Disability Resource Centre

Recruiting And Hiring Lawyers With Disabilities
A Guide For Employers
Online Information

What Lawyers with Disabilities say about Finding Employment

While people with disabilities are becoming more and more included in mainstream society, systemic barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities still exist. Some barriers are physical, as in the lack of a ramp to access a building, but most barriers are subtle and based on inappropriate stereotypes and are so ingrained that they are almost second nature.

In 2005, the Law Society consulted law students and lawyers with disabilities in Ontario to identify and address challenges they face when they join, and while they are, in the legal profession. A significant proportion of those who participated in the consultation reported having had great difficulty in securing work as a lawyer following their call to the Bar. Few of those who participated in the consultation were engaged in the private practice of law, and a number, of those employed elsewhere would have preferred to be in private practice.

See report entitled Students and Lawyers with Disabilities - Increasing Access to the Legal Profession (pdf)

Participants commented on the subtle nature of the discrimination they encountered in the job search process.

"Everyone wants to hire someone who looks like them. You hire the guy who likes hockey if you do."

"You are refused jobs because of the way you look, the way you sound. It affects your self confidence."

"Firms want people who can fit in."

"There is no way to prove that you're not getting a job because you're disabled. Lawyers learn ways to discriminate that can't be detected."

Lawyers with disabilities recognized that lawyers in private practice are subject to financial pressures, such as the requirement to have high billable hours and to maintain a client base, and that these pressures may affect decisions about employing lawyers with disabilities. These pressures are not present to the same extent in the governmental sector. However, several participants suggested that lawyers in private practice also have an incentive that the government does not. A business case can and should be made for the bottom line benefits of hiring lawyers with disabilities: that it will help bring in clients, that a person with a disability is an asset not a liability, and that accommodations won't hurt the bottom line.

"The disabled community represents an untapped client base."

"The profession should bear in mind that clients face the same difficulties. Over 1.5 million Ontarians are disabled. Furthermore, disability and age go together and our population is aging so there will be lots coming into the market. Failing to be accommodating is a huge example of market failure. Ideally, your workplace reflects your market."

"[_], private firms have much more flexibility to answer accommodation needs than government does. Technology has made things easier and therefore accommodation should be much easier."

Further resources

  • Recruiting and Hiring Tips to Ensure Equal Rights of Law Students and Lawyers with Disabilities
    PDF Document Text Document  
  • Terminology and Communication Tips
    PDF Document | Text Document
  • Communication Tip Sheets
    PDF Document | Text Document
  • Guide to Universal Access Symbols
    PDF Document
  • The Ontario Courts Accessibility Committee provides ideas, information and advice to help make Ontario's courts more accessible to people with disabilities. OCAC includes members from all levels of court, the Ontario Bar, the Ministry of the Attorney General and people with disabilities. The OCAC's newsletter, Accessibility in Brief provides updates on the work of OCAC and on the progress made to reach the goal of an accessible court system.

 

The video a Day in the Life of Lorin is about Lorin MacDonald, a lawyer with profound hearing loss.  http://youtu.be/HsSZ0bp-izM

Mentoring Program for law students and lawyers with disabilities.

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