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November 01, 2008

November 2008: Doug Heir, Esq.

Lawyer with quadriplegia is a champion both on and off the field.

Usually a lawyer has the responsibility to convince one judge or twelve peers that his or her position is the correct one. As a motivational speaker, Doug Heir, Esq. sometimes has to convince tens of thousands of people all at once. While traveling around the world for his speaking engagements, Doug draws on his knowledge and experience from dealing with his disability, his legal training, and his training as a world-class athlete and gold-medal paralympian.

As a lifeguard at the age of 18, Doug broke his neck during a rescue. He is paralyzed from the chest down with minimal finger dexterity. He attended Rutgers University – Camden School of Law and represents clients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have severe debilitating injuries. For four years Doug was President of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

In addition to his law practice, Doug is a world-class athlete. In the shot-put, javelin, discus, and pentathlon he has: over 320 gold medals; 73 national championships; and various world records. He reportedly has more gold medals than anyone else in the world. Doug was captain of the U.S. Olympic/Paralympic Track and Field Team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Doug makes the most of his experiences as a paralympian and attorney when serving as a motivational speaker. His lectures range from achieving goals and overcoming obstacles to disability awareness. The speeches are primarily colored by his accident and learning to cope with his disability. “When I was laying there in the hospital bed,” Heir recalls, “my head was filled with fears of what the future would be like for me. But I eventually learned to combat my own challenges, overcome these fears, and realize that I can spend the rest of my life helping other people with their challenges.”

Doug’s legal career also assists him in motivating others. He has discovered that law school, in addition to providing him with better communication skills, has given him additional creditability when speaking. “Although I don’t directly address legal issues as a professional speaker,” Doug said, “I find that people respect my opinion more knowing that I have a law degree and use that degree to represent and possibly bring hope to those with disabilities.”

Finally, Doug makes use of his experiences as an athlete to help motivate others. With all of his accomplishments on the field, Doug knows how to prevail through competition and claim victory. Off the field, he uses that same competitive spirit. For example, immediately after being injured, it took him four hours to get dressed in the morning; now it takes only minutes. “After I combated my own challenges,” Doug said, “I have spent my life helping other people with their challenges, whether in the courtroom or on the stage.”