Benny Agosto, Jr.: One of A Kind
Story By: Alejandro Alives
When reviewing the career and life of Benny Agosto, Jr. it’s possible to doubt there’s only one of him. Is the Benny Agosto who represents state and national clients at Texas’ oldest personal injury law firm the same Benny Agosto who litigates major cases on catastrophic injuries and protecting clients’ rights? Is the Benny Agosto who helps plan for municipal disaster relief and runs two philanthropic foundations also the same Benny Agosto who is set to be president of the Houston Bar Association, and who just oversaw the launch of The Hispanic Law Review at his alma mater, the South Texas College of Law at Houston?
Indeed, it is the same Benny Agosto. And while he loves his various professional roles and community projects, he admits it’s not always easy being just one person.
“It can be hard to juggle everything,” he concedes. “I only sleep five or six hours a day. It wears on you physically and mentally. But I’m used to it, and the more you have on your plate, the more you get done. I love my work and I like to catapult youth and help others — with scholarships, with mentoring. I’m blessed that I am in a position to do positive things.”
Agosto is the son of parents with sixth-grade education who pushed him to reach for great things while growing up in Puerto Rico. Today, Agosto shares that message with a new generation of Latino and Latina youth in the Houston area. And he himself remains a model of hard work and constructive ambition.
“The lawyers who rise to positions of influence do more than the same thing every day,” says Agosto, a former president of the Hispanic National Bar Association. “They are always learning, doing more. I am always studying — holding focus groups, doing mock trials. I always want to be the most prepared person in the room.”
To help prepare the next generation of high-powered Latino and Latina lawyers and leaders, Agosto founded the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation. The foundation has so far raised more than $250,000 to support the education of Hispanic, Houston-area law students.
“Professionally developing lawyers start with providing strong education opportunities,” says Agosto. “We have to build the pipeline, from early education to professional development. It’s hard work being at the top, but also you have to reach down and bring folks with you. It has to be a concerted community effort — both to promote business opportunities and bring young leaders up. We have people in our community to look up to. Mentoring is important.”
For Agosto, an appreciation for culture is part of the formula for developing the new generation. “Top Latino lawyers apply education, culture and work ethic into their field of practice. [Supreme Court Justice Sonia] Sotomayor brings her culture to the table. We need smart Latinos working hard and moving into leadership positions. They are charismatic, hard-working women and men.”
Agosto was recently active in relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. He helped organized interfaith groups to begin prepping for next disaster. He’s also working at the municipal level to make sure all Houston schools have libraries and plans to advocate for this as part of his upcoming presidency of the Houston Bar Association.
With a such a high profile in the community and a track record of success, it is natural that Agosto is often asked if he has political ambitions. But the veteran lawyer is adamant, he has no interest in adding the demands of a campaign to an already frenetic schedule.
“I’m not going to run for office,” he says. “I’m happy working with policy and people. It brings me joy to help others and I feel I’ve made a difference in this world.”