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June 01, 2009

June 2009: David S. Caplan, Esq.

Solo practitioner with post-polio syndrome finds balance, overcomes challenges.

David S. Caplan, Esq. contracted polio at age 2. Afterwards he experienced post-polio syndrome that affects his respiratory muscles. He uses a wheelchair and supplemental oxygen as accommodations. He stared practicing corporate law shortly after graduating from law school at the University of San Francisco. Over the last 15 years, Mr. Caplan was an associate, then partner, with a Silicon Valley insolvency boutique. In 2005, he resigned that partnership and started his own firm, specializing in business formations, mergers and acquisitions, and commercial insolvency.

In 2005, Mr. Caplan was selected for a two-year term as the ABA Business Law Section’s Diplomat. The Diplomat Program is “designed to demonstrate that commitment and in the process, develop future Section leaders, facilitate the full participation of lawyers with disabilities in Section activities, and draw more lawyers with disabilities into active membership.” David took advantage of the Program; he has used the resources, contacts, and opportunities to help him find balance in his life and run his own law practice. In 2006, he expanded his practice to include North Carolina, which is now his home.

As a business lawyer, David has overseen multi-million dollar transactions, restructurings, and mergers. He loves to rise to a challenge, as seen in the complex nature of his practice area, business law, and the fact that he took the New York state bar exam 27 years after passing California’s exam. He also had to accept his disability. “Until very recently, I was uncomfortable with the fact of being disabled,” he said, “while the law is a difficult challenge intellectually, coming to terms with a disability is a difficult challenge emotionally and spiritually.”

David has learned that in order for those with disabilities to rise to the challenge of accepting their impairments, they need to seek a balance in their lives, namely between accepting the practical limitations a disability and maintaining the expectations that they have for their professional careers. According to Mr. Caplan, one way to make sure a lawyer with a disability can reach his or her professional expectations is to present himself or herself to others in the most straightforward way possible. “Don’t discount your disability, but be sure not to present it as a barrier or a badge—rather as simply a part of who you are,” he stated. For David this realization came later in life, but he wants young attorneys to strike this balance: “The sooner you get to know who you are, the better you can present yourself to others and succeed.”