A woman with autism made international news when she passed her Bar exam and became a lawyer in Florida. Although it is unclear just how many other attorneys out there that are on the spectrum of Autism, Haley Moss appears to be the only one that was introduced by the media as “openly autistic.” Her story has become an inspiration to people all over the globe. Here in the States, her story was covered by the Associated Press, Huffington Post, Forbes, USA Today and just about every major newspaper and broadcast network.
The story is quite interesting, but what many find amazing is that when she was younger, Haley and her parents were told by doctors that she would probably never be able to live independently or hold a minimum wage job. She also did not speak until the age of four. She now lives, by herself, in Miami where she was hired by the Zumpano Patricios firm. Joseph Zumpano, the co-founder of the firm, hired Haley before she had even passed the bar exam. Joseph has a son on the spectrum of autism and said that when he met Haley he immediately realized that she was brilliant. He was right. She even graduated the University of Florida in just three years – with two bachelor’s degrees!
Haley said that “a disability is not all-encompassing, it is just part of who someone is. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and everyone has talent.”
We found it strange that none of the media outlets seemed to acknowledge that there may actually be other practicing attorneys on the spectrum. It certainly seemed likely. It turns out that there may be quite a few. A quick search revealed quite a few stories of lawyers with autism.
Shain Neumeier practices law in Massachusetts. He is a sole practitioner. He was not diagnosed with autism until after he had already graduated from college. “The advantage I have is that I have memorized and know how to apply information that other people apparently don’t give enough attention to,” says Neumeier. He mostly does bench trials. For courtroom interactions, Neumeier learned to focus on facial expressions and how they should be interpreted. His ability to memorize and focus on very specific things is part of his condition, but has helped him succeed in his career.
Michael Gilberg graduated from Pace University Law School in 2007 and is admitted to practice in New York and Connecticut. He is a special education and disability rights attorney was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was 18. “I think people are becoming more willing to be out of the closet because some of the stigma is gone” says Michael.