Michael Gilberg is an attorney with the Law Offices of Jennifer Laviano LLC in Connecticut. He is a special education lawyer who advocates for the rights of children to receive a free and appropriate education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The best thing about his job? “Knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of children with disabilities.”
Having been a student with a disability himself, Michael is empathetic and understanding of his clients. He recalls that “growing up, the so called ‘experts’ told my mother I couldn’t be helped and that I would never graduate high school, but I am an attorney.” Michael wants to be a role model for others and make sure no other child with Asperger’s ever goes through what he did.
When Michael applied for his current job, he chose to disclose his disability in his cover letter. Why? He thinks law firms that practice disability rights want an attorney who can relate to their clients. Michael also discloses his disability to colleagues in a professional context, because it better allows them to understand their clients. In addition to his legal work, Michael has been active in a number of disability rights, Autism related, and other professional organizations.
Jennifer Laviano has been Michael’s his mentor. She has taught him how to be a strong advocate for children with disabilities in securing educational services. Daniel Davis, a leader in the disability rights community in Washington, DC, has also served as a mentor. Mr. Davis has opened doors for Michael through networking and taught him how to turn the disability from negative to positive.
Recognizing the importance of mentors in the legal profession, Michael mentors a law student with Asperger’s Syndrome through the ABA Commission on Disability Rights’ Mentorship Program. He actively encourages young lawyers and law students with disabilities to get involved in professional and social organizations. Michael believes that people with disabilities will only be better served by having more lawyers who have lived the same experiences.