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Kevin H. Smith

excerpted from:  Disability, Law  Schools, and Law Students: a Proactive and Holistic Approach , Akron Law Review 1-106, 78-106 (1999)(261 Footnotes)

In most disability matters, the law school reacts to a student's request for accommodation rather than acting proactively. After self-identifying and documenting her disability, the student will request one or more of the accommodations previously discussed. The law school normally grants the request and that ends the matter. Few people would disagree with placing the responsibility on the student to initiate the process and to request a specific accommodation or set of accommodations. A student should not be forced to self- identify and thus disclose non-obvious impairments such as AIDS, an LD, or a mental illness. In addition, a student with an obvious disability or who has self-identified and documented a disability should not be forced to submit to "accommodations," particularly if the accommodations are based on paternalistic and stereotyped ideas concerning the abilities and needs of disabled individuals. The law protects both the disabled student's right to equal opportunity (by permitting the student to self-identify and request accommodations) and her right to privacy and self-determination (by permitting her to not self-identify or to not have "accommodations" forced upon her by the law school).

But can and should law schools do more than they are currently doing to accommodate disabled law students? Even if not required by the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA, does the status as an educational institution place a moral obligation upon the law school to take a more proactive position with respect to disabled students? This article espouses the proactive position and proposes a model program for assisting disabled law students. But before the model program is discussed, it is important to discuss the principles which should govern a law school's approach to disability issues.

A. Principles Governing Disability Issues.

Disability law is built on the foundation of ambiguous concepts, such as "physical or mental impairment," "substantially limits," and "major life activity." Because most disability-related issues are resolved informally, without the involvement of courts or administrative agencies, the principles which animate the decision-making process are of paramount importance. This section sets forth three general and nine specific principles which should result in fair, workable disability-related decisions.

Law school administrators and legal educators cannot hope to instill in their students a proper respect for law and ethical behavior if they do not abide by the law. Therefore, the fundamental principle for a law school's disability policy, procedures, and actions should be a good faith, affirmative undertaking to comply fully with all applicable disability-related laws and regulations, whether federal, state, or local. Law school administrators and legal educators must educate themselves concerning the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and all other relevant laws and regulations.

Law school administrators and legal educators not only must respect the letter of the law, but they also must respect the spirit which animates the law. The Rehabilitation Act and the ADA are intended to promote equal opportunity for individuals with physical and mental impairments. In the educational context, Congress intended to permit qualified individuals with disabilities to fulfill their personal aspirations and potentials by using their talents for the betterment of society. This policy of inclusiveness, coupled with the indeterminate definition of "disability," should result in law schools engaging in an expansive application of the term. If a student self-identifies and provides appropriate documentation of a physical or mental impairment which reasonably could have a negative impact on her education, law school administrators should err on the side of considering the student to be disabled. Further, law school administrators and legal educators must respect the individual who the law is intended to protect and assist. Students who are disabled must be treated with respect and dignity. Despite society's emphasis on autonomy and self-reliance, the act of seeking reasonable accommodation should not be viewed as a sign of weakness or of an inability to practice law. For example, law school administrators and legal educators should take no action which indicates that a learning disability is a manifestation of laziness, a general lack of intellectual ability, or that mental illness reflects a lack of character or will power. Most importantly, a disability should not be viewed as a student's defining characteristic. Instead, the student should be viewed as a person with a disability.

The principles of respect for the letter and spirit of disability law and for the disabled student must be supplemented by other, more specific principles:

1. Law school administrators should act proactively to ensure students are aware of their rights under disability-related federal, state, and local laws, as well as under university and law school regulations and procedures. An appropriate description of these rights, as well as university and law school procedures and programs for students who are disabled or who believe they may qualify for disability status, should also be made evident to all students. This information should be included in admissions materials, orientation materials, the student handbook, posters placed on bulletin boards, and in other prominent places in the law school. Because these materials may not be read, this information should also be included in letters placed in all student mailboxes at the beginning of each semester and whenever there are relevant changes in laws or university or law school policies, programs, and procedures.

