He started having seizures at work and was diagnosed with epilepsy, a disability that impacted his billable hour statistics.
The diagnosis couldn’t have come at a worse time. He was up for partner at Reed Smith, and his sudden health threat filled him with concern that his firm would deny his promotion.
He need not have worried—Debevec got his promotion. “When a business makes a decision to promote people, that’s visible and speaks a lot to the values of the organization,” he says. “People see that.”
Ensuring that other disabled lawyers can make partner is a prime reason that Debevec co-founded Reed Smith’s disability affinity group, LEADRS (Looking for Excellence and Advancement of Disabled Attorneys). Attorneys with disabilities need more room for opportunity, he says. “There’s plenty of ability, but if we’re always focusing on the thing the person can’t do, you don’t focus on what the person can contribute,” he argues.
As the nation in October celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month, statistics show that the legal profession as a whole either isn’t doing its fair share to recruit, retain and advance attorneys with disabilities, or it has failed to be inclusive enough for disabled lawyers to feel comfortable disclosing their impairments. Many law firms state generally that they’re welcoming to people with disabilities, but only a handful have put their words into meaningful action.
Read the full article, "Are law firms committed to disability diversity? A handful of firms have taken action," written by Angela Morris at abajournal.com.