By Legal Futures Associate The College of Legal Practice
Neurodiversity is an umbrella term that refers to diversity in the human brain which can affect a person’s social understanding, attention, learning, and many other mental functions. The term neurodiversity has gained increasing attention in recent years, with the aim of highlighting the need to recognise and embrace the diversity of neurotypes in society.
Earlier this month it was ‘Neurodiversity celebration week’, which describes itself as “a worldwide initiative that challenges stereotypes and misconceptions about neurological differences”. The legal industry, however, has often been criticised for its lack of representation and inclusion of neurodivergent individuals. That being said, across all industries, including legal, there has definitely been an increased awareness of neurodiversity within recent years and an active attempt to increase understanding and accommodations.
In an effort to help raise more awareness of neurodiversity in law, The College of Legal Practice ran a panel and Q&A event on the 8th of February looking at “Demystifying Success in Law for Neurodiverse Junior Lawyers”. The session welcomed three neurodiverse legal professionals who spoke about their experiences in law as neurodiverse individuals (with a focus on ADHD and Autism), the differences it made to their journey, and some of the struggles they faced.
Our speakers included self-made Educational influencer and future Trainee Solicitor Ibrahim Mohammed (known as Ibz Mo), Concetta Scrimshaw, recently featured on Legal Cheek, and Philip Steventon author of The Neurodivergent Lawyer blog. Attendees were welcome to submit questions regarding neurodiversity and the legal industry when registering and throughout the session and many did.
“For me to thrive with ADHD, I need, unfortunately, stress and I need the kind of anxiety that’s involved with it because that will counteract the symptoms of being inattentive, of kind of, procrastinating and not being able to focus… that stress involved definitely got me out of bed every single day.” – Ibrahim Mohammed
The panel discussion focused on access into the industry and the junior lawyer experience, including the challenges that neurodivergent individuals face when entering the legal profession. We also looked at strategies our speakers used to navigate certain challenges and their experiences within law firms. Lastly, the panellists also shared their own personal experiences, how they defined their neurodiversity and how they felt their neurodiversity presentation affected them.
“It kind of feels a bit like using a different internet browser to the rest of the world… It affects the way that I process and interpret information around me and how I respond to, interact and process and go through the world around me. I find it to be equal parts difficult but beautiful at the same time.” – Phil Steventon
The shared experiences of our speakers provided valuable insight into the unique strengths and challenges they faced. One of the key takeaways for us was how neurodiversity impacts people differently. No two people, even with the same types of neurodiversity, experience the same struggles nor the same intensity and each have their own strategies in place to help work at their best.
“I think for me, it’s about maybe identifying the strengths that neurodiversity brings to me and I think at the end of the day my diagnosis, it was a really positive thing for me, it provided clarity, knowledge, understanding and ultimately freedom to finally be who I really am… The key to adapting is working out how it helps you, rather than how it hinders you.” – Conchetta Scrimshaw
You can watch the full panel event here: https://bit.ly/3JdDUFX