2. Law school administrators should act proactively to ensure that legal educators are aware of students' rights under relevant disability laws. Law school administrators must keep themselves informed about the ever-changing rights of disabled law students, as well as the attendant responsibilities which legal educators have to assist in providing reasonable accommodations to disabled students. Legal administrators should work with legal educators to ensure that the latter are kept informed about these rights and responsibilities and have the periodic opportunity to become informed about any special pedagogical techniques required for maximizing learning by disabled law students. Law school administrators can in several ways assist legal educators. First, administrators should ensure that copies of the disability-related materials which are distributed to students are sent to faculty members. Second, administrators should conduct periodically a presentation on disability- related issues, rights, and responsibilities for legal educators. Further, administrators can arrange periodic meetings with appropriate university resource persons or faculty from the education department to discuss the effects of disabilities on learning and how pedagogically appropriate methods can be incorporated into law classes, and how students with undiagnosed learning disabilities can be identified.

3. Each disabled student presents a unique set of physical and mental impairments with a unique set of education-related problems. Therefore, every disabled student should have both an individualized assessment and an individualized accommodation program.

4. Accommodation programs must be based on the principle that students learn in a variety of ways. For example, disabled students, particularly learning disabled students, may have deficits which will make the standard "Socratic Method" of learning difficult for them. Legal educators should assist disabled students in becoming aware of their strengths and weaknesses as learners in order to develop methods or strategies to capitalize on their strengths and to minimize their weaknesses. Disabled students must realize that all learning is not the same. They must develop different methods of learning for different situations. The goal for every student should be to develop her capacity to be an independent learner. After all, each student will have to be an independent learner when she is thrust into a work environment in which there will be no legal educators to structure the learning experience.

5. Disabilities frequently have financial, emotional, social, family, and career repercussions. Law school administrators and legal educators should consider a disability's impact on the student's entire life and the resulting impact on the student's education and career opportunities. The law school's disability-related program should provide the disabled student with a range of optional services and programs which address non-academic matters.

6. To the extent permitted by the nature of the student's disability, law school administrators and legal educators should assist the student in integrating into the full law school experience: participation in classes, law review, moot court, writing competitions, study groups, and extracurricular and social activities. The need for integration into academic experiences is obvious. The need for integration into study groups and extracurricular and social groups is based upon the salutary effects of the informal teaching, information sharing, and networking which occurs in such groups, and the sense of belonging and self-esteem that inclusion fosters.

7. High standards and expectations for disabled students must be maintained in every aspect of the educational program, such as class preparation and participation, examination performance, and admission to law review and moot court board. Reasonable accommodations should be granted, but should not turn into coddling. A graduating disabled student must be able to say with pride that she earned her degree, just as her classmates did. Her future clients should have confidence that she earned her degree and that it was not merely awarded to her. Although some disabled, as well as non- disabled, students will not be able to meet the challenge, students with disabilities should be given the same opportunity to try--and to fail--as are non-disabled students.

8. Law school administrators and legal educators should work to promote and maintain an environment which promotes learning. All members of the law school community should attempt to provide "a humane and supportive educational environment" and "an educational program that attempts to develop [a successful] self-concept, resources with which to cope with failure, and feelings of success and ability.... There is a need to provide methodologies, techniques, and skills to help these law students develop feelings of self-worth, of successful participation, and of belonging."

9. Legal administrators should attempt to promote diversity through the recruitment of qualified disabled individuals. Because the overwhelming percentage of disabilities are not physically apparent, it may not be possible to aggressively promote diversity in the same manner as can be done with respect to minorities and women. Law school administrators and legal educators can and should take steps to promote diversity by informing prospective and current students of their rights under disability-related law, by creating a disability-friendly environment, and by proactively working to assist disabled students.

Although diversity is a reasonable and laudable goal, students admitted with an identified disability should have a reasonable opportunity to succeed, both in terms of fulfilling academic requirements and in terms of having the ability to maximize their potential. The Rehabilitation Act and the ADA are not intended to create, nor should they be construed as creating, quota or open- enrollment programs. Students with identified disabilities in the admissions process should be treated like similarly situated non-disabled students. If their qualifications do not warrant admission, they should not be admitted.

