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June 01, 2010

June 2010: Stuart Pixley, Esq.

Attorney for Microsoft reconnects with his disability rights roots and uses new-found energy in his professional and disability networks.

While initially leaving work in the disability community to pursue a law degree and develop a career in technology and intellectual property (IP) law, Stuart Pixley, Esq. has now begun to reconnect with the disability community both inside and outside the workplace. This reengagement has not only been a source of renewed motivation and personal satisfaction, but also promises professional dividends.

Stuart, a graduate of University of California at Berkley School of Law, has cerebral palsy, is hard of hearing, and uses an electric wheelchair. Although his undergraduate degree was in psychology, specializing in psychobiology, Stuart has always had an interest in science and technology. While his disability presented challenges to further studies requiring laboratory work, a career in technology law provided the perfect platform to continue his involvement in the field. For the first decade of his legal career Stuart worked at large law firms where he specialized in complex technology transactions, including technology licensing, research and development agreements and IP intensive mergers and acquisitions. He is now a senior attorney for Microsoft where he handles patent licensing issues for its Antitrust Compliance Team and supports the Accessible Computing Group with respect to accessibility standards.

Immediately after college Stuart worked as an advocate for people with disabilities at independent living centers, grass roots disability services, and advocacy organizations. His experience representing people with disabilities, learning about disability pride, and feeling embraced and supported by the disability community gave Stuart the confidence and motivation to go to law school and become a lawyer. While going from associate to partner to an in-house senior attorney for a global corporation, however, Stuart spent much of the last 12 years leading what he calls a “mainstream” legal life: working outside the disability community for large corporate clients and investors.  It was not until the past year, that Stuart began to reengage with the disability communities—a return to his roots that has made all the difference.  

“Being the only person with a disability you know of in a large law firm can be a pretty isolating and discouraging experience,” Stuart recalled, “especially when you need mentors, role models and a professional network of people that you are comfortable with.” For Stuart, reconnecting with the larger disability community has been a turning point: “connecting with a community that embraced my disability identity provided a sense of comfort and belonging that really supports my self-confidence and nurtures my sense of personal well-being.” And the benefits have not just been personal, with the experience energizing his career. Stuart noted: “even when I am networking on behalf of the disability community, I am developing contacts in private practice, in business, and the public sector that will be invaluable for years to come no matter where my professional life may go.”

Such energy is evident with Stuart’s disability related activities at Microsoft and in the larger community. Stuart is a member of the Washington State Bar Association Committee for Diversity and is a board member for the Alliance of People with Disabilities. At Microsoft, Stuart is a member of both the Cross-Disability Committee (a company-wide employee resource group) and the Legal and Corporate Affairs Diversity Outreach Committee. Over the past year Stuart has helped Microsoft with disability awareness projects as well disaster preparedness policy and training for employees with disabilities. He has participated in disability or diversity related panels and events and recently helped the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities attain a donation from Microsoft for its law student scholarship program.