A population maligned
I take exception to William F. Crowell’s letter (September). Mr. Crowell
maligns disabled attorneys as deadbeats who sit around collecting disability
benefits while bitching about their inability to find work. (Unless I am mistaken,
the CBJ article to which he responds does not indicate whether the disabled
attorneys surveyed were collecting, or even eligible for, disability benefits.
Mr. Crowell apparently assumes that any disabled person must be collecting benefits
— an assumption which I can assure you is untrue.)
He further mistakenly believes that one cannot be both disabled and capable
of working as an attorney. To follow this line of reasoning, one would have
to accept the ludicrous notion that no one who uses a wheelchair, who is blind
or deaf, or who has a limiting illness can work as an attorney. In truth, being
saddled with a disability neither diminishes one’s intellect nor lessens
one’s ability to contribute to the legal profession.
I have a medical condition which does not allow me to work full time. As such,
I am “disabled.” I am not unable — or unwilling — to
work. To the contrary, I work as much as I can, although contract work is the
only type of employment readily available to me as a disabled attorney. If given
the chance, I would trade any amount of money to live an illness-free life.
Unfortunately, that is not a choice that I have been given. I strongly resent
Mr. Crowell’s intimation that I (or anyone similarly situated) somehow
am attempting to bilk the system.
Christine M. Dabrowski
What it’s like to be a disabled attorney
If William Crowell’s beliefs are a common misconception, it shows the
compelling need for State Bar involvement on behalf of disabled attorneys. The
typical attorney who practices law takes the most common tasks for granted —
being able to talk to clients over the phone, research cases, walk to the library
or court, and hear the judge and opposing counsel while there. Because most
law firms are set up so that time must be spent as efficiently as possible,
disabled attorneys are often at a tremendous disadvantage their first few years
in practice. New equipment may need to be set up, a CRC 989.3 form may need
to be approved, and so on; law firms don’t want to deal with this extra
Moreover, the billable-hour and efficiency dynamic causes most non-top-10 percent
disabled attorneys who graduate from school to enter solo practice or part-time
work to learn the law because many firms refuse to hire disabled attorneys,
knowing of the additional “start-up costs.” Indeed, even small law
firms expect lawyers to hit the ground running, meaning that a new attorney
may need to learn the law on his/her own. This problem may be true for all lawyers,
but it hits disabled lawyers hard, forcing many of them into solo practice from
Day 1, rather than after a few years of experience (and client interaction).
If we intend the American legal profession to be something other than a gift
from affluent or well-connected parents to their children, we need to explore
ways to educate all new attorneys effectively, including free MCLE, effective
mentoring programs, an ethics opinion mandating communication by e-mail rather
than phone if one attorney is hearing-impaired, and law schools that teach the
practice of law.
Matthew Mehdi Rafat
Responsibility and diversity
This is in response to the recent letter blaming the lack of diverse attorneys
on unequal education, discrimination and prejudice. Ridiculous. I am a Mexican
female (the daughter of migrant farm workers) and I grew up in a poor area.
I went to a school where the entire student body was Mexican. My sister and
brother are doctors, my other brother is an engineer and I am a lawyer.
We probably did have “unequal education and prejudice” but so what?
We succeeded because my parents would not accept failure. We will have more
minority representation in the bar when more minority parents become actively
involved in their children’s education and those children take responsibility
for their future.
Don’t waste my dues on a “task force” that will never solve
the true reason for the lack of diversity, namely, the lack of personal responsibility.
An apology owed
As a proud alumna of San Francisco Law School, an evening school more than
100 years old, I take issue with Eric Sedlak’s comments (September) denigrating
the intelligence and industriousness of those who did not attend a “national”
I am also a reasonably intelligent cum laude graduate of Brandeis University,
a “national” educational institution. Many of my fellow students
graduated from similarly ranked colleges and universities. Most of my classmates
in law school were not only highly intelligent, but extremely hardworking, putting
themselves through evening law school while working full time. San Francisco
law school gave those of us who had to pay our own way an opportunity to use
our skills and intelligence to become part of a rewarding profession helpful
to our fellow human being, an opportunity which would not have existed otherwise
for many if not most of us.
Eric Sedlak should learn the facts before he makes the type of comments contained
in his letter. He owes graduates of all “non-national” schools an
Leslie M.B. Cole