Richardson Delivers Groundbreaking Presentation at Conference on Attorneys with Disabilities
On June 16, 2009, Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) executive director Veta T. Richardson presented a white paper at the National Conference on the Employment of Lawyers with Disabilities, which was held in Washington, DC. MCCA believes that the paper represents the first-of-its-kind examination of the professional experiences of attorneys with disabilities who work in AmLaw 200 law firms.
An Examination of the Professional Experiences and Challenges Faced by Attorneys with Disabilities Who Work at Large Law Firms included a great deal of information derived from MCCA research released earlier this year.1 The paper examined experiences and perspectives of attorneys with disabilities in four key areas: strategic leadership and commitment; recruiting and the myth of the “meritocracy;” inclusion and work environment; and professional development and retention. The paper also addressed special findings with regard to work/life balance concerns of attorneys with disabilities, as well as anecdotal first-person perspectives provided by the survey participants. MCCA offered a checklist of “special tips and recommendations” based upon its research to address the shortcomings.
The findings reveal that law firms received high marks for overall diversity commitment; nevertheless, when it comes to inclusion of attorneys with disabilities, most firms need to expand their efforts to include this group of lawyers and address their concerns. Women attorneys with disabilities in particular reported significant problems, including the timeliness of feedback received, understanding the “unwritten rules” to advancement within their firms, receiving the training to perform the work, exposure to client relationships, coaching and mentoring, and sufficiency of assignments to meet the firm’s billable-hour requirements.
The conference was convened by the American Bar Association and co-hosted by the Association of Corporate Counsel and MCCA. This year’s program aimed to encourage large legal employers (particularly corporations and law firms) to sign pledges to promote diversity and inclusion within the workplace, with an emphasis on hiring and retaining lawyers with disabilities; develop best practices for promoting disability diversity and inclusion; and identify legal employers and work settings that are models for the legal profession. The conference is part of the sponsors’ commitment to open the legal profession to lawyers with disabilities.
MCCA plans to present more information about the conference in a future issue of Diversity & the Bar. DB
1 Both the white paper mentioned here and the underlying research, found in Sustaining Pathways to Diversity: The Next Steps in Understanding and Increasing Diversity & Inclusion in Large Law Firms (2009), are available at www.mcca.com under the Research tab.
From the July/August 2009 issue of Diversity & The Bar®