The Disabled Lawyers Have Arrived; Have They Been Welcomed with Open Arms into the Profession? An Empirical Study of the Disabled Lawyer

42 Pages Posted: 29 May 2009

See all articles by Donald H. Stone

Donald H. Stone

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: Winter 2009


This Article proceeds in seven parts. Part I briefly outlines the ADA's position on reasonable accommodations. Part II addresses how law firms are reacting and responding to the fact that they employ lawyers with mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, attorneys with learning disabilities, and individuals with alcohol or drug addiction. What disabilities are most often represented? Are lawyers with disabilities apt to receive work modifications to accommodate their disability? Are attorneys with mental illness provided with less stressful case assignments? Are lawyers with substance use disorders and alcohol or drug addiction assigned co-counsel to monitor or offer support to the disabled individual?

Part III of this Article outlines the annual ABA report on lawyers with disabilities, which includes recommendations as to how employers should accommodate disabled persons from the hiring process through employment. A fundamental concern underlying the provision of reasonable accommodations within the law firm is the potentially negative impact on client representation. Part IV of this Article analyzes the balancing act of providing reasonable accommodations to the disabled lawyer and the importance of providing competent representation to the client. Part V examines attorney disciplinary proceedings pursuant to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in order to shed light on the issues related to the disabled lawyer. Part VI discusses and analyzes court decisions in the area of reasonable accommodations in the workplace to note the impact of the ADA and the direction in which courts are heading as they tackle this challenging and significant area of law.

Empirical data contained in this Article serves as a backdrop for purposes of elaboration and comparison of these and other questions. Attorneys from fifty law firms in nine states were surveyed to obtain data and their opinions on questions relating to employment accommodations by law firms. Because of the significant number of disabled lawyers entering the workforce and seeking modifications and accommodations, such an inquiry is well warranted. Law firms are beginning to grapple with the disabled lawyer's claim for fair and equitable treatment, while still serving their clients to the best of their ability. Part VII presents and analyzes this empirical data. In conclusion, this Article offers recommendations regarding fair and equitable reasonable accommodations for disabled lawyers in the workplace.

Keywords: disabled lawyers, ADA, Americans with Disabilites Act, disabilities, law firms, employment, reasonable accomodations, client representation, empirical studies, Model Rules of Professional Conduct

JEL Classification: K31, K49, L84, M12, M14

Suggested Citation

Stone, Donald H., The Disabled Lawyers Have Arrived; Have They Been Welcomed with Open Arms into the Profession? An Empirical Study of the Disabled Lawyer (Winter 2009). Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Donald H. Stone (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States

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