Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 30

FEATURE
in interpreting client communication - led to a deeper obligation to
disclose the stutter with my colleagues. If we expected traumatized clients
to disclose intimate details of human rights abuses, how could I be
trustworthy counsel if I could not disclose my stutter?
"
ESTABLISHING A DISABILITY-FOCUSED
WORKING GROUP OR RESOURCE WITHIN
LAW FIRMS, LEGAL ORGANIZATIONS, AND
COURTHOUSES TO ENCOURAGE EFFECTIVE
REPRESENTATION FOR PERSONS WITH
DISABILITIES AND A SENSE OF SOLIDARITY
AMONG EMPLOYEES COULD BE BOTH
EMPOWERING AND MORE LIKELY TO LEAD
TO DISCLOSURE OF ONE'S DISABILITY.
Disclosing my stutter is still a work in progress. It can be challenging and
sometimes awkward. Nonetheless, even when I have not explicitly revealed
my stutter for the sake of time or necessity, supervisors and mentors
have often treated me with a level of professionalism and respect
that still inspires me - even if it has not always been faultless.
ACTIONABLE STEPS FOR THE PROFESSION
I recognize that my experience is neither ubiquitous nor the norm in
many legal settings. From my work in environments that did and did not
foster diversity, I gained some insight into ways to develop a legal culture
and system that encourages and empowers law students and legal professionals
with nonapparent disabilities.
According to a Harvard Business Review article from June 2021, employees
in organizations that value diversity and inclusion training are 35 percent
more likely to disclose their disabilities than employees in less encouraging
environments. Establishing a disability-focused working group or resource
within law firms, legal organizations, and courthouses to encourage
effective representation for persons with disabilities and a sense of
solidarity among employees could be both empowering and more likely
to lead to disclosure of one's disability.
I agree, though it may not be sufficient. So, I recommend that legal employers
and institutions also encourage the recruitment of persons with
disabilities and hold themselves accountable. At the Center for Reproductive
Rights, for example, I lead the Disability Voices and Allies Employee
Resource Group, part of a larger diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative
within the organization. The group is a place where employees who
either have disabilities or are supporting family or friends with disabilities
can express any challenges or issues and feel supported in requesting
any accommodations or reforms at higher levels in the organization.
Another way to support persons with disabilities is to make the disability
disclosure process less daunting, beginning with providing trainings to
30 WASHINGTON LAWYER
* MARCH/APRIL 2024
staff on invisible or nonapparent disabilities. The goal is to gain trust that
there exists a supportive and encouraging environment for employees
with disabilities. Lastly, workplaces should consider expanding mentorship
opportunities between high- and low-level attorneys with disabilities
to help improve general knowledge of disability-related issues and
signal the legal profession's inclusivity.
While I have found that faithfully applying candor and diligence in legal
advocacy as a person who stutters engenders a responsibility to disclose
it, I also believe that judges and lawyers have an obligation to be patient
and understanding enough to appreciate the complexities of disabilities
and the distinct accommodations they may require, especially when
they are invisible or nonapparent. Doing so not only facilitates an inclusive
legal community but also prepares lawyers to better understand
and relate to diverse clients and identify potential factual misinterpretations
or psychological blind spots in cases. Judges, in turn, can ensure
true independence, integrity, and impartiality for parties that come before
them.
Kiefer Kofman is a global advocacy fellow at the Center for Reproductive
Rights.
http://scomolaw.com

Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024

Notice to Members
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Defending Diversity: Rise of DEI-Focused Practices
Will Law Firms Stay the Course on Improving Diversity?
Unlocking the Potential of Diverse Talent
We Belong: Black Students in the IP Talent Pipeline
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Her Legacy Lives on Through Us
Get to Know The Appellate Project
Speaking Up for Lawyers With Invisible Disability
Special Section: 25 Years of the Youth Law Fair
Taking the Stand
Worth Reading
Member Spotlight
On Further Review
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 4
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Notice to Members
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Defending Diversity: Rise of DEI-Focused Practices
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 12
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Will Law Firms Stay the Course on Improving Diversity?
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 16
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Unlocking the Potential of Diverse Talent
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - We Belong: Black Students in the IP Talent Pipeline
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 22
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Her Legacy Lives on Through Us
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Get to Know The Appellate Project
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Speaking Up for Lawyers With Invisible Disability
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 30
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Special Section: 25 Years of the Youth Law Fair
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 33
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 36
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 39
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 43
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover4
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