Speaking from experience
In my opinion, one of the skills of being a discrimination lawyer is speaking from experience or using personal experiences to frame your advice and the way you interact with clients. I am fortunate enough to say that I have not been the victim of serious discrimination across my career. I have been subjected to the criticisms of my personality being ‘acerbic’ or ‘hard-work’ or ‘feisty’ when I deigned to express my opinion as a junior female lawyer but it did not dampen my spirits nor curb my ambition. I remember being asked why I was so ambitious and the surprise being expressed when I opted to return to work 22 weeks after my baby was born, but I was not phased or deterred. I ploughed on, knowing as a female lawyer juggling a family and career that I was well-placed to empathise with and support other women who were struggling with more severe examples of work-place discrimination, and who want to ‘have it all’ or ‘have cake and eat it too.’
The same can be said for my engagement with clients that are neurodiverse, who see things differently and often face struggles in the workplace because they are misunderstood or who are not afforded the requisite support to do their job to the best of their abilities. I grew up with a sister with severe special needs, Emily has dyspraxia, dysphasia and other issues that arise from suffering severe brain damage in the womb. She uses Makaton to communicate and cannot speak. Emily has fine motor skill issues and requires support in most aspects of her life from getting washed, dressed and feeding herself. That is not to say she is not able to do anything. She is a dab hand at bead making, arts and crafts and loves a good boogie.
What I am trying to say is that speaking from experience, and having a sister that has never been considered ‘normal’ has shaped me as a person. I consider I have empathy, sympathy and an understanding of clients that don’t think they fit in or that struggle to express themselves or engage with information relayed in a standardised way. Considering my background, my own life experiences enable me to be a better lawyer, to work with my clients in a way that suits them and their uniqueness which facilitates a more conducive working relationship and encourages better outcomes. Even if they do not ‘win’ they can say they were listened to, they were heard and they were supported.