I realize that I have not updated in some time. I just found out that Gimpy Law has been nominated for The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blogs. I had no idea that such a competition existed. I am very curious who made the nomination. Thanks very much to whoever you are.
I do feel that I owe Gimpy Law readers an explanation for my absence from posting. I have been keeping busy, having just been appointed as the Co-Chair of the Attorneys with Disabilities Committee for the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and a member of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois. Also, in addition to traveling a lot for legal conferences, I have been putting out fires for officially launching my law practice, Disability Law Collective. It has been a little over a year since I started my legal incubator program and I haven’t officially launched yet. I know that this seems strange, considering I have friends who set up their law practices much quickly (like in a week); everyone has their own pace.
It seems like every time I try to launch, something goes wrong… major website malfunctions and redevelopment, office inaccessibility, taking better care of my health, pulling my hair out about my non-profit housing cooperative—Able Community, and worrying about finding clients (as my Torts and Civil Rights Professor described herself, I too am a chronic worrier). I’ll spare you all the boring details. I am not sure if I am overreacting, but I became discouraged that I have to face more hurdles than my peers without disabilities. I mean I usually don’t feel bad about myself or my disability and I never throw myself a pity party, but the totality of the circumstances triggered it.
The Thinker, a sculpture by Auguste Rodin, shows a nude male figure of over life-size sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand as though deep in thought. This picture is from this museum’s website, Musee Rodin, in Paris.
Although I am accepting clients, I would like to get all of my ducks in a row before I officially launch. But I am pleased to announce that I am very close to launching Disability Law Collective. I have been working on legally substantive blog posts that I have been saving for closer to my launch. I’m not sure if this will change Gimpy Law’s readership, but I still plan to mix in posts about social issues.
After much deliberation about disclosing my disability on my online attorney profile, I decided to go full monty and disclose a full picture. Perhaps it makes sense for me to disclose my disability, since I am starting a disability law practice. But I am still nervous that some potential clients would be hesitant to hire me because of my disability.
When I was about to graduate law school, I had a conversation about disclosing my disability with my Employment Discrimination Law Professor. She encouraged me to disclose my disability, saying that employers would eventually find out that I have a disability and that I shouldn’t waste my time with the ones that discriminate. She added that I would find the right office that would accept me and my disability. After about six years of agonizing job applications, I have come to realize that no such office exists. But I am hopeful that my potential clients will be different.
Here’s my blurb for my up and coming website for my law practice:
Profile Picture of Esther Lee
My name is Esther S. Lee. I am an attorney with a disability. My Cerebral Palsy affects my speech and mobility, but not my spirit. I received honors distinctions from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a B.A. in English and Rhetoric. I graduated from the University of California Davis, School of Law, with a focus on civil rights and public interest law. In addition to being an attorney, I am starting a non-profit housing cooperative for people with and without disabilities, called Able Community. My extensive background advancing the rights of people with disabilities includes legal work at multiple disability rights organizations and disability policy work at the White House. I am committed to empowering people with disabilities and underrepresented communities, advancing their rights and quality of life through legal advocacy.
Our office is an affordable, socially conscious law practice advocating for people with disabilities and their families’ every day legal needs. The practice focuses on Social Security, Special Education, housing, disability, and administrative law; as well as advancing the Civil Rights of all people in Illinois and California.
Successfully fought apartment management companies and university housing to modify units for increased ADA accessibility.
Successfully initiated Social Security applications and assisted with appearances.
Successfully resolved fence encroachment matters between neighbors.
Successfully reduced and appealed Cook County property tax assessments.
Successfully negotiated medical bills in a medical negligence case.
Successfully completed mediations, administrative reviews, administrative fair hearings, 4731 complaints for Regional Center disabilities services in California.
Successfully completed mediations and administrative review process for Department of Rehabilitation services.
Pro Bono Experience:
White House: Engaged in disability policy and outreach to the disability community.
Legal Assistance Foundation’s Special Education Pro Bono Panel: Trained to provide legal representation and advocacy in Special Education matters.
Access Living—Civil Rights Team (Chicago’s Independent Living Center): Advanced disability rights in housing and community integration litigation.
Disability Rights California’s Office of Clients’ Rights Advocates: Advocated for clients with developmental disabilities in Special Education, employment discrimination, and wrote a letter to stop harassing a client who was manipulated into purchasing an expensive household item he did not need.
Aids Legal Council of Chicago: Advocated for adults and children with disabilities in Social Security Disability Insurance and Social Security Income appeals before the Social Security Administration and Federal Court.
Legal Services of Northern California: Provided legal advice to low-income and elderly clients on topics including landlord-tenant issues, housing, and professional licensing.
Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS): Assisted clients in creditor, housing, and family law self-help matters on a legal assistance hotline.
Civil Rights Clinic: Represented a former prisoner in a medical negligence (personal injury) case against prison personnel.
Homeless Action Center: Worked on Social Security applications and appeals for homeless and low income individuals.
Any feedback on this bio or thoughts on disclosing one’s disability on one’s profile?
Before I spend more money and time on building up my practice, I wonder if I should do a feasibility study (an assessment of what a certain venture should entail, feasibility concerns, and the likelihood of succeeding) on how well my practice will do, which practice areas would be more successful, the likelihood that clients would hire me with my disability, and if clients would want to use a virtual office over a traditional office with in-person meetings. Any ideas?
A picture of a man contemplating ideas on a huge blackboard from this online image.
Perhaps the only way to really know is to go ahead and do it. I realized some time ago that since I wasn’t being hired as an attorney (I suspect disability discrimination compounded by the Recession), I needed to start my own law practice to work as an attorney. I have been risk adverse about this… I mean law school teaches to think of the worst case scenario. I have friends without disabilities who have started their own practices; some have been more successful than others.
I have done a feasibility study for my non-profit organization, but I have never heard of a feasibility study for a law practice. The feasibility study for my non-profit involved sending out a survey monkey to friends with disabilities, asking them questions relevant to service areas that the non-profit seeks to provide, and then interviewing the survey participants who expressed an interest in what we’re doing. Would a feasibility study for my gimpy law practice be worth pursuing? What would one look like? And how would I distribute it? To whom? Feel free to share your thoughts in the poll or in the comment section below.