The federal judicial clerkship hiring path is mysterious for most law students. If you’re lucky, your school has an office dedicated to helping you find a post-law school clerkship, but if that is not an option, you may feel unmoored in your search. Let’s talk a bit about applying for a clerkship as a law student with a disability. [Read more…] about Can I Clerk with a Disability? (Short answer: YES)
Law school time defies logic. The first semester can be both a whirlwind and a total slog. Ideally, you have been briefing and outlining to prepare for final exams, but if you are a student with a disability, there is something else that you need to address before finals approach: exam accommodations. Your first-year grades can have an outsized impact on your job and clerkship search, so getting yourself in the right position to succeed on your exams is critical.
The best time to apply for accommodations is the summer before 1L begins, but if you find yourself in the middle of your first semester (or even later!), don’t panic. You would not be the first law student to realize that you need exam accommodations later into the school year, and you’re not even likely to be the only one in this boat this year.
Exam accommodations can range from extended time on all of your exams to a scribe to makeup tests for an unanticipated illness or sick family member. Different disabilities require different accommodations, but for the purposes of this post, we will focus primarily on requests for extended time.
Casebooks are important for more than building up your biceps. Though they are cumbersome, you will need them for every class your first year, and for most classes the final two years. Everyone knows how expensive law school is – students routinely take on six figures of debt just for the three years of tuition alone.
The sticker shock does not stop once school starts. There will be quite a bit to purchase before classes start, including your casebooks. The weeks before 1L classes begin, you will either get access to a book list or all of your class syllabi. Your default reaction may be to place an order with the campus bookstore. This is easy. You hand over hundreds of dollars (if I had gone the bookstore route my first semester, I would have paid north of $500), show up before classes start, and haul the books home. Here’s some good news: You don’t have to do this.
You made it through your first year! If you are like most law students, your mind has turned toward looking for a post 2L summer job. The job search is complicated for many students, but for students with disabilities, the process can sometimes feel extra overwhelming. In 2011, the American Bar Association reported that 6.87% of its members identified themselves as having a disability. Many lawyers before you have confronted the issue of how and when to disclose their disabilities in professional settings.
Because each person with a disability has unique circumstances, the answer of how and when to disclose will vary. There are many potential upsides to disclosure, but concerns about the downsides are normal.
Many newly admitted students push asking for disability accommodations far down their to-do lists, choosing to focus on the logistics of moving and settling in. This is a mistake.
The best time to start the accommodations process is now. The process will be slightly different for each law school, but no matter where you attend, the earlier you start the process, the more likely you are to succeed at getting the supports that will help you rock your first year. The last thing you want is to worry about whether you should drop out after finals because of a problem that would have been moot if you had the proper supports in place.