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. This week from the 13th to 19th of March marks ‘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.” – Concetta Scrimshaw
The College’s approach to inclusion
The College welcomes all students, including those with disabilities and health conditions that may adversely affect the ability to complete day to day studies. We offer flexible support services that can be tailored to the needs of the student through an Individual Study Adjustment (ISA). Ultimately, we wish to ensure every student has access to fair learning and assessment, feeling confident in their ability to succeed in their studies. View our reasonable adjustments information here.
Organisations and dates:
- Neurodiversity in Business: LinkedIn, Neurodiversity in Business website
- Neurodiversity in Law: LinkedIn, Neurodiversity in Law website
- Neurodiversity Celebration week (13-19 March 2023)
- Disabled Solicitors Network
Tips for Firms:
- Reasonable adjustments in organisations and best practice for disability inclusion│ The Law Society
- Easy wins and action points for disability inclusion in both large and small firms │ The Law Society
Support for neurodiverse individuals:
- Access to Work scheme
- Scholarship opportunities with Law Society DAS & The College of Legal Practice
- Notable inclusive firms:
- Browne Jacobson - UK's number one Social Mobility Employer for the second year running
- Pinsent Masons - Awarded Silver status for six consecutive years by leading LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall in its Global Workplace Equality Index
- Reed Smith - Scored 100% for disability inclusion by the Disability Equality Index 2022 Best Places to work for disability inclusion
Concetta Scrimshaw (Connie) is a Trainee Solicitor at Pinsent Masons, based in the Leeds office, due to qualify in September 2023. She is interested in intellectual property, technology law, and life sciences. She has a First Class Honours degree in Law from Durham University and completed her LPC at the University of Law. Connie was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 24 and is passionate about raising awareness of and celebrating neurodiversity in the legal profession. In her free time, Connie likes listening to 80s music, watching James Bond films, running, and drawing.
Ibrahim Mohammed (known as Ibz Mo) was born and raised in a single-parent household in Hackney, East London, where he was state school-educated. Mo studied psychology at Cambridge University, graduating in 2019 and going on to complete the year-long GDL course at BPP University. He began a masters in education at Oxford University in 2020, where his dissertation focused on the experiences of low socio-economic undergraduates at Oxbridge. Ibrahim has worked with The Guardian, We are Unicorn, The Access platform, Debut, Deliveroo & Currys/Pc World and more to help break down inaccurate stereotypes of students that have discouraged many ethnic minorities and working class student from applying to elite universities.
Phil is an experienced paralegal and currently a Trainee Legal Executive. Phil is also the author behind The Neurodivergent Lawyer blog, a platform that explores topics such as EDI, Legal news, education and more. Phil regularly writes for LawCareers.net tackling subjects such as neurodiversity and the legal sector. Phil is also a neurodiversity inclusion consultant.