Post-Covid US Law Practice: Serving Increased Disabled Clients and Staff

Updated January 26, 2024
10 min read
Post-Covid US Law Practice: Serving Increased Disabled Clients and Staff

The legal profession has a history of discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and recent events like the pandemic have only heightened accessibility issues. To genuinely uphold its principles, the legal field must foster inclusivity, removing barriers for disabled clients and staff.

To achieve this, law firms must prioritize accessibility in their offices, staff training, recruitment processes, and client relations promoting a more diverse and accommodating legal practice.

Improving the Client Experience

Ensuring an exceptional client experience is paramount to a legal practice's success. Given the diverse range of clients' needs, including those with disabilities, reshaping strategies to improve accessibility and understanding is a necessity.

  1. Make your office accessible: It's paramount to consider inclusivity even when formulating your lease agreement. Ensure that the office space you're leasing is physically accessible to individuals with disabilities, eliminating barriers like stairs and narrow doorways, offering ample parking, and providing clear signage.

  2. Train your staff: After making your office accessible, train your staff to effectively serve clients with disabilities. Emphasize understanding and accommodation in your training curriculum.

  3. Create inclusive marketing materials: Develop marketing materials that depict diverse staff and clients, including those with disabilities. Ensure your brochures or website content is accessible to people with different disabilities.

  4. Use respectful language: Use person-first language that emphasizes an individual's abilities rather than their disabilities, and avoid offensive terms.

  5. Be an ally: Support the disabled community by attending disability rights events, donating to disability-related causes, and opposing discrimination.

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Alongside serving disabled clients, U.S. legal practices should also consider hiring more candidates with disabilities. Their presence brings measurable benefits to individual staff members and clients and improves the overall business.

Enhancing the Employee Experience

Inclusive hiring practices are at the heart of a diverse and vibrant workforce, and this starts with the recruitment process. Fostering such practices is crucial in attracting candidates of all abilities who bring unique and invaluable insights to a law firm.

  1. Include diverse representation in your recruitment materials: Depict a diverse workforce in your recruitment materials — website, brochures, and job postings — so potential candidates picture themselves working at your firm.

  2. Incorporate diverse networks in recruitment: Always extend your recruitment efforts to various organizations, diverse job boards, and career fairs aimed at diverse candidates.

  3. Engage with diversely-abled employment services: Collaboration with organizations offering employment and transition services to individuals with disabilities can supply diverse candidates.

  4. Foster more inclusive interviews: Adapt your interview process to accommodate disabled candidates with resources like sign language interpreters or Braille materials, and ensure your interview questions are non-discriminatory.

  5. Implement training on disability inclusion: Encourage a more inclusive environment via employee training on person-first language, accommodation provision, and allyship within the disabled community.

  6. Offer flexible work arrangements: Flexible work schedules can accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities, making the workplace more attractive to potential employees.

  7. Provide mentorship and networking opportunities: Offering networking opportunities for disabled attorneys can alleviate feelings of exclusion and provide avenues for advice and support.

Endeavor to continually reassess and refine these strategies to uphold your commitment to creating an inclusive work environment. Remember, diversity and inclusivity are more than just buzzwords. They are the cornerstones of a successful, innovative, and progressive law practice. Your firm will benefit immensely from the varied perspectives, experiences, and talents these candidates bring to your team.

Enjoying the Benefits of a Diverse Staff

Hiring neuro minorities, such as individuals with autism, can enhance returns on your human capital investment in several ways:

  1. Improved creativity: Unique perspectives can be invaluable in problem-solving.

  2. Increased attention to detail: Many individuals with autism possess superior focus and attention to detail.

  3. Enhanced innovation: Their unconventional thinking can lead to fresh solutions.

  4. Deeper comprehension of human behavior: The exceptional ability to understand motivations can be crucial in the legal field.

  5. Practical communication skills: Although their communication may differ, these individuals often exhibit strong listening and writing skills, critical in law.

To maintain a diverse workforce, firms must cultivate an inclusive environment considering all forms of diversity.

Fostering Inclusion in the Workplace

Fostering an inclusive work environment is essential in any organization, particularly in the legal domain, where fairness and equity are fundamental. It's crucial to provide appropriate accommodations and establish a culture that is not only understanding but also celebrates diversity.

  1. Offer accommodations: Ensure all employees have the resources they need for success.

  2. Establish an inclusive culture: Inclusion should be embedded at every level through policies, procedures, and training programs.

  3. Promote an inclusive environment: Representation matters, both inside and outside of work engagements. This extends to your marketing and advertising materials and community outreach initiatives.

  4. Encourage allyship: Encourage employees to fight ableism, educate others about disability rights, and mentor employees with disabilities.

  5. Support development: Support employees to make your firm more inclusive. Provide the necessary support, both emotional and financial.

A diverse and inclusive workplace holds multifold benefits for organizations, which in turn profoundly impacts their overall performance. Harnessing the power of diversity is, therefore, more a necessity than simply a choice for any progressive business.

  1. Better retention and attraction of quality talent due to increased employee satisfaction.

  2. As diverse workplaces can better understand and meet diverse clientele needs improved client satisfaction.

  3. Enhanced market share as diverse workplaces can connect with varied markets.

  4. Improved business resilience as diverse workplaces have a more varied pool of talent.

  5. Increased profitability, driven by lower turnover rates and an ability to attract top talent.

All these benefits highlight the importance of fostering an inclusive work environment. This move transcends token corporate social responsibility tenets and aligns with a broader vision of equity and fairness.

By upholding these practices and continuously striving to improve them, law firms can set a high standard for inclusivity within their industry and across the corporate world. Fostering inclusion and diversity isn't just the right thing to do — it's a business imperative.

Maximizing Investments in Diverse and Inclusive Law Practices

A commitment to diversity and inclusion goes beyond ethical considerations — it also makes clear business sense. Research shows that firms that ensure a diverse and inclusive environment are often more profitable and have lower turnover rates.

  1. Bolster the business case for inclusion: As per a study by Boston Consulting Group, organizations showing a firm commitment to diversity and inclusion reported decreased turnover and increased profitability.

  2. Cultivate inclusivity: Inclusive cultures are found to improve employee engagement and satisfaction.

  3. Foster authenticity: Allow employees to be themselves, leading to better work engagement.

  4. Support employee resource groups: These groups can help retain and engage underrepresented groups.

  5. Embed diversity and inclusion throughout the organization: Firms prioritizing D&I are more likely to increase market share.

By taking these steps, lawyers can foster more diverse, inclusive, and accessible legal practices. Including individuals with disabilities in the workforce directly feeds into higher client loyalty and referrals. Emphasizing inclusivity isn't just about social justice and makes sound business sense. Always consult a specialist before taking any steps that could impact your rights.

Article by
Brad Biren
Elder Law & Tax Attorney

Brad Biren is a proud autistic professional, writer, and advocate for neurodiverse people within the business community. He is a tax & elder law attorney with a passion for estate planning and crisis Medicaid planning. His favorite part of his job is Special Needs Planning — a financial and legal roadmap to help families of diversely-abled people cultivate greater opportunities for their loved ones. Biren also assists startups and nonprofits with optimization challenges through his innovative and novel use of synergies between tax, law, finance, science, and technology.