Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

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Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:03 pm

I dramatically under performed at OCI, and am trying to transition into a new area of law.

At the time, I believed my under performance to be somewhat a result of a disability. In retrospect, I think it was largely due to misidentifying a strictly physical disability as Asperger's, which is a disability as well but has a whole host of add'l characteristics attached to it.

Asperger's seems prevalent in this profession, and it's associated with characteristics that might make it more difficult to be a team player. My disability is a very specific problem that affects one physical function. It only impacts about 0.3% of the population so I don't want to say what it is, but it's not related to social skills or anything else. In fact, I don't even consider it a disability, because it only dramatically impairs my quality of life when it's misidentified. The shorter the interview, the likelier it is to be misidentified and this misassociation has only happened in law firm interviews of 20 minutes or less and at no other point of my life.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that my resume includes several achievements that would be 100% impossible to achieve if I had Asperger's, and therefore I'm additionally concerned about my spoiling my reputation and being accused of lying. It also precludes the possibility of my disability being misconstrued but my being hired regardless, which would be preferable to being misidentified and labeled a liar. It's common - in fact, I'd say more likely than not for big law attorneys to associate my disability with Asperger's but by the end of the interview it normally becomes apparent that it's not (but not always). This never happens with recruiters, HR or really anyone with a fair amount of real world exposure.

My question is whether I should list my disability. The concern is multifaceted - it may make me seem unsuited for my career goal, because people tend to perceive physical disabilities in a vacuum. For example, a person who is blind will be perceived merely as someone with a vision impairment when other times than not their other senses such as to compensate for their lack of sight. In addition, the term disability because it presents inherent legal risk that puts a fence between the interviewer and interviewee making it hard to connect. Lastly, I don't want to be perceived as having a disability, because although I do on paper, it only has a disabling impact in short law firm interviews when it's misdiagnosed.

Should I be disclosing this? To be honest, I'm not sensitive or self-conscious about it in any way, and don't mind talking about it but people are very polite and simply reach their own conclusion, which is the cause of the whole problem. It's ironic because I actually am perceived as a role-model for people with my disability,and give interviewing advice. However, this disability is a major impairment during early childhood and only a small percentage are able to catch up to go to college, not to mention find themselves at law firm interviews.

It's a pretty big problem, and I've even considered changing or even somewhat fudging my real employment history at least to leave the door open for being misidentified and still getting hired. For example, every job I've had requires strong people skills and I was very successful in sales - really more so than anything else, which is why I've considered changing my title and my previous employers would be willing to do that. People in law aren't checking your post-college pre-law school employment history so the guy that has Asperger's claiming 300k in sales seems like a liar, and that's really the main thing I'd like to avoid.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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zot1

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby zot1 » Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:05 pm

Don't. Also, try to be brief when possible.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Nov 30, 2016 10:12 pm

Thanks - was trying to give enough info to explain the issue. I presume it isn't something most people experience.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby lurklaw » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:24 pm

I have no idea what the hell you just said.

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zot1

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby zot1 » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:34 pm

I think he said something like: I underperformed during OCI because of my disability. But I have accomplishments that someone with my disability would never accomplish. I don't want people to think I'm a liar. Should I disclose in the hopes that it helps me get biglaw in the future?

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby jchiles » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:42 pm

It's totally fair that you don't want to say what the disability is but youd probably get better advice if you were more specific. Also, what do you mean by "dramatically underperformed" st OCI? Depending on your school, class rank, and the markets you targeted its possible your OCI performance wasn't as atypical as it seems or may just be the result of bad luck.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:43 pm

lurklaw wrote:I have no idea what the hell you just said.

Yeah, to be honest, I'm confused by a lot of this (which could just be me). In particular I don't get any of this:
The issue is further complicated by the fact that my resume includes several achievements that would be 100% impossible to achieve if I had Asperger's, and therefore I'm additionally concerned about my spoiling my reputation and being accused of lying.
, which frankly sounds kind of paranoid.

But leaving that aside - it sounds like this is a disability that you're concerned comes across as Aspberger's in interviews; it doesn't sound like it's anything to do with your performance in school/work/etc. So it's not going to affect how your application materials (resume etc) are perceived, so there seems no point in listing it on your job applications, where it's more likely to work against you than anything else (I get that there are legal repercussions for discriminating based on a disability, but I wouldn't want to count on that when looking for a job).

