Disabled Lawyers Division Summer Social

We started the day with a committee meeting, delighted to finally see each other again (some of us for the first time not virtually).

The first guests started arriving at 5 p.m. Committee members chatted with friends, old and new.

We were surrounded by the beautiful London skyline, thanks to the generosity of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and our committee member Reena Parmar who runs the Freshfields Disability Network.

Photo: Noah da Costa

Speakers began at 6 p.m. sharp, addressing attendees in person and online. LDD members have benefited from the shift to online participation, and we want this to continue to ensure full inclusion.

The LDD Chair opened the event by welcoming everyone and noting the impact of the pandemic on the disability legal community.

According to the legally disabled? research, before COVID-19 most requested reasonable adjustment was being able to work from home – and the most denied. How things have changed!

A group of delegates talking and laughing, while holding drinks - one is seated in a wheelchairPhoto: Noah da Costa

Lead researcher Professor Debbie Foster joined the online event.

Law Society President Stephanie Boyce spoke about the need to ensure that lawyers with disabilities are included in the profession. She mentioned Project Rise, which encourages companies to offer part-time training contracts.

LDD member Lizzie Hardy and Law Society D&I adviser Chris Seel have worked with Eversheds Sutherland and Osborne Clarke, who are now offering part-time contracts, with more to join soon.

Freshfields partner Peter Allen welcomed everyone and explained what the company does, including working with other organisations.

The onstage panel began with Dame Fiona Woolf being interviewed by LDD Vice President Yasmin Sheikh.

Dame Fiona is a decorated lawyer and a remarkable pioneer for gender equality. She is also on her own path and was proud to come out as a disabled person.

Sanjay Solanki, member of the LDD, interviewed Fraser Kane, trainee lawyer at Freeths.

He dazzled the audience and other panelists with his innovative ideas, working methods and positive approach to his disability.

Sanjay explained how his assistive software meant he was faster than his colleagues and he encouraged people with disabilities to be open and honest – and to have ambition.

Peter Allen introduces the panelists at the Lawyers with Disabilities Division summer meeting.  Behind him, Reena Parmar and Mark Blois listen, seated on panel chairs.

Photo: Noah da Costa

Reena Parmar interviewed Mark Blois, who is a partner at Browne Jacobson. Mark spoke about his journey to becoming a senior model and how he dealt with his disability and fluctuating nature in his career, with the support of his colleagues and his company.

After the panel, participants (including other committee members) had the opportunity to network.

The room was full of conversations and people connecting through the disability and alliance fellowship.

Online, committee members Rhian Hooton and Rob Camm worked in rooms and spoke with attendees remotely. They included people from all legal backgrounds, including Jane Barrett, chair of the new Irish Association Disability Legal Networkjoining us from Dublin.

It was a night that will be cherished by many for a long time and has inspired LDD to engage even more with its members and work on inclusion.

Watch a recording of our speakers below.

If you would like a transcript, email [email protected]