The Benzo Way

From paralegal to partner to president—and now principal at Benzo Law—it’s been a steady climb for Tracee R. Benzo

Published in 2016 Georgia Super Lawyers — March 2016

When Dean Richardson Lynn presented Tracee R. Benzo, class of 2008, with the John Marshall Law School’s Distinguished Alumni Award in Chicago six years later, he said, “She will eventually be president of any organization she joins.”

One down, anyway. Benzo, a workers’ comp attorney, is the immediate past president of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys (GABWA). “I like to galvanize other people and be of service, with the law as my catalyst,” she says.

Benzo ushered in her 2014 tenure with GABWA—the almost 1,000-member strong group dedicated to nurturing and supporting black women attorneys—with the message “Honoring our Past, Envisioning our Future.”

Part of that future was harnessing technology. “We started online streaming, so even those outside the country can attend CLEs or general body meetings,” she says. “We were able to bring everyone together.”

Other points in her initiative included a focus on increasing diversity in the state’s judiciary. “We led seminars to educate voters and lawyers about the judiciary and the voting process,” she says. “We are activists. GABWA gets in before anyone else is willing to say one word.”

During her tenure, GABWA created a documentary, Her Story, about the history of the organization, and saw membership numbers hit record levels—a point of pride for Benzo. Her relationship with GABWA began in law school, when she was the recipient of the organization’s foundation scholarship.

“Let me tell you, these women put you to work,” she says. “And I am grateful. I got so much out of it, even when I was just a person in the room. I climbed the ranks, not setting out to be president, but the role was a fantastic leadership opportunity—once you finish that tenure, you feel ready to take on anything.”

Like starting a solo shop, which Benzo did in March 2015. It was just one more transition to add to Benzo’s history of move-making. Her first stop was Hasner Law in Atlanta. “I was my ex-law partner’s paralegal, then I became an associate, then partner,” she says. “I learned so much at Hasner; I grew up there, built my own book of business. But it was time for me to leave the nest and fly, to do it the Benzo way: top-tier litigation boutique services. I want to change Georgia and the world, and this is my first stop.

“I was just reading an article, ‘Why Small Businesses Fail,’ because I want to know why,” she says, adding, “That won’t happen here. I’m so energized and rejuvenated to succeed. I recently set up our health insurance plan … even doing that on my own invigorated my spirit.”

With a statewide workers’ compensation practice, there’s nothing typical about Benzo’s day. “I’m either working on business issues, or attending mediation, or spending time with clients,” she says. One of those was a 35-year-old woman who received a telephone call on the morning of her 10th wedding anniversary that her husband was killed.

“She’s waiting for her husband to come home, to go out and celebrate a decade of love; meanwhile, his supervisor is backing up an 18-wheeler that crushes him,” Benzo says. “We were able to get that case accepted, paid out and settled under workers’ comp.”

She also had a recent client who couldn’t read or write. “He needed me to be his lawyer because he couldn’t do these simple things,” she says. “Now he knows we’re going to educate him, advocate for him. Story after story, that’s our motto: to educate and to advocate. It is a great responsibility. I know we’re changing the world one family at a time.”

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