Advice

Should I tell law firms I have Asperger’s syndrome when applying for vac schemes?

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I don’t want them to think I can’t cope with the stress

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one wannabe solicitor wonders whether he should be opening up about his mental health on his vac scheme applications.

“I was recently diagnosed with mild Asperger’s after years of crippling depression and anxiety. Since then, my mental health has improved considerably, and I’ve learnt to function in social situations. Should I declare my Asperger’s on vac scheme applications? I’m concerned mentioning my depression will make me seem mentally frail and unable to deal with stress. For context, I recently graduated from a top five university with a degree in the humanities. My GCSE and A-levels were all A*s and I achieved a mid 2:1, but my marks were highly inconsistent on my degree.”

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34 Comments

Anonymous

If it will help explain particularly poor module results or you feel it may become an issue during the vac scheme I would suggest you mention it. Graduate recruitment teams can be very supportive and understanding….

(5)(6)

Anonymous

Your academic results show that you’re clearly very intelligent. I personally wouldn’t mention your condition if you feel that it wouldn’t impact on your work in any way.

(6)(1)

Anne; a US Firm Associate

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

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Anonymous

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Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(1)

NQ

I’ll get hammered for saying this but I wouldn’t mention it. That’s the cut throat nature of City law.

(28)(5)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Annie Onimous

No I wouldn’t. You don’t need to and as you say it will raise concerns about your social functioning. Why do they need to know? It’s not relevant to a vac scheme anyway which is only short. I’d query why someone is giving me irrelevant information on an application form (judgment!) more than anything else especially as you say its mild.

If you have an issue with anything if you get on the scheme that is (a) a problem for you and (b) caused by your mental health, you could speak to the relevant “boss” in private and explain if you need to.

It’s not like it’s something you *need* to declare – for example if you are allergic to nuts and applying for a job in a factory that makes some products with nuts. It’s just not relevant at this stage and won’t help your application.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

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Anonymous

First, let’s not conflate mental health issues with Asperger’s.

Given the ignorance about both, it may be best to avoid mentioning them, sadly.

(25)(1)

Anonymous

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Jonathan PEARL

DON’T do it! Lawyers are very conservative by nature. And in any case most of the high-flying tax partners in the City are a long way along the Asperger’s spectrum…. You’ll feel right at home.

(25)(1)

Anne; a US Firm Associate

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Anonymous

Disclose it. You dont want to work at a firm where you cant be yourself or feel judged for who you are.
Certain firms actively recruit applicants with disabilities. Research properly and speak to recruiters at the firm and find people who have what you have placed in those firms.

(4)(9)

Anne; a US Firm Associate

EEEEEH EEEEEH EEEEEEEEEEEEH!!!!

(2)(2)

Anonymous

I have circumstances that have affected me but I am unsure whether to disclose them. I know how you feel.
It’s that tricky position of being in a sea of amazing applicants and feeling as though you want to explain why you’re not perfect.

I suppose it all boils down to how much your condition affects you now. If you feel as though you may have some issues in the future (which I don’t think anybody can really rule out) it’s worth mentioning. At the end of the day, you want to be given a place in a firm that have a support system available.

But, on the other hand, to what extent employers actually consider applicants (even in spite of equality legislation) really isn’t something we can guarantee for sure.

Given that Aspergers is related to social-interaction, perhaps you could mention that you had ‘mitigating circumstances’ to do with ‘an illness’ for your results. That way they can’t really force you to disclose the condition but they are at least aware of it.

At the very least, given that it is to do with social interaction, you could always mention it at interview stage if you feel as though you want to, so that they are able to see that your diagnosis isn’t the same in real life as it may be perceived on paper.

I think the general concern you must be feeling is the potential to be discriminated against, and certainly the above is what I would do to eliminate that possibility. If firms are concerned with social interaction, you could at least show them that you aren’t limited by your condition when you meet them at interview.

I apologise if any of this sounds ignorant, I am not trying to be!

(7)(2)

Anne; a US Firm Associate

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Anonymous

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(0)(1)

Anonymous

Most lawyers are on the spectrum mate so don’t worry about it.

(11)(0)

Charlotte

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(0)(0)

All the best with your career

Perhaps one strategy could be:

1) apply to the firms you want to work at. See how the applications go. If and when you get the position you want you may or may not wish to disclose this when you’re in.

