Peter C. Bennett, Jr.

Peter C. Bennett, Jr. is a Senior Litigation Paralegal in the Antitrust and Intellectual Property Departments at Mayer Brown LLP in their Washington, DC location. He is an active member of the National Capital Area Paralegal Association (NCAPA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). He previously served as a Director on NCAPA’s Board.

PRTW: There are many avenues for becoming a paralegal. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a paralegal?
PB: I was a history major in college and always loved history throughout my life, but I also loved the law and thought about going to law school after college graduation. I heard several of my friends were paralegals so I thought I would check that out; and I became a paralegal after I got my certificate from Georgetown University.

PRTW: Why did you choose the paralegal profession?
PB: I didn’t choose the paralegal profession it kind of chose me as I started to work as a paralegal. Even though I took the LSAT several times, I was falling in love with being a paralegal. Ever since - I have not looked back.

PRTW: Tell us about someone who has influenced your decision to become a paralegal.
PB: My parents have always been supportive of whatever I do, just as long as I do it to the best of my ability. They have always been interested in the paralegal field, as has my wife.

PRTW: Paralegals have a variety of career options to specialize in, from patent law to elder law to technology law to criminal law. What is your specialty & why did you choose it? Have you worked in other specialities? Why did you change specialties?
PB: I chose to work in the Antitrust Group and then the Intellectual Property Group because I am very interested in Mergers & Acquisitions and Patent Work. They are also very document intensive and utilize much discovery, so it keeps a paralegal very busy. I started out doing Insurance Coverage Defense work which really taught me a lot about litigation, but I wanted a chance to work on other types of litigation since it was a very “dry” type of law.

PRTW: What advice would you give someone interested in choosing the paralegal profession?
PB: I would say you need to be flexible in any work that you are asked to do and be a good listener and very organized. Also your first job as a paralegal probably will not be your last, so it’s better to get in the door and start working as a paralegal to obtain experience than to hold out for your “dream paralegal job” which may not come right away.

PRTW: What do you think will change in the paralegal profession in the United States the next five years? What is the best way for a paralegal to prepare for these changes? With this mind, what changes will you make to continue being a successful paralegal?
PB:  I think technology, at least in litigation part of the law but in many other phases, will take the place of many jobs that paralegals used to do, such as redactions, document review for keywords and phrases, comparisons of documents, etc., so paralegals will have to be more nimble on their feet, efficient, and come up with new ways to make themselves more useful and important. Paralegals need to obtain more education in whatever specialty they are in with modern technology and how it has affected that type of law. For me, I attend a lot of conferences and free webinars and have also taken some classes at night so that I am up-to-speed about what is going on and I can be a useful resource for my attorneys.

PRTW: What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
PB: I would say stay focused on education, but don’t take life so seriously that it affects your health and keep your mind open to new avenues for a career since you never know what may come your way.

PRTW: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I cry at sad movies, sometimes can’t remember people’s names, and my guilty pleasures are Gossip Girl, The Hills, and Laguna Beach.

PRTW: Paralegals can be employed in different sectors, such as private or public sectors. What sector are you currently employed in? Do you believe paralegals employed in each of these sectors possess different skillsets? If so, what are they?
PB: I work in the private sector at a major international law firm in their Washington, D.C. office. I believe that paralegals in both the private and the public sector need to have the same qualities, but possibly the paralegals in the public sector really need to love the department they are in and/or the type of law they are practicing since it is a bit harder to move around in the public sector that it is in the private sector.

PRTW: What do you find most challenging about being a paralegal? How do you continue to do your best work in light of these challenges?
PB: I believe the most challenging parts of being a paralegal is the law is always changing and attorneys are not the best communicators. We need to overcome both of these challenges to stay as great as a paralegal. I continue to keep abreast of everything that is going in in the law by utilizing webinars, blogs, internet, newspapers, and any other media that I see fit. I am proactive in dealing with the attorneys and asking them what the work product they want should look like.