B. A Model Program for Working with Students with Disabilities.

Based on the foregoing principles, this article will now outline a model program for working with disabled law students. The nucleus of the program is a written Individualized Accommodation Plan (IAP) for each disabled law student. An IAP is the culmination of an individualized assessment created by a team of interested parties. The IAP takes into consideration the nature and severity of the student's physical and mental disabilities, as well as the disabilities' educational, psychological, social, career, family, logistical, and financial implications. The purpose of the model program and use of an IAP is not merely to provide disabled law students with reasonable accommodations which they request, but to serve all the needs of disabled law students. The program's success rests firmly on inclusion, an understanding of disability issues, accommodation options, support, and high standards applied to all students.

No program can be effective if its intended participants are unaware of its existence and attributes. Many disabled students may be unaware of their rights under federal, state, and local laws, as well as under law school and university regulations, policies, and procedures. In addition, disabled law students are unaware of the types of accommodations which are routinely granted to law students with common disabilities. This information should be conspicuously included in admissions materials, orientation materials and presentations, the student handbook, and posters placed on bulletin boards and in other prominent places in the law school. This information should also be included in letters placed in all student mailboxes at the beginning of each semester and whenever there are relevant changes in changed laws or university policies, programs, and procedures.

No program will be effective if the individuals who are touched by its methods and contribute to it are not involved. A law school program for disabled students that does not involve law school administrators and legal educators is doomed either to failure or diminished effectiveness. Unfortunately, many university law school administrators and legal educators are not involved in the determination of whether a student is disabled or which accommodations are reasonable. These determinations frequently are made by the staff of an office of student disability services which acts for the entire university. Such a distribution of authority may appear to make administrative sense because it concentrates the university's expertise concerning disabilities issues in a single office. In addition, for some physical and medical conditions, such as quadriplegia or total blindness, there can be little or no disagreement regarding the existence of a disability or the nature of needed accommodations. However, when dealing with mental and physical impairments such as learning disorders, ADD, ADHD, or mental illness, the determination of whether the impairment constitutes a disability, the scope of reasonable accommodations, and whether the individual can fulfill the law school's essential eligibility requirements, even with the accommodations, can be made only if the decision maker fully understands the unique demands of law school pedagogy and the general law school experience. Unfortunately, the professionals who work in a disability office which serves the entire university may not be aware of these requirements.

A better practice would be to have initial, direct law school involvement in all disability-related decisions, from the determination of the existence of a disability to the establishment of reasonable accommodations. Not only would law school involvement result in better decision making for the disabled law student, but it might also ameliorate some of the understandable frustration which law school administrators and legal educators have with the decisions and "recommendations" of those who are unfamiliar with law school pedagogy.

Inclusion brings with it responsibility and any individual who works to serve the needs of disabled law students must be knowledgeable about disability- related matters. This is especially true of those individuals who have the most contact with and the greatest influence on the student during the law school years: the law school faculty. Law school administrators should work to inform all legal educators about the existence, nature, and impacts of disabilities, particularly unseen disabilities such as mental illness, LDs, ADD, and ADHD. This will help in the identification of students with undiagnosed disabilities. Further, an increased understanding of disabilities should reduce the extent to which legal educators stigmatize disabled students who have sought accommodation.

Participation in a proactive, holistic program which will create and work from an IAP in order to meet the needs of disabled students must not be limited to the student, legal administrators, legal educators, and members of the university's office of student disability services. Little will be accomplished without the expertise and learned consultation of individuals familiar with and well schooled in the individual student's physical and mental impairments, their impact on the student's educational processes, and possible ameliorating accommodations. The IAP team should also include the student's current medical or other disability-related professional diagnostician, caregivers, and therapists; professionals familiar with education research and the practical aspects of designing accommodation programs for individuals with specific types of disabilities; and, if necessary, a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor familiar with the student or with the psychological impact of disabilities. Where the student's disability raises career counseling, financial aid, or similar issues, relevant university and law school personnel should also be included. At the student's option, the assessment might also involve the state board of bar examiners (which may have a policy of not recognizing certain conditions as disabilities or of granting a lower level of accommodation on bar exams than the law school does on law school exams) and prospective employers.

