Benne C. Hutson
Helms Mulliss & Wicker, Charlotte

The only summer job I had was working for my father in high school and college. He owned a small machine shop in Detroit. He didn’t work 9 to 5. He would wake me up at 4:30 a.m. so we could hit a greasy spoon for breakfast before getting to the shop to open up a little before 6. The day shift ended at 4. We’d stay until almost 6, then head home, clean up, eat and fall asleep so we could do it again the next day. No one in the shop, including my father, had a college education. However, their knowledge and skills in working machines that could turn 8-foot bars of steel into precise parts for automotive transmissions were equal to and more useful than the information most Ph.D.s develop. I learned success means meeting your customer’s needs and to do that you have to listen to find out what those needs are. I also saw firsthand that success in business does not equal success in life. It is more important to make sure that you are there for your wife, your children and your friends.

Vita: Born Aug. 21, 1957, in Southgate, Mich.; bachelor’s from Hillsdale College and law degree from Harvard University; wife and four children. Why he chose this field: I started practicing in Columbus, Ohio. When I walked into work my first day, sitting on my desk were two notebooks with a permit application for a hazardous-waste incinerator. Environmental law was practically brand new in the 1980s. You were not following precedents — you were setting them. It was fun, and most of the time still is. I am also fascinated by the social issues. Memorable case: North Carolina’s first brownfields agreement. Most lawyers never get the chance to do something that has never been done before. What he’d be if not a lawyer: Chef or landscaper. Passions: My wife. My children. My faith. Don’t ask him to: Go to a black-tie affair.