There is much readily available research about the tremendous value that having a diverse workforce brings to the legal profession. This includes, amongst others, drawing from a wider pool of talent, avoiding the well-known dangers of “groupthink”, and tapping into a variety of ideas and perspectives.
When talking about diversity to law firms, it’s heartening to hear of some innovative initiatives around race and gender (although there is still much work to be done in both of these areas). However, disability often remains the poor relation when it comes to diversity priorities in the legal profession. This is unfortunate for two reasons. Firstly, excluding (albeit unwittingly) disabled people from your attraction strategy and recruitment processes means you miss out on a large and valuable pool of talent. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, 2 percent of people of working age acquire a disability or long-term health condition every year, so being inclusive to disabled employees will also have a significant impact on retaining existing talent within your organisation.
Disabled employees, on average, are just as productive as non-disabled colleagues, have significantly less time off sick, have fewer workplace accidents and stay in their jobs longer. In addition, 19 percent of the adult population is disabled, and reflecting the people you serve gives them increased confidence in your service, whilst increasing internal intelligence on inclusion and accessibility.
By the nature of impairment, disabled people have to navigate around a world not designed with inclusion and accessibility in mind – needing to find ways around barriers that others don’t have to consider. This entails, in order to survive, developing a range of skills including innovation, creative problem solving, tenacity, resourcefulness and resilience. All ideal qualities in an employee.
When considering the advantages for the legal profession of a diverse workforce, remember that disabled people are an equally important component of that diversity.
Jane Hatton founded Evenbreak, a specialist job board run by and for disabled people, helping inclusive employers attract more talented disabled candidates.