Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lawyers with Disabilities

How many lawyers with disabilities are there? What challenges do they face? What accommodations are offered in the workplace? See The Second National Conference on the Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities: A Report from the American Bar Association for the Legal Profession (2009) (99-page PDF).
Check out the Lawyers with Disabilities portal on the American Bar Association's website.
The ABA's Commission on Mental and Physical Disabilities offers a mentor program that "pairs prospective law students, law students, and recent law school graduates with disabilities with a mentor."
Prof. Donald Stone has studied several aspects of lawyers with disabilites, such as accommodations in taking the bar exam and mental health screening in bar admissions. His most recent work looks at the workplace:
This Article proceeds in seven parts. Part I briefly outlines the ADA's position on reasonable accommodations. Part II addresses how law firms are reacting and responding to the fact that they employ lawyers with mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, attorneys with learning disabilities, and individuals with alcohol or drug addiction. What disabilities are most often represented? Are lawyers with disabilities apt to receive work modifications to accommodate their disability? Are attorneys with mental illness provided with less stressful case assignments? Are lawyers with substance use disorders and alcohol or drug addiction assigned co-counsel to monitor or offer support to the disabled individual?

Part III of this Article outlines the annual ABA report on lawyers with disabilities, which includes recommendations as to how employers should accommodate disabled persons from the hiring process through employment. A fundamental concern underlying the provision of reasonable accommodations within the law firm is the potentially negative impact on client representation. Part IV of this Article analyzes the balancing act of providing reasonable accommodations to the disabled lawyer and the importance of providing competent representation to the client. Part V examines attorney disciplinary proceedings pursuant to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in order to shed light on the issues related to the disabled lawyer. Part VI discusses and analyzes court decisions in the area of reasonable accommodations in the workplace to note the impact of the ADA and the direction in which courts are heading as they tackle this challenging and significant area of law.
Empirical data contained in this Article serves as a backdrop for purposes of elaboration and comparison of these and other questions. Attorneys from fifty law firms in nine states were surveyed to obtain data and their opinions on questions relating to employment accommodations by law firms. Because of the significant number of disabled lawyers entering the workforce and seeking modifications and accommodations, such an inquiry is well warranted. Law firms are beginning to grapple with the disabled lawyer's claim for fair and equitable treatment, while still serving their clients to the best of their ability. Part VII presents and analyzes this empirical data. In conclusion, this Article offers recommendations regarding fair and equitable reasonable accommodations for disabled lawyers in the workplace.
For more of his work, see Prof. Stone's SSRN page.

Happy Disability History Awareness Month!

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