Contributions made by each team member will supplement those made by other team members, resulting in a stronger, more individualized, and more sophisticated IAP, as well as a stronger, more comprehensive program. For example, through her discussions with the student's current medical or other disability-related professionals, the law school administrator will obtain a better insight into the student's condition and its impact on the study of law, the availability, effectiveness, and side-effects of treatment or ameliorative strategies, and the psychological or other impacts of the disability. In return, the law school administrator will be able to supply the other IAP team members with a better understanding of the general nature and specific requirements of law school pedagogy, the law school experience, and the practice of law. Overall, this dialogue should result in better decision making regarding whether the student is disabled for law school purposes and what accommodations are reasonable under the circumstances.

The involvement of the law school faculty is invaluable when working to determine what reasonable accommodations will best meet a student's needs. Knowledge of pedagogy in a particular course should provide more focused and appropriate suggestions regarding accommodations. For example, a professor in a tax course who uses complicated hypotheticals may suggest that she provide a student suffering from arthritis or a student with a profound hearing impairment with class notes or handouts on which lengthy or complicated hypotheticals, but not the answers, are written. In addition, discussions may result in suggestions by other participants.

Creating an IAP requires the input of a team of individuals, each contributing to and benefiting from the involvement with the team in different ways. An IAP's effectiveness will relate directly to how well--both accurately and comprehensively--the student's unique combination of impairments, functional limitations, psychological profile, and life situation is viewed. The IAP's validity and utility will rest upon the concert of contributing voices which fully, directly, and vigorously represent the students interests. Although all the participants in the IAP process should work to further the student's best interests, the direct involvement of the non-law school participants should compensate for any hesitation a law student might have to dispute or to question the decisions of a law school administrator or a member of the law school faculty.

Specifically, the IAP assessment should take into account (a) the nature and severity of the student's physical and mental disabilities; (b) the student's current ability to read (including speed and comprehension) and write (including grammar, mechanics, and organization); (c) the student's current ability to think abstractly, reason by analogy, think sequentially, and use basic logic (such as a standard syllogism); (d) the student's current learning styles and study habits; (e) the student's emotional state and her basic personality characteristics; (f) the student's current family and social situation; and (g) the impairments' educational, psychological, social, career, family, logistical, and financial implications.

The resulting written IAP should include a synopsis of the information obtained during the assessment process; the accommodations requested by the student which the law school agrees to make; any additional accommodations or program modifications offered by the law school or university to which the student agrees; any actions which the student agrees to take in order to ameliorate, eliminate, or compensate for the disability; a list of any accommodations or actions suggested by the law school which the student declines to take; a list of actions suggested by the student's medical or other disability-related professional; and a list of programs or services which the law school or university makes available to all disabled students.

Earlier sections of this article reviewed by group much of the information which logically would be included in an IAP, including details of specific disabilities and the effects of those disabilities on the educational process, a range of reasonable accommodations commonly provided in law schools, and certain steps, such as medication or training, which can improve, remove, or help compensate for disabilities. A list of support services and an overview of the basic standards of operation vital to the success of a program for disabled law students, each a discrete part of the IAP, will be discussed in the following sections.

Armed with a written IAP created by a team of concerned and qualified individuals possessing a comprehensive understanding of disability issues, legal educators should be able to activate the support services necessary to meet the needs of disabled law students. These services include continued and new screening for disabilities, initial and on-going assessment, specialized counseling, school-related financial counseling, academic support, career counseling, and assistance with post-graduation concerns such as the bar exam.

Screening for law students with physical and mental disabilities must be an on-going process. The law school should maintain a formal, but non-intrusive screening program for students with undiagnosed learning disabilities. Most disabled law students, particularly those with obvious disabilities and profound learning disabilities will have been identified by the time they reach law school. If they choose to do so, they may self-identity and seek accommodations. However, the student body may contain individuals with undiagnosed learning disabilities. An active part of the law school's disability program will be to screen for these students. Identifying a learning disability in the first semester of law school may prevent the student from ending up in academic difficulty.

