The focus groups consisted of a diverse range of disabled legal professionals with different backgrounds and at varying points in their careers, from newly graduated to retired. Some participants entered the legal profession with an impairment or health condition and some acquired an impairment later in their career.
We found a number of negative experiences concerning discrimination, lack of reasonable adjustments, poor understanding and fear of stigma and disclosure, which are common concerns for disabled people in many areas of employment.
Further to this, issues became apparent that were particular to the legal profession and other higher status careers including presenteeism, lack of flexibility in job roles and working patterns. A conservative attitude from both employers and clients towards performance, ‘competence’ and ‘fit’ was evident, where disability is not viewed as bringing value to a workplace.
It was however, reassuring to find some examples of good practice. This included employers who do value the skills and life experiences of disabled people and have willingly made reasonable adjustments. These have taken many forms from physical adaptions to job redesign to accommodate flexible working and reduced hours. The presence of supportive role models and mentors, whether disabled or not, has made a great impact for some individuals in progressing their career. Some areas of the legal profession are perhaps more inclusive than others, or are perceived to be. This can influence disabled people’s career choices and progression.
Some employers recognise that having disabled employees is something that some clients do want to see. Procurement clauses that expect firms to demonstrate their Equality and Inclusion practices carry weight in influencing culture. More organisations and networks are starting to emerge that seek to promote inclusion and diversity.
What comes next?
We will shortly be starting the second stage of the research – one to one interviews.
In the interviews, we hope to explore individual experiences in more depth and gain an understanding of the factors that contribute towards positive and negative experiences.
The interviews can be conducted by Skype, phone or face to face to meet people’s needs. Personal details will be kept confidential and will not be passed on.
When the research is complete, academic and policy papers, blog posts and articles will be written to publish the findings and recommendations for a range of audiences. This will be during 2019.
If you are interested in finding out more about the research or the interviews then please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in the form below.