2) if you don’t get into the firms you want to work at, follow up with an email thanking them for their time etc, and confirm you would like to apply again and ask what their diversity policies are etc, and then perhaps mention your Asperger’s. Yes, this is crafty, but you have nothing to lose.

I feel as though I have something of a similar nature (although not so profound) so I’m identifying this early on in your career you’re well ahead.

Good luck with it!

(6)(2)

Anonymous

You should absolutely tell them. Discrimination on the basis of autism, even high functioning, is illegal under the Equalities Act.

You may, ironically, tick a quota box as well, which may increase your TC chances… (shocking, I know, but it’s cut throat so milk whatever advantage(pun) you have).

(9)(5)

Anne

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(0)(0)

Anonymous

Only disclose it if you think it will impact your interview/recruitment process. Then it can be flagged to the recruiter, but you can determine whether you want your assessors to know or not, and what you want them to know.

If you get an offer, it is up to you whether you then disclose it prior to doing a vacation scheme or not, on the same basis as the above. It really depends on how much you think it will impact you day to day working, and this tends to vary massively from individual to individual.

There are enough lawyers in law firms who have similar conditions to show it isn’t always an issue. I worked for a Partner at a MC firm who had Aspergers and they had an incredibly successful career – but they knew their strengths and weaknesses well, and sought supported from others when needed.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

The fact the author of this article grouped Aspergers with other mental health issues highlights the ignorance society has towards disability (pretty embarrassing legal cheek).

As already mentioned, they legally cannot discriminate against you for having a disability, and most firms will only need to know about disabilities in order to make reasonable adjustments etc (if needed) when it comes to the interview stage.

One of my friends has secured a TC at a good firm in London and he has a disability that affects writing/reading (skills that are arguably essential to the work of a good lawyer) but his work ethic combined with the firm making adjustments to allow him to work means that he can pursue the TC just like anyone else – and quite rightly so.

You have a really good academic history and as long as you’re able to impress from your other experience then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a vac scheme because you have Aspergers.

There’s no reason that disability/ previous mental health issues have to portray you as being ‘mentally frail’. To overcome depression and anxiety and be in a position in which you can say your mental health has improved highlights to me that you have motivation and mental resilience. Turn socially perceived negatives into positives!

Good luck in your apps and I hope someone gives you an opportunity to show what you can do!

P.s … Anyone suggesting that you shouldn’t mention it because they might assume you lack social/people skills have clearly not met a lot of city lawyers!!

(4)(0)

Trendspotter 5000

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

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(0)(0)

Anonymous

There is a lot of ignorance in society about autistic spectrum disorders and mental health conditions. Why perpetuate that ignorance by hiding your condition from potential employers? Honesty is always the best policy. Explain to firms that you have mild Asperger’s. How can the firm provide the support you may need during your time with them, if they don’t know about your condition?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

To the person who posted all the “EEE EEE EEE!!!” comments which have now been deleted, Little Britain put back mental health disability rights by decades by making fun of it.

This is 2018, not 2004. Such comedy is not permitted nowadays, and for good reason.

Legal Cheek were right to censor this unacceptable content.

(2)(3)

Andy

Yeah I know……..

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Nothing is beyond comedy. Nothing.

It’s the execution and intent that matters. Little Britain and the Fast Show did not set back anyone’s rights. They used comedy to make a point, not to condemn people with disabilities.

If you don’t – or won’t – get it, that’s your problem.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

“Nothing is beyond comedy, nothing”.

I’d love to hear your Holocaust, child-abuse and abortion jokes!

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Yes, you should tell the prospective employer about your diagnosis.

You should also read the EAT’s judgment in GLS v Brookes, a failed appeal brought by Government Legal Service against the Employment Tribunal’s finding that GLS had indirectly discriminated against, and failed to make reasonable adjustments for, Brooks in the context of her recruitment.

Even if you aren’t seeking adjustments to the recruitment process, you should tell the prospective employer so that it can take any steps that are necessary to avoid placing you at a disadvantage during the recruitment process.

If the prospective employer is unaware of your disability, they are not under any duty to make reasonable adjustments for you.

(0)(0)

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