you. Thank you so much for these fantastic conversations. I can’t wait to have you on the podcast again. Everybody else, keep striving for excellence and making a difference in the world around you. Let Ben be our guide. Thanks.