Four groups of students may be considered strongly for initial and on-going screening and diagnosis. Legal educators who teach legal research and writing probably will have the first opportunity to screen for individuals with learning disorders. Students with profound organizational and writing problems can be identified after the first one or two assignments. In addition, individuals who are chronically late with assignments should be screened because this may indicate difficulty with writing and an inability to organize ideas. Beginning after the first semester, students who are on academic probation or believe they performed poorly relative to their effort on the LSAT or did well on one type of exam format but poorly on another also should be screened. Finally, students who regularly perform poorly in class discussion should be screened to determine whether they have a panic disorder, aphasia, or other disability which prevents them from following class discussion or speaking in front of the class. These groups are not meant to be exhaustive. Thus, all faculty and staff within the law school community should be diligent in considering whether a student's behavior warrants screening for a non-obvious disability.

In addition, an on-going screening process will allow legal educators to identify and consider options available to non-disabled students who suffer temporary impairments. Temporary disruptions in a student's life may impair a student's ability to function just as profoundly as a disability. Pregnancy, illnesses, depression, broken bones, and divorces frequently occur in the student population. Although these events probably do not constitute disabilities under the relevant legal framework; as a matter of policy, the law school community should treat as a disability a temporary impairment which has the same functional impact on a major life activity as would an analogous disability. Students who experience and document such life events should be given the same level of accommodation as is given to the disabled student. Inasmuch as these temporary impediments are unlikely to require costly accommodations, this student-friendly policy should not cost the law school a significant amount of money. An open, on- going screening process makes this approach feasible.

As with all aspects of a law school's program to address the needs of its disabled and non-disabled student, the screening process must rely on skilled individuals who serve as sources of information. They should help law school administrators and legal educators understand the nature, severity, and impact of the impairments with which their students must contend. In particular, the screening process must be conducted in conjunction with a specialist in learning disabilities. This may require the law school to work in conjunction with the education department of the university with which it is affiliated or for free-standing law schools to retain a learning disability specialist. In addition, there should be someone in the law school who is at least passingly familiar with the range of LDs, ADD, ADHD, and EDs and can serve to refer the student to the appropriate university or outside resource person.

With both self-identification and a formal screening process in place, assessment, including the creation of an IAP, is the natural first step. The program would be insufficient, however, if the assessment process did not include both the initial assessment, IAP, and on-going assessment as a follow- up to the original IAP. The initial assessment should occur and the initial IAP should be drafted at the beginning of the student's first semester as soon as the student self-identifies or is discovered to have a disability, whichever occurs first. Unless the condition is a static chronic condition, additional assessments should occur and the IAP should be updated at the beginning of each succeeding semester. In addition, whenever the student or her medical or other disability-related professional believes there has been a relevant change in her condition, a new assessment should be conducted, and if required an updated IAP should be prepared. The law school should also be permitted to request a reassessment of the student's condition and the IAP if the student's disability-related behavior or performance becomes disruptive or a threat to the student or others in the law school community. This is most likely to occur when the student has an emotional disability. The on-going assessment will rely not only on the original members of the IAP team, but also, as required, on the many individuals who work in positions of support to law students. For example, faculty members in new courses the student takes each semester, education and disability-related education specialists, mental health specialists, social workers, financial aid counselors, and career counselors should be involved.

Guided by the understanding that a disability may have psychological effects, specialized counseling should be available to the student throughout her law school career. Attending law school, especially during the first year, is challenging and stressful. Counseling for the primary and secondary emotional aspects of a disability, which may be exacerbated by the stress of law school, should be offered beginning with the initial assessment and IAP. Counseling may help to develop and maintain the motivation necessary to overcome the obstacles imposed by the disability. This should help develop "[a] strong sense of determination and the belief in one's power to overcome adversity [which numerous studies have shown] has ... played an important role in the success of adults with disabilities." As another source of support, the disabled student should be offered a student mentor to assist with the transition to law school.

Law school is difficult enough in the absence of a disability. With the additional challenge of a disability, law school may be overwhelming. An informal support group comprising spouses, significant others, family members, close friends, faculty members, law school administrators, counselors, and student or professional mentors may help the disabled student maintain the sense of self-worth, confidence, and motivation needed to complete the law school program. In order to build an effective support group, spouses, significant others, family members, close friends, and counselors will have to be educated concerning law school pedagogy and law school life, just as faculty members, law school administrators, and mentors will have to be educated about disability issues. In any event, a wide-ranging support group should assist the disabled student both in and out of law school.

