Ben Chater recently delivered his final oral argument in Law Professor David Robertson’s seven-person Maritime Injuries Litigation seminar. Dressed in a dark suit, the 26-year-old moved to the front of the class prepared to embrace another challenge — just one of many he has sought while overcoming obstacles most people would find unimaginable.
Chater, who was born with cerebral palsy, has a lifelong physical disability. He is unable to speak clearly and has difficulty controlling his arms and legs. He uses a power wheelchair, and requires help with almost all of his daily personal needs. Chater hires and manages seven people to assist him with grooming, eating and other daily tasks.
He also must juggle the rigorous demands of law school: reading, researching and writing. Chater opens books, turns pages and types papers (15-20 words a minute) on a laptop using a “headstick,” an aluminum rod with a custom tip attached to a headband.
“We all have to play the hand we were dealt,” said Chater, a native of Montpelier, Vt. “My goal for life is to figure out how to play my hand as best I possibly can.”
Chater has done extraordinarily well academically, and participates in intramural mock trial competitions, serves as the submissions editor for the student journal Texas Review of Litigation, and works 20 hours a week as a criminal law clerk at the Travis County Attorney’s Office. Chater, who plans to take the Texas Bar Exam in July, would like to eventually practice as an appellate attorney.
Chater’s attitude is always cited by classmates, law faculty and staff as consistently being more positive than anyone else they know.
“He is an extraordinarily humble person and never, ever complains about his condition or even alludes to the fact that law school might be more difficult for him than other law students,” said Bob Dolehide, a close friend and classmate.
Although Chater speaks more slowly than his classmates and faces rigid time limits, he’s learned to be more deliberate and on-point with his arguments and answers questions more directly and succinctly — an asset that helped him win his final maritime case in class.
“I thrive on challenge,” Chater said. “I’ve learned in law school, and in life, how much you can accomplish if you actively seek out and embrace challenges.”