ABA launches nationwide study to expand opportunities for disabled, LGBT+ lawyers

The American Bar Association is launching a first-of-its kind nationwide study, conducted by the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, to identify the biases encountered by LGBT+ and/or disabled lawyers in the legal profession and to help develop and implement strategies to ameliorate such biases. Preliminary results are expected to be released in September.

Diversity and inclusion programs typically focus on gender and race. Too often, the LGBT+ communities and/or those who have disabilities are not included in efforts to expand career and professional diversity, especially in the legal profession.

"This study is integral to the ABA's continuing efforts to promote the full and equal participation of all diverse persons, including LGBT+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities, in the association and the legal profession as a whole," said ABA President Linda Klein.

The study, part of the ABA Pathway to the Profession Project, which grew out of the ABA Diversity and Inclusion 360 Commission, will be used to develop strategies for more inclusiveness, according to Peter Blanck, professor of Law and chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute, and lead investigator, enabling "the ABA to make a positive impact on the U.S. legal profession and on the lives and careers of LGBT+ lawyers and/or lawyers with disabilities."

Approximately 60 million Americans have disabilities that impact major life activities. Disabilities can be visible such as blindness or paraplegia or invisible such as dyslexia and depression. Accurate estimates of LGBT+ Americans have proven elusive, ranging from 9 to 12 million Americans.

The number of openly LGBT+ lawyers has more than doubled over the last 10 years, according to recent statistics from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). Nonetheless, when compared with other legal professional demographic groups LGBT legal professionals are more likely to be employed by public interest organizations rather than by law firms.

For law professionals with disabilities, NALP reports that less than 2 percent of graduates self-identify as having a disability. Those that do report their disability were less likely to be employed compared to men, women, minorities or graduates identifying as LGBT+.

Published: Mon, May 15, 2017