The legal profession could be described as tough, intellectually challenging, and not for the faint of heart.
So, going into a profession that you love is a no brainer, right?? It is a forgone conclusion that your chosen pathway will set you on a course. To put you in the position that you always wanted eventually, and when you get there all those hours of filling those applications in and travelling to interviews and even sitting in those interviews will all seem worth it.
However, if we rewind for a minute and take a look at the situation, I think it has massive stigmatisation, Ill-informed preconceptions and ideas centred around people with Autism.
Simple applications could raise concern to someone on the spectrum because many may include a section about pre-existing illness and disability. Yes, ultimately it is your choice as to whether you want to tell people about a disability but why should you have to feel like you may be judged or penalised for disclosing something like Autism.
The simple facts are nobody should have to be in a position where they are questioning whether they should have to disclose they have Autism and if they do so, how it is going to affect their chances of employment.
If employers made a conscious effort to engage with a person on the spectrum, I am sure they will discover very quickly that employing a neurodiverse person has many benefits.
Diving deeper into this and looking at attributes that are associated with Autism it should help create a picture of what an employee with autism may offer.
· Deep focus
· Freedom from distraction
· Observational skills
· Listen, look, learn approach.
· Absorb and retain facts.
· Excellent long-term memory
· Superior recall
· Visual skills
· Visual learning and recall
· In-depth knowledge
· High level of skills
· Methodical approach
· Spotting patterns, repetition
· Novel approaches
· Unique thought processes
· Innovative solutions
· Distinctive imagination
· Expression of ideas
· Tenacity and resilience
· Challenge opinions
· Honesty, loyalty
· Accepting of difference
· Less likely to judge others.
· May question neurotypical people
It’s worth noting that these traits are not identical in every neurodiverse person but it's obvious that in general someone on the spectrum more often than not will be more than capable of doing the job they have applied for.
What’s more, before any accusations of having rose-tinted glasses arise, there is often a trade-off for people on the spectrum while perfect recall maybe their sensory issues or large crowds of people might be a problem. This does not however mean the ability to perform their job would be compromised.
The reality of this issue is not going to go away overnight with a small minority of openly disabled people employed in law. It does make you wonder how many men and women are working and have hidden their neurodiversity in fear of being turned down based on a diagnosis.
Laws like the Equality Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 were designed to eliminate the possibility of any issues that may arise from identifying yourself to be in fact on the autistic spectrum.
The reality is the laws may be there but if we think about this in 2018 for example just over 2000 potential barristers made over 15,514 applications for 224 positions. If in that sea of applications 5 stated, the person applying was autistic do you think it would have a positive impact on the chances to even get to an interview stage? Or do you think the fear of the unknown would take over and the assurance of what is known would become the safer bet and those 5 applications would become lost in the pile of applications of the neurotypical applicants hoping to get an interview slot?
While I sit here typing this, I have had to carefully consider the ramifications of such a release of information and what kind of impact it could have and even consider if people on the spectrum are less likely to have the career progression that a neurotypical person would. I have spent hours filtering information out of this story and even at one point considered not publishing this story at all.
The main reason for this is because I am neurodiverse. I genuinely worry that a simple term on an application form and acknowledgement of such a thing like autism may hinder my career in law, and on face value, unless I told you that, I am pretty sure you as a reader would have no idea that I was born and will die with not what I consider a disability but an ability.
The superior recall from my long-term memory and an immense amount of detail I am able to go into from something that happened months or even years ago I can do with ease. These are just a couple of the things you should remember me for, as given the chance are attributes that will aid in getting the right result in a court.
I would encourage solicitors and barristers’ chambers to be more open to the idea of employing people that are openly on the spectrum. It is not a hindrance it’s almost the perfect storm when it comes to working in this field.
I would also encourage more people actively working in law and in universities to be open about being on the spectrum because the cycle will never break if everyone keeps hiding from something they shouldn’t have to, in fear it may affect their career.
Today is World Autism Awareness Day so let’s move forward with a view to making progression and breaking down barriers so we can all enjoy the respective fields we work in or are aiming to work in.
Written By: Ben Landy
OULS News Reporter