Fairness in the Workplace
"America's employers benefit when they provide opportunities for Americans with disabilities to work. A winning team will include people with disabilities." ~ Roy Grizzard, Former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
The 6th Annual Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law Feature Story
Intro: Employment issues are at the top of the conversation charts these days. Meet Michael Dalrymple, a CareerConnect Mentor and Self Employed Attorney whose practice focuses on labor laws, employment discrimination and more.
See how a day goes in his private practice seeking justice for wronged employees and sometimes even wronged employers.
The Story: I am Michael Dalrymple, an attorney practicing in employment discrimination, labor law, and estate planning. Two years ago I made the difficult decision to leave the firm I worked for and start my own practice. I'm happy to report that things are going very well and the experience has been incredibly rewarding but, I'll get into this a little more later on.
First, CareerConnect wanted to know what a typical day on the job is like for me. Before getting into the real aspects of my work, I think readers of this article should realize that the practice of law is nothing like you see on television. Don't ever watch an episode of Law & Order or Harry's Law and think that this is the type of life most lawyers lead; it isn't. Civil practice especially can be boring unless you consider the full potential for all of the work that you do. Throughout the days of my work week I interview clients, draft complaints, revise contracts, draft and respond to discovery, mediate cases, and even represent clients in front of federal and state judges. However, time actually spent in a courtroom is far less than most would think.
One of the reasons for starting my own practice was that I could represent different types of clients. My clients now include employment discrimination or wage issue plaintiffs, small businesses (corporate matters and employment issues), and individuals for estate plans.
A good example of a case is an employer who refuses to accommodate an employee with a disability. Other examples include firing an employee due to his or her age, race, disability, gender, national origin, or for some other prohibited reason. I also assist employees to obtain appropriate overtime payments when their employer does not pay.
Most employment cases settle, so it is difficult to say who wins or loses. Some people say that a good settlement is when both parties are dissatisfied. In all honesty, that is not too far from the truth. I am proud, however, of my track record and my clients are usually pleased with the outcome we are able to obtain.
Since I run my own law practice working for myself, my bosses are my clients. I do answer to myself for the amount and quality of work I do and accordingly must manage my own time wisely. There is no one else to blame or take credit for what I do. I am also accountable to judges, government officials and, out of love and respect, of course, my wife.
Ending up in private practice did not occur until after working several years for others. I started my current job after two years of clerking for judges and five years of working for a large corporate law firm. I strongly recommend that anyone coming out of law school have some experience working with other attorneys before entertaining the idea of opening their own practice. There is so much to learn about the law after law school that one would be at a loss and risk for failure otherwise.
My current job was a natural progression from previous jobs to where I am now; at least it was for me. I would not have been happy with myself if I continued down the path of a corporate attorney because I think and work too independently to operate comfortably in that environment on a long term basis. However, I'd like to reinforce what I stated above; I could not do what I do now without the experiences and skills I picked up from those previous positions.
As a totally blind person, I rely on a variety of assistive equipment to perform both personal and job tasks. These items include a screen reader, braille display, and an iPhone. The iPhone is the single most useful device I have ever used. The computer with a screen reader allows me to create documents, perform legal research, and stay in constant communication with current and potential clients. I also use a white cane to travel and commute on Indianapolis's transportation system which, in my opinion, is not very good for a public transit system.
What I love most about my job is the freedom of choosing clients and being in control of my practice. Thus, I am able to accept cases and clients that I truly enjoy. However, one of the more difficult challenges is managing my work load. It is very hard to turn away new work, but I must be able to devote an appropriate amount of time to each of my clients. Funny as it may seem, I must say though, the worse thing about being an attorney is dealing with other attorneys since attorneys are well known for being overly proud of themselves. A good tip for law students or new lawyers is to remember that a pleasant personality for opposing counsel makes everything so much more enjoyable.
If you are considering a career in this field, the best advice I can give you is before going to law school, make sure it is what you really want to do. I know of two types of people in law school: those who did not want to be there and hated every moment; and those who wanted to be there and appreciated the challenges. I do not think anyone loves law school as it is hard; however, I enjoyed myself and benefited greatly from the experience.
After law school, find something you really enjoy, care about, want to help and protect. Practicing law is not just another career, it will consume you. If you do not love the law that you practice and the clients you represent, it will not be the rewarding career you expected. Also remember that many attorneys go on to very successful careers away from the law or do not actually practice. Law school teaches you to think critically and this skill can be transferred and applied in many professions.
The Contact: Michael Dalrymple
The American Foundation for the Blind is pleased to present "The Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law," funded by the Samuel N. Hecsh Fund at the American Foundation for the Blind. A new article in memory of Mr. Hecsh appears annually.
After losing his vision, Mr. Hecsh attended law school—with some help from a scholarship from AFB—and had a satisfying career. Feeling he could not continue his previous employment, he met with many lawyers who were blind and attributed his success as a blind attorney in part to his encouragement from these mentors. We thank his wife, Muriel O'Reilly, and daughters, Janet and Caitlin Hecsh, for choosing to honor his memory in this special way. The Samuel N. Hecsh Window on the Working World of Law is designed to encourage other people experiencing vision loss to choose to enter the field of law.