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How neurodiverse lawyers can thrive in the profession—and change it for the better

By Lee Rawles for

There’s a business case to be made for hiring attorneys with ADHD, autism, learning disabilities and other neurological differences. Businesses have long touted out-of-the-box thinking, but cookie-cutter hiring practices don’t tend to result in diversity of thought. A legal professional who quite literally thinks differently can be an invaluable part of a team.

In her book Great Minds Think Differently: Neurodiversity for Lawyers and Other Professionals, autistic attorney Haley Moss provides guidance for firms looking to add neurodiverse employees, develop better working relationships with neurodiverse clients, and create more supportive workplaces to help their neurodiverse employees perform at their peak. But she also approaches the issue from the point of view of neurodiverse people looking to enter the profession and thrive within it—whether by advocating for accommodations or leaning in to the way their brain functions best.

Although there’s no definitive number of how many people within the profession are not neurotypical—diagnosed or undiagnosed—their presence is unquestionable. A 2016 study found that 12.5% of lawyer respondents to a survey about mental health reported having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is much higher than the general population. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that between 4% to 8% of adults may have ADHD.

In this new episode of the Modern Law Library podcast, Moss discusses her own journey as a child who was nonverbal to an adult with a law degree and numerous public speaking engagements. She shares tips for students entering law school this fall or who are attempting to pass the bar exam.

If you are someone who never received a diagnosis as a child but have wondered whether you may have a condition such as ADHD or autism, she also offers suggestions for how you could explore it further. And Moss also shares an anecdote about how her very literal way of thinking during research helped her firm successfully advocate for a recusal.