James Bennin (‘07) is the founder and owner of the Onyx IP Group, a 100% Black-owned intellectual property law firm, but his commitment to increased diversity and inclusion within the legal field began long before founding his own law firm.
With the influence of good friends, James decided to attend law school and chose BYU Law. Law school was a wonderful experience for James, filled with unique lessons that deeply impacted him. He recalls one such occasion in Professor Larry Echohawk’s criminal law and procedure class. While discussing unlawful detainment and searches, James was inspired to share his personal connection to the issue. “I shared my experiences of being racially profiled and unlawfully detained. On one occasion, I was handcuffed face down on the pavement at gunpoint for an alleged crime I did not commit. I shared these experiences in 2005 and some people in my class couldn’t believe that things like this were still happening. I was hoping that being able to share my experience would help others in that classroom understand the biases that exist in the world.”
This discussion was a powerful experience in James’ law school career. Inspiring the future attorneys that surrounded him to learn more so that they could make a difference in overcoming these injustices solidified James’ goal of expanding diversity and perspective within the legal profession.
With a bachelor’s degree in computer science from BYU, IP law was a logical next step for James. After working in different organizations and firms, James decided it was time to fulfill a goal that he and his wife had set. They both wanted to find and create more opportunities to allow individuals to receive better educational opportunities, job experiences, and training, all of which would help to stop and reverse cycles that damage and debilitate underrepresented communities. This aspirational goal and many “special circumstances and experiences” led him to establish Onyx. For James, the best part of working in a “100% Black owned IP firm,” is being a part of the way minority-owned businesses and industries create “so much diversity of thought and growth in our society.”
“Different perspectives provide optimum ways to ultimately solve problems,” James stated. “Onyx IP Group is helping to change the narrative”—in many ways, including providing high-class quality work and outstanding service from groups that are underrepresented within the legal industry.
In addition to promoting opportunity and inclusion through his work, James currently serves on the Law Alumni Board’s Leadership & Inclusion Committee. “The committee is filled with alumni that are dedicated and passionate about overcoming challenges. It’s a wonderful group, and we all want to show that BYU Law is on board with increasing diversity and inclusion,” James said. Besides his work with the Alumni Board, James often finds ways to serve and volunteer in his community. He is a youth leader in his congregation and a mentor in a local high school, as well as a volunteer with other local programs.
James often brings his family to service activities and is always searching for ways to give back because he sincerely believes he “has been given so much.” Along with volunteering, James and his family love to stay active: running, biking, boxing, and playing basketball together. His daughters like to dance, while his son does karate, so much of their time is spent supporting each other at tournaments and recitals. “My family is the most important thing in my life,” James states, “and if there is anything we can do to support each other and those around us, we are going to do it.”
If James could offer just one piece of advice to alumni and law students alike, he would say this: “Relationships are important because we need to learn from one another. Make an effort to develop relationships with as many people as you can, especially people of different backgrounds.” James Bennin’s drive to pay it forward, as well as his commitment to diversity, continue to make an impact not only at BYU Law, but among his neighbors and throughout the broader legal community.