“Legally Disabled?” Transforming the culture of the legal profession

Why are disabled people seemingly unexpected in the legal profession and what can we do to create a culture of inclusion and access? These are the questions that the Cardiff University based “Legally Disabled?” research team are setting out to answer.

Researchers at Legally Disabled? held a series of focus groups around the UK with disabled legal professionals to identify the key issues that they experience in trying to get into the profession and then progressing their careers once there. They are now looking for individuals to participate in one-to-one interviews that can explore these issues in more depth.

Disabled people seeking employment or working in the legal profession are an untapped resource with strong ambition, tenacity, determination and excellent problem-solving skills – all qualities that bring great benefits to employers.

However, findings suggest positive experiences of support, good attitudes and appropriate reasonable adjustments are something of a lottery.

Key Findings

Entering the profession

  • The profession is generally poorly equipped to anticipate reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled candidates who apply for a training contract or pupillage. Lack of part-time training contracts is one such barrier.

Disclosure and seeking reasonable adjustments

  • A large proportion of focus group participants reported instances of discrimination associated with their impairment. Coupled with a poor understanding of reasonable adjustments and how impairments and health conditions can vary, this creates a reluctance to disclose an impairment or health condition which in turn prevents individuals from accessing support.

Working culture and expectations 

  • Inflexible, often outdated working practices and the absence of imaginative job design, limits opportunities for disabled people and career progression.

The good practice

  • There are early indications that examples of good practice are influenced by sector of the profession, size and location of firm and the role of equality clauses in procurement contracts.
  • Strong role models, supportive senior colleagues and the presence of mentors and networks are important factors for enabling career progression.

How to get involved

If you are (or were) a disabled legal professional and would like to contribute through a one-to-one interview, you can find out more here or contact the researchers on info@legallydisabled.com

The independent research is funded by the DRILL programme and works in coproduction with the Lawyers with Disabilities Division of the Law Society. However, the research is independent of any professional association, regulator or employer and your anonymity is assured at all times.


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