A Little Slice of the American Dream By: Gwendolyn Campbell Creator of Building Businesses Blog
Entrepreneur: Joshua A. Benjamin, Esquire
Degree: Accelerated Juris Doctor from the Drexel Thomas R. Kline School of Law (New Jersey, USA)
One Word That Describes You: Courageous
How We Met: A mutual friend connected us. Thanks, Mark!
The Case Study: We all love stories about the American Dream, and Joshua’s is a perfect example. Joshua was born in Cairo, Egypt. At 4 years old, he and his family immigrated to the United States and landed in New Jersey. Once in the United States, his family had a smooth and lucky immigration process obtaining diversity visas. From childhood, he knew that he wanted to be an attorney, so by the time he got to college, he chose the most accelerated route possible. Joshua ended up obtaining 2 bachelors degrees from Rutgers University, Camden in economics and philosophy. He not only graduated with two degrees, he did it in just 3 years! In order to achieve such a feat, Joshua took full course loads for every semester including summer and winter classes. At times, he had to take classes while on vacations in order to achieve his accelerated goal. Once he was in Egypt for a family wedding and since there is no WiFi in that part of the country, he had to buy a special dongle to have a strong enough internet connection to finish his classes for that semester.
After finishing undergrad a year early, he was admitted to the Drexel Thomas R. Kline School of Law’s Accelerated Juris Doctor program. Most people finish law school in 3 years, but Joshua decided to keep up his accelerated pace and do it in just 2 years. He always had this crazy dream that he would change the world, and still does, so he knew he wanted to take the quickest path to opening up his own law firm.
In hindsight, Joshua says he knows that the accelerated undergraduate track was the best choice for him, but he wishes he would have taken the full three years for law school since it was such a pivotal time for personal and professional growth. Because his main goal was to open up his own firm right after graduating, he didn’t take law school as seriously as he probably should have. Instead of going to every class and striving for the highest grades, he would skip and go to networking opportunities where he started making valuable connections. This decision meant that his first year of practice he learned some third year law school lessons. However, Joshua’s fast track didn’t stop there. Just one month after getting barred, he accomplished the first step in his dream of changing the world by opening up The Law Offices of Joshua A Benjamin shortly after turning 24.
Starting a law firm as an especially young graduate seemed like the more challenging way to get started, but Joshua worked under another successful attorney previously and it was not a positive experience. The other attorney was highly successful with millions of dollars, but was generally mean and angry. From that experience, Joshua learned that he didn’t really want to work for someone else, and since money was not his primary driver, he didn’t trust that he could find someone to work for with the same objective as him. For Joshua, it was all about helping people and he knew that the best way to have the biggest impact was for him to do it his own way. He knew that big money attorneys got there by caring primarily about money, and he had faith in himself that he could be successful by caring about helping his clients first and foremost.
“To open your own law firm you’re either extremely brave or extremely stupid. I’m a little of both,” says Joshua. Quite courageous if you ask me.
Joshua decided to pursue criminal defense and immigration because he wanted to work in the fields where people needed help the most, and where he wouldn’t be just another pencil pusher. He and his family had a relatively easy immigration experience, but that isn’t the case for everyone. He specifically wanted to go into defense because he was a prosecutor in law school and realized that you are more restricted as a prosecutor. As a two time National Trial Champion, he knew that he loved trial and the court room, and was obviously skilled in this area. Working in defense and immigration gives Joshua the opportunity to represent clients that truly need his services, and he gets the instant gratification of helping clients through difficult and life changing challenges. These are also, generally speaking, people that others may take advantage of.
The road so far hasn’t always been easy for Joshua. He talked about one major case where he found out at 3pm that the father’s extension was denied for some immigration proceedings, and as a result, at the age of 24 Joshua had to decide whether or not to advise the father to go to his home country. From 3pm to 3am that day, Joshua dove into researching more information regarding this situation. He found out that had he advised the father to go back to his home country, when the father tried to come back he would’ve been barred from the United States for 3 years. His wife and children could not leave the country for 5 years, so Joshua could have been the reason why this family was separated for at least 3 years. Luckily, Joshua discovered this information prior to advising the father, and the right call was made. However, he states that had there been less emotion involved on his side, he could’ve come to that conclusion a lot sooner and saved the entire family, and himself, a day full of stress. Joshua has a kind heart and cares about each client, but he learned that you truly cannot practice law if you’re emotionally attached to your clients because it will hinder your ability to practice at your best. The best part of this almost tragic story, is that Joshua stated he always uses his mistakes as valuable lessons of how to do things better next time.
