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Law student receives prestigious Baker Donelson award

September 6, 2013

As a Cuban-American from Miami, Fla., Loyola University New Orleans College of Law evening student Carlos “Chuck” Benach ’09, uses his distinct perspective on cultural differences as a learning tool, helping others understand diversity. Recognizing his efforts, he was one of only three nationwide to receive the 2013 Baker Donelson Diversity Award.

Established in 2008 by the law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, the firm awards annual scholarships to diverse law school students who have completed their first year of law school. Each recipient receives a salaried summer associate position in one of the firm’s 19 offices in seven states. Upon completion of the summer position, the recipients also receive a $10,000 scholarship. Benach will be a summer associate in the firm’s New Orleans office.

A former baseball player in his undergrad years at Loyola, Benach clearly illustrated his cultural open-mindedness in an essay he wrote in an application for the diversity award. In the essay, Benach detailed his perspective on the criticism of Hispanics in the New Orleans community following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Benach wrote in the essay about his undergraduate years at Loyola, “I quickly realized that it was not contempt that fueled these sentiments, but misunderstanding, so I began to use moments of ignorance as an opportunity to teach and clarify. The confidence to address and utilize these teaching points was fostered by a strong academic education that emphasized real-world issues and critical problem solving skills.”

Currently working at Kean Miller LLP in New Orleans, Benach taught English and coached baseball at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie for three years before enrolling in law school.

“As a former Baker Donelson associate, I am extremely proud of the firm for committing to diversity and for recognizing Chuck's unique talents,” said Sandi Varnado, J.D., associate professor of law. “As Chuck's obligations professor, I am extremely proud of him for landing this award. Having worked there and having seen the quality of lawyers, summer interns and award recipients, I can assure you that Chuck's competition was fierce.”

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