In his pre-beard days, Bennett Lessmann was a high school student who got by on natural smarts. But everything changed when he started college and stepped into Judicial Process in Politics class. Fascinated by the subject and motivated to excel, Bennett realized practicing law was in his future.
“My undergraduate professor used the Socratic method. He called on people and made them feel bad if they didn’t know the answers. So, what started as a 75-person class dwindled to 23 survivors. I thrived as I enjoyed proving the professor wrong.” said Bennett.
Bennett was always loyal, direct, unvarnished and protective of the people he loved. But when he became disciplined in college, Bennett and his newly formed beard took on a whole new persona. He became a competitor and a fighter–a trait he carried with him through life and his future career.
At 19, Bennett started competing in powerlifting competitions. Fourteen weeks before contests, he began tireless training regimens, never missing a day because that could cost him a victory.
“I loved lifting because it was a huge stress reliever and an objective measure of progress. Weights don’t lie, which was perfect for me, because I don’t like subjectivity.”
Bennett loved the stress release he felt from weightlifting. He loved winning competitions even more.
“I’m not someone who accepts failure very well. And I don’t shy away from challenges. Sometimes I take challenges too personally, especially when they’re related to injustices.”
Bennett’s passion for winning and tendency to take injustices personally were precisely what made him so successful after graduating from law school years later. And those enduring traits are exactly why his opponents continue to fear the beard in court today.
“My early experience as a prosecutor taught me how to fight for victims of crime and think on my feet, sometimes with little preparation. It was my job to understand the law and how it applies to cases so I could mete out justice and be the voice for the voiceless.”
Bennett served as a prosecutor for a year and a half before transitioning to his first job in personal injury law. There he joined his future co-managing partner, Ian Kleinman where they worked together for several years before founding KL Injury Attorneys.
“Ian and I were ambitious guys and we believed we had the ingredients to run a successful practice the way we envisioned. We wanted to create a boutique firm that treats every client like family. So that’s what we did.”
At KL today, Ian and Bennett collaborate on every case. Ian manages critical operations, while Bennett works in litigation. Together with their paralegals, Ian and Bennett have developed close relationships with their clients. Part of the process is constantly communicating to ensure victims feel comfortable with an often complex and frustrating process.
“It’s very common for insurance companies to assume every victim is lying. So, when I’m working with clients suffering after a life-changing car accident, I have to explain that unfortunate reality. I must explain that if they ever suffered a minor injury in the past, the insurance company may try to claim their pain was due to a pre-existing condition. That means I have to disprove a falsity and that’s a huge injustice for the victim.”
And we all know how Bennett feels about injustices. Fortunately, Bennett has years of experience and cares deeply for KL’s clients, so he never backs down in court.
“In such a case, I explain to the jury that gravity acts upon us all, especially as we age, causing minor aches and pains. But the severe, enduring burning sensation my client feels has nothing to do with aging, and everything to do with the 5,000 pounds of steel he collided with.”
For Bennett, fighting for justice is all about telling his client’s story in a way that allows the jurors to understand what they’re going through. Most of the time, cases run smoothly. But occasionally, Bennett faces the type of opponent that ignites his protective instincts. At that point, it becomes personal.
“I’m always an advocate for our clients. But sometimes, I have to be a fierce advocate.”
Recently Bennett went to bat for Priscilla, a car accident victim who was particularly vulnerable in court. The opposition forced Priscilla to re-live painful aspects of her personal life, and Bennett felt she was treated unfairly.
“I’m not good at tolerating cases where the other side embarrasses my client, or delays, or obstructs justice in some way. I push cases fast. I challenge lawyers to provide the proof the law requires. And I never let my clients get harassed. I’m their voice, so when it’s time to stand up for them, that’s what I do.”
Despite the challenges, Bennett is motivated to fight because he believes the civil justice system is the fairest way to resolve disputes. According to Bennett, in court, the victim and the insurance company are equal in the eyes of the jury.
“I enjoy being a part of the civil justice system. I love telling stories that support my clients and change people’s perceptions.”
While changing perceptions about his clients, Bennett loves disrupting misconceived notions about who he is–the man whose beard precedes him.
“After law school, someone told me about a study that showed jurors distrust men in beards, and I should probably get rid of mine. Sure, the mutton chops had to go, but I knew I was never getting rid of the beard.”
In the years since, Bennett has thought about how some people might perceive him–as a reckless counter-culture ruffian: “And I have to say. I lean into that interpretation. You should fear the guy with the beard because I won’t let my clients get pushed around. If you see the beard, you know who it is.”