Instead, if you really think it's causing you problems once you're in an interview, I would maybe suggest only referencing it at that point. Like, walk in, do the handshake-hello-how-are-you, then try something like "before we go further, I wanted to let you know that I have [disability whatever], and one of the ways I deal with that is [whatever], so my affect may come across a little strange because of that, but it's just [whatever physical thing]." Maybe something like, "before we go further, I wanted to let you know that I have a visual impairment, and sometimes my eyes move in different directions because of that. It can look a little odd, but I am following what you say and paying attention, it's just a physical tic." Something along those lines that works for your impairment.

The dilemma, of course, is that the employer might believe that your not-Asperger's-physical-disability is in itself something that makes you a less desirable candidate (would it weird out clients? make it hard to argue in court [if you do that] or otherwise communicate with people who don't know you?).

(Or that the issue isn't your physical disability, of course.)

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby bearsfan23 » Thu Dec 01, 2016 12:29 am

The only reason you should disclose a disability to a law firm is if you have a non-avoidable need for accommodations. And even then you wouldnt do this until after you were hired.

Nothing good can come of telling them during the interviewing process, and your medical history is really none of their business anyways

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Dec 01, 2016 12:37 am

Yeah, to be clear, I don't know that it's a good idea to say anything - my suggestion was only if you're determined to do so regardless.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby mecarey » Thu Dec 01, 2016 12:53 am

Anonymous User wrote:my resume includes several achievements that would be 100% impossible to achieve if I had Asperger's


Wait, so you're worried about being stereotyped out of a job due to your disability . . . but then you go ahead and slap a ceiling on what you think people with Asperger's can achieve and say you're better than them? I know this is a bit off-topic and runs the risk of derailing your question for a bit, but I just couldn't leave this one alone. Even though I don't think you meant it to come off this way, that's still patently offensive.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 01, 2016 12:58 am

As someone on the Autism spectrum, I have national-level (think PBK, all-american, etc.) awards in academics and athletics. Plus I'm published in a few creative writing anthologies and won my high-school's version of "most popular" yearbook superlative. On top of that, I have 5 years of work experience as a team leader and project manager. I'm super curious to hear what you consider to be "several achievements that would be 100% impossible to achieve if [you] had Asperger's."

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:01 am

mecarey wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:my resume includes several achievements that would be 100% impossible to achieve if I had Asperger's


Wait, so you're worried about being stereotyped out of a job due to your disability . . . but then you go ahead and slap a ceiling on what you think people with Asperger's can achieve and say you're better than them? I know this is a bit off-topic and runs the risk of derailing your question for a bit, but I just couldn't leave this one alone. Even though I don't think you meant it to come off this way, that's still patently offensive.

Yeah, I have to say I was thinking this, too.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby zot1 » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:03 am

Anonymous User wrote:As someone on the Autism spectrum, I have national-level (think PBK, all-american, etc.) awards in academics and athletics. Plus I'm published in a few creative writing anthologies and won my high-school's version of "most popular" yearbook superlative. On top of that, I have 5 years of work experience as a team leader and project manager. I'm super curious to hear what you consider to be "several achievements that would be 100% impossible to achieve if [you] had Asperger's."


Can I be you? For like a little bit?

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:10 am

Anonymous User wrote: even considered changing or even somewhat fudging my real employment history at least to leave the door open for being misidentified and still getting hired. For example, every job I've had requires strong people skills and I was very successful in sales - really more so than anything else, which is why I've considered changing my title and my previous employers would be willing to do that. People in law aren't checking your post-college pre-law school employment history so the guy that has Asperger's claiming 300k in sales seems like a liar, and that's really the main thing I'd like to avoid.


If you did these things, you wouldn't seem like a liar. You would just be an actual liar. Also, I agree with everyone who says not to disclose.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby bk1 » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:31 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
mecarey wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:my resume includes several achievements that would be 100% impossible to achieve if I had Asperger's


Wait, so you're worried about being stereotyped out of a job due to your disability . . . but then you go ahead and slap a ceiling on what you think people with Asperger's can achieve and say you're better than them? I know this is a bit off-topic and runs the risk of derailing your question for a bit, but I just couldn't leave this one alone. Even though I don't think you meant it to come off this way, that's still patently offensive.

Yeah, I have to say I was thinking this, too.

Not only that, but if this is OP's attitude then that might be why OP underperformed and not necessarily or exclusively the disability.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:56 am

It's that I have a physical disability that can be misconstrued as a result of social anxiety/awkwardness, which opens the Autism spectrum.

In reality, the disability is merely the physical disability - it can lead to secondary problems, but it's not a result of anything other than a very specific genetic abnormality related to a specific physical function.