Though The Law Offices of Joshua A Benjamin is in its infancy, they have already passed an audit with flying colors, been featured as the Attorney of the Month by the Camden County Bar Association, and were just ranked the 4th best immigration firm in Cherry Hill, NJ after only 6 months in business. The cases are also getting bigger! Joshua just had a case where his client was facing 10 years in jail and came out with only 6 months of probation. Joshua has begun scaling his firm by hiring another attorney as well as an office manager, his best friend since college, both of which have a combined experience of 40 years in practice. He states that hiring these two has been one of his biggest accomplishments so far. He was especially proud of his office manager because Joshua spent about 6 months showing him he had the skills to succeed, but just needed a little push to reach his full potential. Joshua developed an of counsel agreement with the second attorney where they work for each other's firms. The connection with this attorney came from networking in Joshua’s the local bar association. He recommends to everyone to get out and network. Networking doesn’t always have to be about business, it is also a good way to cultivate relationships that may or may not have professional benefits as well. Joshua also released some @thejab_law merchandise to help build up his brand.
Joshua currently works long hours, 7 days a week, but he says owning his own firm comes with additional perks that make the work load more manageable. For example, he is not a morning person, so unless he has to be in court, he typically likes to structure his work days from 10am to 10pm and can take a sick day whenever its needed. He is the boss after all. Joshua says his dream to change the world hasn’t changed since starting his firm, and his incredible drive to improve the lives of others just keeps getting stronger.
Nature vs. Nurture: Joshua opened up his law firm with just $5, a credit score in the 500s, and maxed out credit cards. He typically works 12 hour days and up to 80 hours per week. He is absolutely no stranger to hard work. From his perspective, he was nurtured to work his way up from nothing. Both of his parents came from remote areas of Egypt and had to make a life for themselves and their family in a new country. He saw his family work up from a village in Egypt to making a good living at the director level in the United States, so he had full faith in himself that with hard work he could make his dreams a reality. While nurture played a large role in The Law Offices of Joshua A Benjamin coming to life, his natural selfless personality is what drove him down this path. He has always wanted to help others and has devoted his life to that mission. He currently loves what he is doing and is staying hungry to constantly do even more for his clients and community.
Adversities: As an immigrant from Egypt, Joshua states it is difficult being a minority. He has faced discrimination in his personal life based solely on his race, but his religion, Coptic Christian, helps him get through it. Facing discrimination has inspired him to plan on eventually expanding into the arena of civil rights to make more of a direct impact as an attorney.
Another major adversity for Joshua has been his age. While it is extremely impressive that he was able to cut 2 whole years off of the typical law degree timeline, some people think he is not good enough because he is young. Some assume he isn’t smart enough, experienced enough, or a hard worker. The truth is, he has had to handle tough cases, including graphic asylum and torture cases, yet there are still those who think he can’t handle their speeding ticket. Ageism is unfortunately a struggle for young people in many industries.
He also promoted his brand by creating The Law Offices of Joshua A Benjamin merchandise which turned out to be surprisingly polarizing. People were either huge supporters or wouldn’t take him seriously because he was selling merchandise. Go figure.
"Dreams will seem scary, impossible, and impractical. The biggest problem that people will face when opening a business is the idea of not being good enough or smart enough or wealthy enough, etc. You are enough. You are strong enough. You are smart enough. You don’t need money to follow your dream. Whatever the thing is that’s holding you back, don’t let it be your own mind,” advises Joshua.
I love how Joshua practices what he preaches by believing wholeheartedly in himself and his cause.
Long Term Goals: Unsurprisingly, Joshua’s long term goal is to change the world for the better. He wants to grow his firm to handle every part of law in every state of the country. His long term goals won’t involve monetary milestones, but he is very competitive and wants to give his best. He wants his firm to become so far reaching that he can help thousands, or more, of people both directly and indirectly. He is hoping to retire around the age of 65 as the best attorney he could possibly be with Joshua Benjamin becoming a commonly known name.
Gwenalysis: In my humble opinion, Joshua’s drive is nothing short of remarkable. His parents immigrated to the United States and worked their way up from nothing which set a great example for Joshua. From a young age, he had to face discrimination simply for being a minority, but never let that deter him from chasing his dreams. Once he decided on becoming an attorney and helping others, his entire life track revolved around that goal. Instead of goofing off through college, he took the most accelerated path possible in order to cut 2 whole years off the traditional pace. While I wouldn’t recommend maxing out your credit cards in order to start your business, in Joshua’s case it simply aligned with his priorities. Money is not his main priority, so he was willing to sacrifice in order to start changing lives sooner. His drive is so strong that I firmly believe there was no way he was going to fail. Even if he had to practice law out of a cardboard box, I can guarantee that wouldn’t have stopped him. It is so refreshing to see someone, especially an attorney, revolving their life around helping others with a mission to change the world for the better. It takes a special kind of selfless person to actually make that happen, and Joshua is a perfect example. The American Dream is still alive and well, folks. With hard work and strong drive, you too can make your dreams come true just like Joshua did.