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Lessons Future Lawyers Can Learn From Benjamin Civiletti

Say the name Benjamin R. Civiletti in legal circles and you will get the response, “The guy that makes $1000 an hour?” Civiletti was the first lawyer to publicly acknowledge that fee, but there is far more to him than being a high priced lawyer.

Civiletti has had a very distinguished legal career, beginning with his first year out of law school when he clerked for a U.S. District Court judge. That led to his next job as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. He eventually became Attorney General under President Jimmy Carter. He has argued in the United States Supreme Court and the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

The Washington D.C. Bar has referred to him as a “legend”. In 2009, American Lawyer named him a “Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree.” And, he does pro bono work.

In spite of these and numerous other notable career events, lessons future lawyers and law tutors can learn from Benjamin Civiletti come from statements he has made during interviews. He emphasizes what he learned from each job. He gives credit to those who helped him along the way and even brushes away the importance of the $1000 an hour legal fee.

Civiletti credits his first job as a clerk with W. Calvin Chestnut, U.S. District Court Judge, with giving him the foundation for his illustrative career. He sat in on a lot of trials where he learned trial lawyer techniques for questioning witnesses and arguing to the jury. It was that knowledge and experience that led to his next job as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

When questioned about his argument before the World Court, he gives credit to those who helped him prepare his argument.

Civiletti emphasizes that an attorney always needs to do “your best work.” Always be scrupulously honest. Those are your stepping-stones to advancement.

Civiletti is a strong proponent of public service. He had some bumps along the way as he worked for Civil Rights yet offended the Hispanic community. He redeemed himself by working tirelessly for minority rights in the workplace. He has been on several commissions, including one to evaluate the humaneness of the death penalty.

In his role at the law firm, in addition to earning $1000 an hour, he mentors new attorneys as he tries to “echo those things I learned from my own mentors.”

Studying the career of Benjamin Civiletti is a genuine aspect of law school tutoring.


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