Volume 3, Number 4 • September 2005

Profile: Scott C. LaBarre, Esquire

By Jason Zac Christman

 He “reads” faster and is the “the best blind lawyer you’ll ever meet, and not bad looking either.”

Scott C. LaBarre was born blind and reads only Braille. However, his use of JAWS for Windows allows him to hear what is on his computer screen and effectively read faster than those among us who can see. LaBarre has accomplished much while dealing with what many would consider a disability.

Being blind has given him a unique marketing edge. Neither potential clients nor referral counsel forget meeting the cheerful and able blind attorney. This fact and technology have allowed him to capitalize on what is still recognized as a disability.

LaBarre first took advantage of lawyers with sight while at the University of Minnesota Law School. He and approximately ten other blind individuals that he accompanied to an amusement park in Minnesota were not allowed on the rides, because they were blind. LaBarre filed a complaint against the amusement park. Although the complaint was successfully prosecuted by the assistant attorney general for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, the young LaBarre represented himself when defending his own deposition. As has happened many times since during other cases, LaBarre’s display of ability and zeal at the deposition made the case easy for the assistant attorney general.

Since then LaBarre has been active in the Young Lawyers Division and the GPSolo Division of the American Bar Association, even becoming a certified off-road Land Rover Driver at a Vermont Young Lawyers Retreat. (If this news makes you leery of oncoming Land Rovers, rest assured he does not drive on public roadways.) LaBarre worked at the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado after receiving his juris doctorate and became general counsel before launching his own firm in 1998.

LaBarre employs no special litigation techniques, prepares the same form of pleadings, and conducts the same type of depositions that any other lawyer would. However, his “disability” helps get the message across and occasionally impresses opposing counsel to the point of conceding significant settlements to his clients. One of his brighter moments came during a discrimination case against the federal government involving auditors that had become blind gradually. The auditors sought work at their government positions and were denied this. After going a few short rounds, opposing counsel offered a large settlement with the comment that he was “afraid you would be Exhibit A against me.” As a more than competent blind attorney, LaBarre himself readily proves that blindness can be overcome, and, though it is a disability, it need not be disabling.

LaBarre is the Chairman of the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law, among other positions with the ABA. In addition to his bar organization efforts and achievements, he has a prospering practice in employment law, with a focus on employment discrimination, disability law, and Social Security law. He has recently branched into business law and related practice areas.

LaBarre has accomplished much as one of an estimated one percent of disabled lawyers in the United States, despite roughly one seventh to one fifth of the population being disabled. LaBarre welcomes the competition for the title “the best blind lawyer you’ll ever meet.” Even if he one day concedes that title, he will remain the proud husband of Anahit Galechyan and proud father of his son Alexander, 3 (about to be 4), and daughter Emily, nearly 1 year old.

Jason Zac Christman is an associate with William G. Schwab & Associates, a general practice firm in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. Christman focuses on bankruptcy and landlord tenant law.


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