Opportunities for disabled attorneys are increasing both through advances in technology and changing attitudes toward the rights and abilities of those with handicaps. In this special report, The National Law Journal profiles disabled attorneys forging successful careers at large law firms, on the bench, as solo practitioners and at one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools.
Lawyers with disabilities are making headway
When it comes to the number of attorneys and aspiring attorneys with disabilities, the picture is far from clear because few groups collect detailed information on disabled attorneys. Advocates say that is one reason why efforts to increase their presence throughout the profession have lagged behind the parallel pushes to boost the number of women and minorities. Still, doors are opening more and more for disabled attorneys.
From Supreme Court clerk to appellate advocate
Isaac Lidsky has come close to achieving a paperless law office. That’s because Lidsky, an associate in the New York office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, is blind, and paper is not of much use to him. Almost all the documents he deals with are reformatted by a team of support staff for special software that reads the documents aloud to Lidsky.
Wisconsin judge overcomes hearing impairment
Richard Brown has relied on technology and perseverance to build a prestigious legal career despite almost complete deafness. After stints as an assistant district attorney and litigator at a private law firm in Racine, Wis., Brown was elected to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in 1978 and now serves as chief judge.
An energetic advocate for disabled law students
Elizabeth Kolbe, a Stanford 2L with a spinal cord injury, hopes that opportunities for law students with disabilities will increase with improved advocacy. She’s the vice president of the National Association of Law Students With Disabilities, a resource for disabled law students seeking tips on academic accommodations and careers.
Going solo is the best fit for some disabled lawyers
Disabled lawyers across the country say hanging out a shingle helps them manage their physical needs and limitations. Those who receive Social Security disability benefits can maximize income without exceeding government-benefit restrictions and even provide low-cost or free legal help to disabled and low-income clients.