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Joshua Mendelsohn saw a need and decided to fill it. The result is a brand-new Web site called www.deaflawyers.org, a self-described “resource for deaf/hard-of-hearing attorneys and law students” that’s unique to the Internet. It offers everything from links that would be useful to deaf lawyers to a site where visitors can share “war stories.” Mendelsohn, a 31-year-old lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division in Washington, D.C., says he got the idea for the Web site when he noticed that the number of deaf lawyers in the United States is growing at a quicker pace. “It used to be only 20 to 40 [deaf lawyers] 10 years ago,” he says. “And now it has really boomed.” Estimates range from 100 to 150. A greeting at the site says deaflawyers.org is intended to provide “a ‘safe zone’ where deaf and hard-of-hearing attorneys and law students can gather, find resources, hold discussions with each other, and share tips on the practice or study of law.” Started Feb. 2, the Web site had logged only 142 visitors as of Thursday morning. But there were already signs of interest, with three attorneys having already posted one “war story” each. One was filed by a lawyer who defended a deaf boy in a criminal case in the wilds of northern British Columbia, while another was from a man claiming to have successfully fought a habeas corpus petition filed by California’s Hillside Strangler. A third was by a Massachusetts attorney offering advice on how to pass bar exams. The site also features photos and miniature bios of different deaf lawyers nationwide. “I wanted to personalize [the site] by showing deaf attorneys from all over, along with some information on them,” Mendelsohn says. “Perhaps someone would see this and say, ‘This person is just like me.’ “ During a telephone interview about the site, Mendelsohn — a graduate of UCLA School of Law — signed his answers to his full-time interpreter, 36-year-old Eric Darius, who then translated the answers. Mendelsohn says the reaction to the Web site has been favorable among deaf lawyers. “They think it’s overdue,” he says. Kirstin Wolf, a deaf associate at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, agrees, saying such a Web site gives most non-hearing lawyers and law students a place to discuss issues, problems and triumphs that only other deaf people could appreciate. “Even excluding lawyers, deaf chat on the Internet is immense,” she says clearly after an interpreter signs a question during a phone interview. “People are talking about life and things they can’t talk to with friends or co-workers.” Technology, she and Mendelsohn say, is opening up a new world of communication for the deaf. “We have somebody from Australia who really loves this [site],” Mendelsohn says, “and has been able to contact and meet other deaf lawyers.” Web site visitors, he says, also have signed on from England, Belgium, Canada and other countries. The concept has been so successful that Mendelsohn wants to plan a gathering for deaf lawyers next year in Washington. “That,” he says, “should be fun.”

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