Ready To Be Me

  • July 02, 2021

Dear Advy,

My firm talks a lot about diversity, but I don’t think they have given any consideration to neurodiversity. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was young (now they’d just called it Autism, I think), but no one can really tell. I think they just consider me ‘quirky,’ which is fine.  I am at a point now where I would like to let people know about some of my challenges and how my brain works, but I don’t really know how to introduce the topic at work. Thanks for your help.

Ready To Be Me

Dear Ready To Be Me,

From one quirky lawyer to another, thanks so much for your question.  

I read your question to suggest that you aren’t having any difficulties working with your colleagues right now. What you are really aiming for is to expand your colleagues’ understanding of what makes you tick and be free to be fully yourself when you are at work.  

Take a bit of time to clearly define what you want the people you work with to know and what it is about how your brain works that you need some engagement. Not to minimize the value of diagnoses, but the label you apply may not be as important in this instance. Frame this as a positive, and if you are asking for some support from your co-workers, frame that positively as well. For example, you might tell them you enjoy diving deeply into legal or factual issues, but sometimes you want help from someone to tell you when you’ve done enough. To be clear, I’m not saying that’s how you are or what your needs are. I am just giving that as an illustration of what you could do.  

Diversity of all kinds is a net benefit to organizations and society. Your firm’s effectiveness, creativity, and, frankly, profitability are made possible because you are different from other people, not despite it.  You are not informing the firm of a defective part in its engine of growth; you are explaining the finer attributes of one of its well-tuned parts. If you were left-handed, you might ask for a desk where you can write without knocking something over with your elbow. It may be more profound, but fundamentally the conversation you’re considering having is no different. Being unlike others is not a problem. The problem is that a one-size-fits-all approach can reduce how happy, healthy and effective you can be.

As it happens, the CBA’s Professional Development arm is premiering a new program on neurodiversity in the practice of law. I recommend you take it in, and - if you think it’s appropriate - share it with your colleagues too. The course itself is a good resource, and so are the links you’ll find in it. It may give you good ideas to discuss with your colleagues, or it may just be of personal interest.  

Be well!

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