Blind Lawyer’s Disability Integral to Success As Litigator
While the skills a lawyer attains are derived from a combination of knowledge acquired in law school, experience as a practicing attorney, and personal talent, for litigator Scott C. LaBarre, having a disability—blindness—was an additional source. “Because of my disability, I had to solve my own problems—an essential skill for litigators,” says LaBarre. He further developed this skill in law school and his practice.
While attending the University of Minnesota Law School, Scott knew that he needed accommodations to perform well on his exams, so he requested that the school’s disability support office record onto audio or translate his exams into Braille. In his practice, making sure he is properly accommodated is key to representing his clients effectively. He uses Braille, readers, assistive technology, and a long white cane. When requesting these accommodations, Scott was upfront and direct. “I never hid my disability. There was just no purpose to it,” he says.
Scott derives his attitude and subsequent success from his general philosophy regarding disabilities and the legal profession. “Disability is not a barrier to being successful in our profession,” he says, “Keep your minds open. Even though you might not believe that you could practice law if you were blind, if you were deaf, or if you used a wheelchair, you must begin the process of considering how you might in fact do so. The first step of this process is to know what you need for your disability and then attaining it.”
This philosophy, along with Scott’s problem-solving skills, has helped ensure his success both as a litigator and a leader in many organizations. He has his own practice, LaBarre Law Offices P.C. in Denver, Colorado, specializing in employment, disability, social security, and business law. Before having his own firm, he served as General Counsel for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) of Colorado.Currently, he serves as President of the National Association of Blind Lawyers; President of the NFB of Colorado; and a Council Member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division. Additionally, he served as the Immediate Past Chair of the ABA’s Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law and also a Council member for the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division.