For someone with my disability, being good at sales is not uncommon because revealing a vulnerability makes you seem more trustworthy. For someone with an Autism spectrum disorder, it would seem like BS a mile away. In a formal interview, it's easy for it to seem like social anxiety/awkwardness unless the interview becomes conversational, which is interviewer dependent.

I realize this is vague. It would be impossible to be more specific without outing myself. I'm likely one of 2 or 3 tls type attorneys under 40 with this, perhaps the only one. Let's just say that whatever the rate of autism is, this is a fraction of that sample size, especially in law.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby dabigchina » Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:41 am

...
Last edited by dabigchina on Thu Dec 01, 2016 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby RaceJudicata » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:26 am

I don't think there is any need to webmd OP.

I wouldn't disclose, I would just do whatever possible to improve your interviewing skills... specifically, make sure your answers to questions look nothing like your post.

Also, don't get what sympathy you want when you are -- as others mentioned -- setting the ceiling on what someone on autism spectrum can achieve? With that logic, maybe biglaw is "100% not attainable" with your impairment.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:35 am

anon post

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Dec 01, 2016 9:12 am

Also OP, I'm not sure why you're assuming that apparent social anxiety/awkwardness due to your disability is going to lead interviewers to think you're on the spectrum rather than simply anxious/awkward. I don't think most interviewers are going to automatically go to autism, because most people aren't that informed about it (except if they have a family member with it, in which case they're not so likely to hold it against you).

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby ND2018 » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:22 am

Lol. Can we please not play a "guess OP's disability" game?

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 01, 2016 9:21 pm

I will email the mod what the disability is in hopes he could provide enough insight for useful responses without outing me. It's not really that exciting. It was probably ignorant to assume these things would be impossible for someone on the Autism spectrum, but 2 things;

1.) I am NOT a liar. About 25% of the business I generated was based on word of mouth, and another 10% was entirely online marketing. However, the word of mouth business was directly related to sales skills and the online marketing was indirectly related, because prior web traffic factors into google's algorithm.

2.) For people with stigmatized physical disabilities, their entire self-concept and world view changes once they accept their disability and are confident in spite of it. However, this doesn't mean you're comfortable with any disability. You're comfortable with yours. It's not only an issue of being insecure about misconceptions, but more so the fact that most normal people alter their behavior based on their perception of others. It's an extreme example, but erroneously characterizing someone with A as having B can produce results like the one featured here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlRJkdjmBcM

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby RaceJudicata » Thu Dec 01, 2016 9:41 pm

Dude no one gets a shit how many widgets or whatever you sold.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:47 pm

Not OP

I have a physical disability (think something like visual/hearing impairment) and just recently went through OCI.

While there were a few people that definitely did not react positively to this information I disclosed the info at every screener i did and don't regret that decision. A lot of times it allowed me to set the tone for the conversation. As long as I didn't seem overly apologetic or negative about it usually wasn't an issue.

I also have several accomplishments on my resume that some people wouldn't associate with disability and this was usually only to my benefit. (Collegiate sports/Gov.work)

Based on you're posting it seems you're going through something a lot of disabled people deal with - not wanting to be associated with those with disabilities you feel are less desirable or more limiting. I'd encourage you to rethink that and just focus on communicating your disability to people in a clear and calm manner. The few assholes i've met in the interview process were few and far in between. By no means am I trying to minimize your frustration, dealing with a disability in the work place is never easy. It sounds like you've been doing a great job so far, and if biglaw doesn't work out you'll find something else.

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Re: Disclosing Disability to Law Firms?

Postby lurklaw » Fri Dec 02, 2016 12:44 am

Anonymous User wrote:I will email the mod what the disability is in hopes he could provide enough insight for useful responses without outing me. It's not really that exciting. It was probably ignorant to assume these things would be impossible for someone on the Autism spectrum, but 2 things;

1.) I am NOT a liar. About 25% of the business I generated was based on word of mouth, and another 10% was entirely online marketing. However, the word of mouth business was directly related to sales skills and the online marketing was indirectly related, because prior web traffic factors into google's algorithm.

2.) For people with stigmatized physical disabilities, their entire self-concept and world view changes once they accept their disability and are confident in spite of it. However, this doesn't mean you're comfortable with any disability. You're comfortable with yours. It's not only an issue of being insecure about misconceptions, but more so the fact that most normal people alter their behavior based on their perception of others. It's an extreme example, but erroneously characterizing someone with A as having B can produce results like the one featured here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SlRJkdjmBcM

I have no idea what the hell you just said.



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