Perspective: Dr. Patricia Bennett

January 14, 2019

 

PHOTO BY NICOLE NORWOOD

 

 

 

Where are you from?

 

I am a native of Forest, Mississippi.

 

 

How long have you lived in the Jackson area?

 

I came to the Jackson area in 1971 to attend Tougaloo College. Upon graduation from Tougaloo College, I remained in Jackson and attended Mississippi College School of Law. I made the Jackson area my home and currently live in Clinton.

 

 

 

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

 

I always had a sense that I wanted to be a lawyer. As a child, I would watch the television show Perry Mason. The show confirmed and solidified my desire not just to be a lawyer, but to be a trial lawyer. My ambition was fulfilled by my years serving as a state and federal prosecutor trying cases.

 

 

 

Where have you worked before becoming dean of the law school?

 

I was admitted to the Mississippi Bar in 1979. My first legal position was with the Small Business Administration. This was in 1979 after the flood that became known as the Easter Flood of 1979. My position was Disaster Counsel and I assisted individuals and businesses with emergency loans. This position and the circumstances of working with people who had lost everything set the tone for my entire legal career. I learned to be a fighter for victims and helped them maneuver the process to get the assistance they needed. I later worked as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Mississippi, an Assistant District Attorney and an Assistant United States Attorney. In 1989, I joined the faculty of Mississippi College School of Law. In each of my positions, I have worked one-on-one with people in need of assistance. I consider myself a servant, even in my current position. I like helping people.

 

 

 

This is the first time in the history of the Mississippi Bar that there will be two consecutive female presidents. What does that mean to you?

 

I am the third female and the first African American female president of The Mississippi Bar. I am the second African American president in the history of The Mississippi Bar. Former Justice Reuben Anderson is the only other African American to serve as president. Attorney Amanda Jones Tollison will become president in July. It is encouraging to women and young lawyers to see African Americans and women being elected to leadership positions. We see greater involvement and participation of the membership that is representative of our leadership. We strive to be more than a mandatory bar association. We want to be a diverse and inclusive bar in all activities, participation and roles of leadership.

 

 

 

What is the most rewarding part of your job(s)?

 

The most rewarding part of my job is helping people realize their dream to become a lawyer. I like encouraging and helping people. When students come by my office for a “pep talk” or encouragement and leave with a sense that I have helped them, I feel personally rewarded by being able to encourage or bolster morale, help with a financial problem or some other personal problem. Members of the Mississippi Bar make immeasurable contributions to the profession as they work to advance justice with a commitment and dedication to providing sound, competent advice and counsel to everyday working citizens, the government, sophisticated business clients, and companies. I am honored to be a member of the Bar and privileged to serve as president.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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