Diversity Spotlight: Ben Block

Benjamin BlockBen Block is an experienced litigator, having served as first chair in federal and state court trials and appeals, as well as in numerous arbitrations. He has considerable experience litigating and advising sports entities, including the NFL, with regard to a range of matters. On behalf of both sports and non-sports clients, Ben often handles cases involving high-stakes requests for preliminary injunctive relief.

Ben is a member of the National Veterans Legal Services Program Board. He served in the United States Army as an Armor Branch Officer, after attending the U.S. Military Academy, where he also was named a Harry S. Truman Scholar.

You are the first chair of Covington’s new Veterans Affinity Group: How did this group come about and what is the Group’s mission?

Ashden Fein, one of several great associates with prior military background, is an office neighbor of mine. He asked me why the firm didn’t have an official group related to veterans issues. It was a really good question: Covington has already been doing a lot both to recruit veterans and to represent and advocate for veterans and veterans issues. The Affinity Group’s goal is to provide additional support and encouragement of both of those objectives, and to help facilitate the sharing of information and ideas to accomplish them. The Management Committee and Diversity Committee were very supportive of its creation and many other of our firm attorneys have expressed interest in participating. My co-chairs — Larry Hobel and Jason Raofield — and I are very excited to work with them to build on our solid foundation of commitment to these goals.

As a firm, we have a lot of talent and energy that can help (and has helped) veterans, both individually and systemically. And as a firm, we benefit greatly from hiring lawyers with prior military experience: Lawyers with those backgrounds and experiences enrich the diversity of our firm and provide invaluable perspectives and skills for our clients.

In your opinion, how is a military background valuable, advantageous, and unique for a law firm? How do you think Covington views this valuable, honorable experience?

I tell people that I appreciate my military experience more and more the further removed from it I get. West Point and the Army taught me about leadership, critical thinking under pressure, and time management. On active duty, I worked with men and women from all parts of the country and all different backgrounds. Working with such diverse people committed to a shared goal of service challenges you, expands your horizons and perspectives, and makes you a better person.

This firm has long valued military service and supported our veterans. The terrific and tireless work of our recently deceased retired partner, Jim McKay, who argued twenty or more cases in the Court of Appeals for Veteran Appeals, and who was a leader in seeking reforms to facilitate veteran access to lawyers and legal support, is but one example. These firm values are reflected, among other places, in the many Covington attorneys who have worked thousands of hours on veterans matters, and in the number (at least 30, and growing!) of Covington lawyers with prior military service.

What made you decide on a legal career? What attracted you to the field?

I thought that I might be a better lawyer than a soldier. I was pretty sure I would be better at witness examinations and brief writing than marksmanship.

Describe what drew you to Covington?

Jim Garland was a year ahead of me in Law School at UVA. I remember him telling a bunch of us rising 2Ls about his great summer at Covington. That led me to learn more about this terrific firm, its history, and its values. And then somehow I fooled Ed Rippey, who interviewed me on campus, into extending me a summer associate offer.

Describe your path to partnership and if/how your past military experience contributed to your success?

Many parts luck. I think that my military experience had taught me to work hard and efficiently, which was a good foundation. And I’d like to think that it also gave me some confidence and maturity starting out. But it was only through the mentorship provided, and opportunities afforded, by many senior lawyers (a very incomplete list of which would include Gregg Levy, Neil Roman, Anna Engh, Mitchell Dolin, Jeff Elikan, John Hall, George Pappas, Bill Greaney, Steve Anthony, Joanne Grossman, and Bob Long) that I learned to be a good litigator and lawyer.

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