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Neurodiversity in the Legal Profession

April 28, 2023

In the NALP Bulletin, Joanna Craig explores how increasing efforts to recruit and support neurodiversity in the legal profession raises new disclosure questions.

For the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), Joanna Craig, Director of Private Sector Recruiting, has co-authored “Neurodiversity in the Legal Profession: Progress in Recruiting and Support Efforts Presents New Disclosure Questions” with Nirvana Dove, Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates.

Craig and Dove offer actionable advice to law schools and employers looking to begin or deepen support for neurodivergent and/or disabled students and lawyers.

From the NALP Bulletin:

Neurodiversity, or neurodivergence, refers to variations in the human brain regarding sociability, learning attention, mood, and other mental functions. Neurotypical refers to someone whose brain behaves like most of society while neurodivergent refers to someone whose brain behaves differently. While neurodivergence can be associated with disability and mental illness, not all people who identify as neurodivergent identify as disabled. Similarly, some people who are neurodivergent have a disability and for some, their neurodivergence can be disabling in certain specific environments.

Joanna Craig, Director of Private Sector Recruiting Joanna Craig, Director of Private Sector RecruitingStudies show that 15-20% of the U.S. population is neurodivergent, however, in 2021, just over 1% of U.S.-based law firm lawyers self-reported having any disability at all and only 4.5% of law school graduates self-reported as having a disability. Historically, law students and lawyers who are neurodivergent have often been overtly, or inadvertently, excluded from recruiting and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. The lower rates of self-reporting and lack of inclusion are likely due to the continued stigma associated with neurodiverse conditions. That said, in recent years, the legal industry has begun to recognize neurodiversity as diversity within the profession, resulting in incremental increases in disclosure and modifications to recruiting and DEI processes… . 

Read the full article.