Based on Accenture research, legal employers should include disability in their diversity outreach efforts. The recent report from Accenture can be found here: https://accntu.re/2ULFjZQ.
The Accenture webpage linked above includes Chad Jerdee, Accenture’s General Counsel, who’s been very public about his own disability. In fact, he discussed his own disability during an interview in the international law firm Mayer Brown’s DC office, and chaired an Annual Meeting of Disability:IN, where he gave the keynote address. In materials for the Annual Conference, the Accenture General Counsel discussed his own disability, and the benefits legal employers would get by including disability in their diversity and inclusion efforts.
The Accenture report finds a link between disability inclusion and higher revenue, higher net income, and higher profit margin. The study builds on earlier reports that show disability inclusion results in more innovation, improved productivity, and a better work environment.
According to an Accenture press release on the study (https://accntu.re/2VZyNze), the analysis reveals four (4) key actions that organizations can take to attract, hire, retain, and advance diverse talent:
- Employ: Legal employers must ensure that persons with disabilities are represented in their workplace. Beyond hiring, legal employers should implement practices that encourage and promote persons with disabilities.
- Enable: Legal employers must provide employees with disabilities with accessible tools and technology, and/or a formal accommodations program.
- Engage: To foster an inclusive culture, organizations must generate awareness-building through recruitment efforts, a disability education program, and a grassroots-led effort (for example, an employee resource group). The international bank Société Générale recently put a US lawyer in control of its international employee resource group on disability, but even having a disability-focused employee resource group is incredibly rare by legal employers.
- Empower: Organizations must create empowering environments for employees with disabilities through mentoring and coaching initiatives. Legal employers can also offer skilling/re-skilling programs to ensure that employees with disabilities continue to advance and thrive.
In going further, the Accenture report shows better financial performance when disability is included. In fact, Chad Jerdee, Ted Kennedy, Jr., and others announced this report on the floor of the NYSE in a sign of how dramatic the report’s findings were.
In an acknowledgement of the importance of the legal profession including people with disabilities, Accenture partnered with the ABA in hosting an internship for 1Ls with disabilities: http://bit.ly/2WgNBsX.
Even the publication Law360 did a series of articles on attorneys with disabilities. This series included graduates from Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, and Georgetown University Law Center.
In addition, law school graduates with disabilities have graduated law schools including the University of Chicago Law School, Columbia Law School, and Stanford Law School. Recently, the State Bar of Michigan had an attorney with a visible disability give an award to another attorney. So, we know the talent represented by, and ability to recruit, attorneys with disabilities is out there.
Clearly, the legal profession understands the importance of disability inclusion. At the same time, the legal profession reports a low and unrepresentative figure that is less than a tenth of the number we know the population includes.
In an attempt to address the unrepresentative figures (that the Accenture report shows clearly reduces the legal profession’s performance), a coalition of legal organizations (including the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession) held Access Success (https://is.gd/NBIf8d).
In a nod to the international role disability inclusion has, the Mexican Supreme Court recently cited Mexico’s support of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the country’s other legislation regarding the Mexican government’s support of the rights of people with disabilities. The court issued an opinion that also dramatically showed the international support for what Accenture has told us in its report.
By including disability in its diversity and inclusion efforts, the legal profession would benefit greatly. The Accenture report, announced on the floor of the NYSE and overseen by the Accenture General Counsel (among others), is clear on this point. Enrolling in Access Success and taking the steps outlined in the Accenture press release are easy ways the legal profession could include attorneys with disabilities.
Article by Jason Goitia
Jason Goitia is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, and is licensed to practice law by both the State of Florida and the State of Illinois. He was working for Goldman Sachs when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At the time, it was completely invisible, but he now uses a walker or a wheelchair (making his disability immediately apparent).