August 01, 2011

August/September 2011: Parnell Diggs, Esq.

Blind solo practitioner helps those with disabilities find sustainment, both inside and outside of the legal system.

    The ultimate professional goal for Parnell Diggs, Esq. is service to others. In fact, Parnell attended law school in order to get involved in the political process so as to help the vulnerable and poor. Today, as a solo practitioner in , he provides such assistance as both an attorney who represents Social Security claimants and as an advocate for the National Federation of the Blind.

    Parnell, a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law, was born blind. He attended law school because he saw it as a gateway to public service—public service in both the most basic sense and in the political sense. “The legal profession is a fantastic way to assist individuals who need help the most,” he stated, “Unfortunately, when coming out of law school, I didn’t have many job opportunities waiting for me.”

    Being a blind law school graduate didn’t help Parnell in his efforts to work in private practice. His first experience as a practicing attorney was working in his father’s law firm. “After about seven years, I wanted to be ‘the Mr. Diggs’ rather than the boss's son,” he said, “Now, as a solo practitioner, I have the freedom to take the cases I want and the time to do the things I enjoy.”

    Yet for today’s graduates with disabilities, Parnell realizes that due to the economy and the changing landscape of the legal industry, employment options may be scarce. “When you get out of law school, be sure to do something whether or not it is in your area of interest. If you don't, you may wake-up one morning and find yourself twenty years older and either underemployed or unemployed.

    “Your first job may not be working in a prestigious law firm, but it is important to be employed doing something,” he offered. “For example, after law school I took a job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I truly enjoyed helping others in this capacity, but it wasn't what I wanted to do for life; and when I got into the legal profession, I found that helping people with claims before the Social Security Administration was something I greatly enjoyed.”

    Parnell also helps individuals find sustainment by engaging in the political process. While he has left the door open for seeking political office, Parnell currently engages politicians on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind. He is the President of its South Carolina Affiliate and sits on its national board of directors. “As a member of the National Federation of the Blind, I can participate in the legislative process without having to cater to constituents or worry about what voters think of my stance on the issues,” he observed. “I want politicians and the public to be aware that the average blind person can do the average job as well as the average sighted person.”