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01/30/2023 “Diversity Push for Attorneys with Disabilities” By Kaylee McGrath

To provide my readers on how I decide on newsworthy articles related and non-related to disabilities, I simply spend a few hours a week researching topics. Just a few days before Christmas, I stumbled across several articles on attorneys with disabilities not only in the US but also in the UK. At first, I wasn’t sure how to write the article but knew it was worthwhile to at least try to convey the message behind the push for diversity within the law profession.

As I have many times explained in my weekly blogs, various physical, mental, or non-visible/hidden disabilities show no discrimination of gender, if you are rich, poor, or if you are handsome or pretty. Once you have a disability you own it for life! It is how you embrace your disability and rise above it is how you can and will succeed going through life with your challenges. Successful attorneys and big law firms across the US as well in the UK have been involved with “Changing the Culture” regarding lawyers with disabilities.

It is known that less than 2% of lawyers identify as being disabled. This is possibly because of lingering stigmas that attorneys with disabilities are looking to force a culture change in Big Law. Disability affinity groups at large law firms offer support and networking opportunities for attorneys with disabilities. Disabilities is taking its place alongside race, orientation, and gender as Big Law improves its diversity and inclusion efforts and a booming market has increased recruiting battles.

One attorney, and principal at a Birmingham, Alabama law firm, who has the bone condition “Osteogenesis Imperfecta” stated, “Attorneys and individuals with disabilities certainly have unique perspectives to bring to the table, and businesses and law firms are really beginning to see the value in inclusion.

Changing the Culture

Various groups are reframing conversations around law where having a disability was once viewed as a career impediment. Some lawyers with disabilities went to great lengths to conceal their conditions out of fear it would derail advancement. The former treasurer of the now disbanded National Association of Attorneys with Disabilities stated, “I’m legally blind, so I can pass as a sighted person,” “I would hesitate to disclose because I’m afraid it’s going to catch on that maybe I’ll need some type of accommodation, like purchasing software to help me for my work computer.” The American Bar Association’s Pledge for Change: Disability Diversity in the Legal Profession was introduced in April 2019, but so far, as of January 2022, only 39 firms among the American Law 100 list have signed it.

A large US Law Firm, who did sign the pledge, launched its Looking for Excellence and Advancement of Disabled Attorneys at their company a few years ago, in 2016. This firm wanted to encourage others in Big Law firms to join the cause to make it easier for those with disabilities to come together and feel supported. The law firm also stated, “With a characteristic like disability, you don’t have something set up where you can identify each other. And then having a group that’s visible, it signals, both internally and externally, what type of place you are that supports people with disabilities and says that they’re welcome and that they can succeed at a business or at a firm like the one that you’re in.”

Source of Information: Various Google Searches

Until Next Week, Stay Safe and Well!

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