{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "My AmLaw 100 firm just launched an affinity group for attorneys with disabilities. I have a disability that is not visible and for which I have never requested an accommodation. I’d like to have the opportunity to be in a space with other attorneys who may have similar struggles as me, but I am nervous about “outing” myself. Has anyone had a beneficial experience with affinity groups and do you think the benefits of joining outweigh the risks?", "post_id": "61aa903df48509002aec9b95", "reply_count": 18, "vote_count": 14, "bowl_id": "5df70ed2f7169f002b172d3f", "bowl_name": "Big Law" }

My AmLaw 100 firm just launched an affinity group for attorneys with disabilities. I have a disability that is not visible and for which I have never requested an accommodation. I’d like to have the opportunity to be in a space with other attorneys who may have similar struggles as me, but I am nervous about “outing” myself. Has anyone had a beneficial experience with affinity groups and do you think the benefits of joining outweigh the risks?

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I’ve had really mixed experiences disclosing my invisible disability, I’m sorry to say. Proceed with caution.

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I can’t relate but I know that in all of our various affinity groups (e.g., Asian, black, women, first gen), everyone is welcome, whether for support or because you are “one of them”. So go for it!

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I think the issue is more that sometimes people treat you differently if you have a disability. For people with invisible disability, we benefit from people not being able to tell. But if you reveal it by joining an affinity group dedicated to people with disabilities, would that result in different treatment?

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I’m actually wondering the same thing

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Me too

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My firm did the same, and I also have an invisible disability. I went to the first meeting and surprisingly didn’t feel anxious. Not sure if there could be any downside right now, but the nature of my disability also makes me not want to be somewhere where it would be a problem, so I chose to take the fact they were trying at all and starting the affinity group as a good sign. Idk if that helps or not.

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If the question is whether or not to join the affinity group, definitely do as an ally at minimum. If you feel comfortable thereafter share your experience. I have an invisible disability and feel the same about affinity groups but joined a new firm in the last year. Because I have worked so much since starting I would actually feel ok sharing if the group was a positive space, but I had a very negative experience with said disability at prior firm so tentative. If you feel tentative at all I’d look for outside mentors with similar experiences to get the affinity group support without the Risk.

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I can see both sides of that policy but unfortunate in this context. It’s especially hard in law firms where there is so much stigma surrounding frankly any weakness at all to locate senior people with similar backgrounds. At my prior firm, I connected with a partner with an invisible disability during reviews, but at that point based on circumstances my own health problem had become known and theirs was conveyed in confidence. I have found more support via the local chapter of the foundation related to the illness, which has been positive. One of my contacts there has put me in touch with a number of great people with legal industry experience (unfortunately the support groups that I have tried locally haven’t been helpful for me).

Maybe I’m dense but what exactly do you consider an “invisible disability”? ADD?

SA1 - FWIW, ADHD is a recognized disability under the ADA. But really any medical condition someone could have that you wouldn’t know from looking at them - autoimmune disorders, blood clotting disorders, mental health conditions, learning disabilities - are invisible disabilities.

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Is an invisible disability like chronic fatigue Cause I work in big law I think we might all have it. 😭😭

I know it’s a light joke, but for context, fatigue related to a chronic illness is along the lines of not being able to get out of bed for several days because you were in the sun for fifteen minutes without sunscreen. That’s a specific example from experience with one auto immune disorder. It’s hard to understand the scope of the fatigue without experiencing it - I’ve been in big law for 10-20 years, and it’s a different frame of reference from the exhaustion of billing 250+ months for months and months in a row, which I have also done.

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