LYNDON - If you have ever had two jobs, you know that balancing life and work can be difficult at times. This is a reality for Senator Joe Benning as he balances being both a lawyer and a politician. “It’s not an easy task,” Benning said. “Luckily I have thirty years worth of brownie points with the court clerks and they’ve been really good at accommodating my schedule.”
From an early age, Joe was taught to work hard at what he does. His mom, Terry Benning, had him volunteer at a summer day camp for mentally disabled children at age 11. From there on out he continued to do volunteer work for several years which eventually lead him to being a paid leader for underprivileged children from New York City.
In 1975, Benning began his college days at Lyndon State College where he majored on Social Studies with a minor in history. When at LSC, he became close with Professor Graham S. Newell who was then a State Senator. Joe used Professor Newell as guidance and would eventually serve as a driver for Newell’s senate campaign. Several years later Joe passed his bar exam and began to practice law.
Benning has been practicing for over 30 years in Vermont now as a trial attorney and holds one of two seats as State Senator for Caledonia County. He specializes in family and divorce courts as a lawyer, and as a Republican advocate for marijuana legalization as a senator.
Getting both jobs done is definitely a balancing act. “My court appearances all take place on Mondays and I meet with legal clients on Saturdays and Sunday,” he said. “I also spend a great deal of time on the internet answering constituent questions and negotiating deals for legal clients.” His law practice gets relegated to Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays while the legislature is in session.
Benning said that both careers are difficult in their own ways and has favorite and less favorable parts of them as well. “My favorite part of legal work is meeting with clients and conducting jury trials,” he said. While his least favorite part is dealing with difficult clients.
“My favorite part of legislating is feeling like I am part of something much bigger than myself,” Benning said. “The least favorite part is getting proposals blocked by people who disagree with my position.”
Looking back on his career, he said both of his jobs remain exciting and challenging. However, “At this stage in life I definitely prefer the legislative role over the legal one,” he said.