2023 BYU Law Honored Alum Steve Bennett (‘90): A Do-er and a Dealmaker

By Ashleigh Wilson November 16, 2023

Steven W. Bennett, BYU Law’s 2023 Honored Alum, has followed a simple scriptural maxim throughout his highly successful career: “Go and Do.” Steve’s go-getter attitude first became apparent in high school when he began exploring the world of entrepreneurship. At the age of 14 Steve started mowing lawns. However, this was not a typical 14-year-old lawn mowing enterprise; Steve was soon the manager of two trucks and two crews, caring from more than 60 yards. 

His business endeavors didn’t stop there. Steve also started a real estate sign company, with real estate signs across Boise, around Meridian, and beyond. While in college, after spending one summer at one of the many established summer sales companies in Provo, Steve decided to take initiative and start his own summer sales program, fearlessly directing a force of 40 sales reps. 

While studying as an undergraduate student, Steve continued to be a go-getter, graduating magna cum laude from BYU’s accounting program. He was strategic about his education and career path, selecting accounting as his undergraduate degree with the end goal of attending law school and eventually working in a career that merged his passion for both law and business.   

During that formative time, Steve had the opportunity to meet David M. Kennedy, former Secretary of the Treasury and U.S. Ambassador to NATO. During his conversation with Ambassador Kennedy, Steve received the companion motto to his “go and do” philosophy. “I shared with Ambassador Kennedy my aspirations to become an attorney,” Steve recalled. “He responded: ‘Steve, there are two types of lawyers: there are deal makers and deal killers. Go out there and be a deal maker.’” As a natural business man with a flair for making and closing deals, this advice resonated with Steve. He decided then and there that he wanted to be an attorney who builds and who fosters progress instead of being an attorney who destroys or obstructs. 

With David M. Kennedy’s words echoing in his mind, Steve began his journey as a BYU Law student. His time at BYU Law tested his determination to be a doer. “I studied with my peers for hundreds upon hundreds of hours,” Steve said. “My friend and I would arrive at the law school at 4 a.m. sharp to ensure that we could get a solid four hours of study completed before our first class. It was intense, but the close friendships I developed with classmates and faculty made it all worthwhile.” This proved to be true, especially when Steve’s 4 a.m. study compatriot later joined his firm as a partner. 

Following graduation, Steve worked at a large regional law firm. Despite the prestigious title, Steve quickly became uncomfortable having his work dictated by someone else. He felt stifled. After a four-year stint at his first firm, Steve decided it was time to go. He gathered his entrepreneurial experience and bravely embarked on the deal of his lifetime—starting his own firm. “I had no plan whatsoever,” Steve remarked about the experience. “My to-do list consisted of three items: buy a desk, buy a filing cabinet, buy a computer.” 

Although starting an independent firm is nearly unprecedented among freshly minted attorneys, Steve said he never lost a minute of sleep over the risky move. He simply moved forward. Luckily, Steve’s clear knack for striking successful deals carried him through. Today, that start-up law firm, the dream of a new lawyer, is Bennett Tueller Johnson & Deere and consists of more than 50 attorneys serving sophisticated clients in fields including litigation, mergers and acquisitions, and estate matters, in a region that serves clients in most of the Western United States. “The firm certainly didn’t turn out the way I expected it to—but that is partly because I had literally no expectations! I just started doing business. That is the key, just starting.” 

Despite his busy schedule, Steve has always made it clear that his family is his highest priority. In the early days of Bennett Tueller Johnson and Deere, he replicated his law school study habits, arriving at work no later than 4 a.m. in order to be home in time for family dinner at 6 p.m. “I realized I could get by without sleep, but I couldn’t get by without my family,” Steve mused. Today, all five of his children are proud BYU graduates. Steve’s most-treasured memories are the times he has spent with them and his wife, Brenda, traveling, skiing, hunting, boating, and biking. 

In addition to his busy work and family schedule, Steve serves on the board of trustees for numerous charitable and philanthropic organizations. Among these service opportunities, the opportunity that means the most to Steve is the time he spent serving in a YSA ward bishopric. “The ward was very diverse,” Steve remembered. “We had PhD students and aspiring WalMart employees. I love those kids. It was a time of big decisions for each of them, and because of this I felt like I could really make a difference. Serving in that ward has been the highlight of my volunteer experience.” 

Having Steve as a member of the bishopric seems to have been a highlight for the YSA ward members too. This year, about 10 years after his service, 75 members of the ward gathered at Steve’s home for a reunion to reminisce on the lessons they learned, the connections they made, and the fun they had. 

If Steve could provide one piece of advice to BYU Law students, he would say this: “There are a lot of problems in the world, but BYU students are truly outstanding. So go and do! The world needs you. Be doers. Be dealmakers. Build your practices, build your businesses, build your clients’ businesses, and build your family. The Lord will bless you as you go out and do!”