PRTW: Name a highlight in your career.
PB: Winning several antitrust cases, helping out with an ITC trial, and winning Paralegal of the Year for NCAPA in 2014. It’s always great when a case that you work so hard on and put your blood, sweat, and tears into goes to trial and then you win the case. Best feeling ever!!!

PRTW: What is the best book you have ever read & why?
PB: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, because it hit on so many different topics such as relationships, coming of age, society as a whole, and it was the type of story that you cannot put stop reading.

PRTW: What is one law in your speciality that people would be interested to hear about? Why are you interested in it?
PB: The Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR Act) in the field of antitrust law since for every merger of two entities/corporations for a certain monetary amount or over an HSR Filing has to been done for the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Bureau of Competition and the US Department of Justice – Antitrust Division. It teaches you so much about both companies for each merger and gets you acclimated to many of the documents. It is a must-know process and law in the antitrust field.

PRTW: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your career what would it be?
PB: Be flexible and try and learn everything you can about any type of law. You never know when that may help you. Work hard, try your best, and never get too stressed out since tomorrow is never that far away.

PRTW: What was your educational path?
PB: I got my B.A. in History from Hampden-Sydney College in Southside VA in May 1992 and then after a few years working in another field got my Paralegal Certificate from Georgetown University Legal Assistant Program in October 1994. I have been a working paralegal ever since.

PRTW: How do you deal with stressful situations?
PB: I just take a deep breath and do my best in whatever the stressful situation is. I always try to find a solution, and I get used to people dealing with stress in different ways.

PRTW: You have a Paralegal Certificate from Georgetown University. What did you do to obtain this certificate? How has the certificate helped you in your career?
PB: I received a Paralegal Certificate from Georgetown University’s Legal Assistant Program in October 1994. I had to take approximately 16 law classes covering various topics. It definitely got me in the door for job interviews and also helped prepare me of what to expect when working in a law firm.

PRTW: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?
DS: The biggest risk I have ever taken was probably leaving a very good paralegal job at Reed Smith LLP with no other job set-up in the Fall of 2002 since litigation work had somewhat dried up there. I wanted to do contract work to check out other firms and see really where I wanted to work. That gamble paid off as I started at Mayer Brown LLP as an experienced litigation paralegal on a temp-to-perm basis in 2004 and was full-time by early 2005; I am still there and enjoying it immensely.

PRTW: What skills should a paralegal learn today?
PB: Every paralegal nowadays should know The Bluebook for Legal Citations in and out, be up-to-date on all legal technology. You also need to learn how to be flexible, organized, and always learning a new topic, process, etc.

PRTW: What do you find most rewarding about being a paralegal?
I love being a paralegal since every day is a new challenge, and we are always learning a new thing. It is challenging, but we are very important and necessary to our case teams; it’s a great feeling to be appreciated. But mostly, I love the feeling of working hard and leaving for the day with that saying in my mind, “Job Well Done.”

PRTW: What role does mentorship play in your career, both as a mentor and a mentee?
PB: I have definitely learned from older paralegals and attorneys that are very active in the paralegal field. I also have trained junior paralegals and gotten a lot out of seeing them grow. We haven’t had an organized mentorship program at any of the firms I have worked with so I can’t say it was very important in my career but it is still important.

PRTW: If you could change one thing about the paralegal profession what would it be, and why?
PB: I would have attorneys take a mandatory “Las Administration 101” course including “Introduction to Paralegals” in one of the years of law school so they may know how to utilize us better right off the bat. This way we could get more responsibility from all attorneys and be a more integral part of all legal teams.

PRTW: What legal blogs do you read?
PB: I read Law360 for Competition and IP, LawTech, and any providers websites and webinars for ediscovery. All of which are very helpful.

PRTW: What legal podcasts do you listen to?
PB: I listen to anything related to eDiscovery which various ediscovery providers, law firms, and some government entities put on. Most of them are free.

PRTW: If you weren't a paralegal, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
PB: I would be a history teacher since I love history and was a history major in college.

Peter can be reached via
email, Facebook, and LinkedIn.