Life as a Disabled Lawyer
I am a disabled lawyer. I am proud of this fact, and I have worked hard to get to where I am.
May is Ehlers Danlos Awareness Month (EDS), and we have just had Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, so I thought it would be a good time to raise some awareness. EDS is one of my chronic disabilities, a genetic condition that causes me day to day struggles. I also have PCOS and Lynch Syndrome (a cancer gene). I often joke with my husband that I ‘won’ the genetic lottery!
EDS is a weird illness. Someone can present to a doctor with many seemingly random, and apparently unconnected symptoms, but they can actually all be linked to EDS if that person has the genetic issue. For me, some of my symptoms include regular joint dislocations, chronic pain, muscle spasms, fatigue (which is not the same as tiredness!), heightened anxiety, digestive issues, fragile skin that takes ages to heal, dizziness and more. I have a walking stick in my car at all times in case I need it, as I randomly can lose feeling in my legs, and I have to cling to my husband when we go out because it’s a common joke in our friendship group that I can spend more time falling over on the floor otherwise!
Sometimes, there are days when all my mental and physical capacity is given to my work and then I go straight home to bed. And that’s ok. We have to look after ourselves and self care is really important, no matter what is going on in your lives.
I missed a lot of school when I was a teenager due to EDS. I had to work extra hard to get my GCSEs and A Levels, and this was the same at uni, as well as facing all the ‘normal’ uni stress.
What support is available for lawyers and students with disabilities?
If you’re still learning (college/uni) and need help, ask for it! There should be an allocated disabled student liaison who can help you. I was assessed and given additional time for exams, and allowed a laptop for exams. This was a great help.
If you’re working, speak to your bosses. Reasonable adjustments are something that should not be a dirty phrase or avoided, and small things can make a huge difference to your working life.
The Law Society has a special Lawyers with Disabilities Division, which can be found here:- https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/lawyers-with-disabilities/ There are loads of great articles on this section of their website, which I have found really helpful.
I have also signed up to receive emails and updates from The Solicitors’ Charity, which you can find details of here:- https://thesolicitorscharity.org/ They provide emotional and practical support to solicitors, and send around regular emails to touch base with us. They even sent me a stress ball when I signed up which was a nice surprise!
There is loads of support out there. I am always happy to support anyone with physical or mental illnesses and do like to raise awareness whenever I can.
All in all, working as a disabled lawyer is really hard, but incredibly rewarding. I absolutely love my job and I genuinely cannot imagine doing anything else with my life, even when I am exhausted and in bed at 7pm!