All students, disabled and non-disabled, feel the pressure of paying for law school. Disabled students may not have had the same opportunities for outside employment as non-disabled law students. In addition, the existence of a disability may carry with it significant financial burdens. Therefore, counseling concerning financial aid and medical insurance must be a part of the support package made available to disabled law students.

Specialized support counseling should not be limited to such practical matters as paying bills or to such laudable goals as assisting the disabled student to maintain a sense of balance and perspective. Academic support is equally--if not more important. Most law schools already operate an academic support program (ASP). Though legal educators must be careful not to create the double stigma of disability and participation in an ASP, the school's ASP should be made available to students with relevant disabilities. The ASP's administrator, in conjunction with on-campus learning- disability specialists, should modify the ASP curriculum to fit the needs of disabled students, particularly those with LDs, ADD, and ADHD.

An expanded ASP can serve several purposes. First, it can provide a means for learning disabled students to learn compensatory strategies. Second, it can provide a social group to help integrate the student into law school society. Third, it can serve the function of a study group in which outlines are prepared and members prepare for finals. Fourth, it may serve as an emotional support group for individuals with learning or other disabilities, supplementing the extensive support group mentioned previously.

Some of the best support offered disabled students during theiracademic careers will come from involvement in academic programs designed for all students. All members of the law school community should work aggressively to bring disabled students into the full range of law school programs: internships, externships, judicial clerkship programs, law review, moot court competitions and board, mock trial competitions, writing competitions, and law- related clubs and fraternities. A special effort should be made by faculty members, law school administrators, and student leaders to identify disabled students who might make good candidates and to suggest that they compete for appropriate positions. Experience in these activities will help develop skills, integrate the disabled student into the mainstream of law school activity, build friendships and networks, bolster resumes, and enhance employment opportunities.

Although career concerns may not seem pressing to the disabled law student who is focused on simply making it through the semester and the remainder of her program, counseling aimed at providing the disabled student with the best post-graduation options must be offered. Beginning in the first semester or as soon as a disability is brought to the attention of the relevant law school administrator, counseling must be provided concerning career options. Without precluding any career option, the career counselor should work with the disabled student to consider legal careers in keeping with her physical, intellectual, and emotional strengths. For example, the career officer might explore whether tax is appropriate for a student with dyscalculia or whether litigation is appropriate for a student with a panic disorder.

The career counselor should also work with disabled students concerning such issues as preparing resumes which explain elongated courses of study, absences from law school, and other disability-related situations. Students with non-obvious disabilities also should be counseled about the legal standards governing disclosure of their disability to prospective employers. Students with obvious disabilities should be encouraged to work with the career officer to develop interview strategies which will help to demonstrate or highlight their capabilities-not their disabilities.

Helping the disabled student make decisions about post-graduation work can extend beyond discussions to encouraging practical experience. Another aspect of career counseling should be facilitating contact with individuals making up the legal domain: attorneys, judges, and clients. One way to assist the disabled student may be to establish a mentor or clerking program with similarly disabled lawyers and judges. This will assist the student in seeing that they, too, can practice law. It also will give them the opportunity to pattern some of their learning and work habits after individuals who have been successful despite their impairment. This may be particularly appropriate for students with learning disabilities, ADD, or ADHD.

Mentors need not be disabled, however. The law school should work to develop mentor and clerkship relationships with non-disabled lawyers and judges. By demonstrating their ability to clerk for a lawyer or judge, the disabled student will build her skills, confidence, resume, references, and contacts.

The law school's legal clinic offers an opportunity for contact with clinical attorneys and clients. Access and experience with these individuals should be encouraged for disabled students for four reasons. First, working in the legal clinic offers invaluable, "real-world" experience to all students, regardless of their functional abilities. Second, working in the legal clinic offers the disabled student the opportunity to determine if, and how, her disability affects her workplace performance. Students with disabilities might find the clinic experience particularly helpful in determining whether functional limitations experienced in the academic environment translate to the real-world practice experience. Third, the disabled student will have the ability to work with the law school's clinical educators to design compensatory strategies which will be useful in both law school and in practice. Finally, by demonstrating her ability to work on real cases with real clients, the disabled student will build her skills, confidence, resume, references, and contacts.

Keeping the bar exam in mind, the student should be counselled at the earliest opportunity concerning the impact of the disability on taking the bar examination, and mainly for emotional disabilities fulfilling the state's character and fitness requirements. The bar in the state in which the student seeks to practice may have a different policy concerning accommodation than that of the law school. The law school should advise the student to investigate the policy and begin at an early time to seek appropriate accommodations. The law school should also assist the student in obtaining accommodations and in transitioning to the level of accommodation which will be provided, especially if that level is less than the level of accommodation provided by the law school.

The transition from law school to law practice can be difficult under the best of circumstances due to the stress and feelings of inadequacy felt by all but the most confident young attorney. As a final service to the disabled law student, the support program's career counselors should take a proactive role in continuing contact with disabled students, both as a means of emotional support, counseling, and as a resource concerning job-related disability problems and issues. Although undoubtedly not required by law, this may be particularly helpful in situations in which a non-obvious disability has not been disclosed to the employer.

Serving the needs of disabled law students serves the law school, the legal community, and the community at large. Assisting the disabled student to develop her potential through a program which identifies and supplies reasonable accommodations and support is the responsibility of all law school administrators and legal educators-and should be supported by the bench and bar. Reasonable accommodations requested by the student should serve as a floor, not a ceiling, for the range of support which should be made available. In addition, the assessment and accommodation-granting process should be fluid, not static. Focusing on the goals of assisting the disabled student, maintaining confidentiality, and maintaining academic standards, law school administrators and legal educators involved in the disability support program should generate, suggest, and discuss with the student and other members of the team the full range of reasonable accommodations to ameliorate, eliminate, or compensate for her disability. A proactive position by the law school is particularly appropriate when the student's condition is a recently diagnosed learning disability and the student has not undergone appropriate therapy or remedial training, or the student suffers from a mental disorder which has demonstrated the potential to be disruptive or harmful to herself or others.

It is not discriminatory or unjust to suggest to a student that she take reasonable pedagogically or medically appropriate steps to ameliorate, diminish, or compensate for a self-identified functional limitation. Bar examiners, prospective employers, future clients, judges, and others with whom the student will deal may not provide the same level of accommodation as the law school, so it behooves the student to work on strategies to (if possible) reduce the level of required accommodations. Also, the student may not self-identify for professional reasons to the bar admissions organization or a potential employer, and as a result would not receive any accommodation. When the course of action is reasonable, pedagogically sound, and medically appropriate, the law school is assisting the student However, the law school must remain sensitive to issues of stigma and the extra time and effort which such a course of treatment may require.

A course of action which includes working with educational specialists is particularly appropriate. Many students with low admissions scores, educational or cultural deprivations, or writing problems are required or strongly encouraged to participate in academic support programs or work with tutors and writing specialists. Suggesting essentially the same course of action to a student with a LD, ADD, ADHD, or an emotional problem which directly interferes with the educational process seems no different, as long as it is the result of individualized assessment and not the result of paternalistic or stereotyped notions of disabled students and the student is permitted to decline.

This article disagrees with any objection that it is somehow discriminatory to create an IAP which would involve the disabled student taking actions not required of non-disabled students. Although a student who seeks disability status and reasonable accommodation must self-identify, neither the university nor the law school should force this self-identification. The disabled student self-identifies because she perceives that she possesses a physical or mental impairment which results in a relevant and material functional limitation not possessed by non-disabled students. Although a medical or other specialist may assist the student in identifying and confirming the existence of the disability, it is ultimately, the student who has concluded that the functional impairment exists and is relevant to the educational process. In the end, it is the student who chooses to reveal the disability and to seek a reasonable accommodation. Therefore, it is neither unjust nor descriptively inaccurate to conclude that the disabled law school student is different in some relevant and material way from non-disabled law school students.

 

 

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