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June 01, 2013

June 2013: Kevin A. Fritz

Recent Graduate Fought for Independence, an Education, and Is Now Transforming the Legal Profession

Kevin Fritz doesn’t pretend getting where he is today was easy.  “I have always had to fight for my own rights.  Big or small, few substantive things are handed out to a person with a disability.”  He fought to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health and Informatics.  He then fought to get into law school, not receiving all the accommodations he required to take the Law School Admissions Test.  He was admitted to the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.  There, Fritz participated in a variety of extracurricular activities, including serving as the Executive Director of Advocacy for the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities, and Primary Editor for the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy.  His law school days were anything but attending classes and studying. 

Fritz admits that it wasn’t until he entered college that he felt he could relate to other people with disabilities.  

Growing up, I rarely interacted with other folks with disabilities.  We saw each other socially at summer camps, but I was the only kid in a wheelchair at school in a mainstreamed classroom.  It felt so isolating.  We all want to belong.  Now as an adult, I make an effort to mentor future generations about the importance of being educated and leading empowered lives.  People with disabilities are often cast aside and have low expectations in life.  My independence is by far my biggest life accomplishment.  It is not the actual living alone that makes me independent, for I need a lot of assistance because of my Muscular Dystrophy.  It is the notion of independent decision-making and not being controlled by a system that empowers me.

Looking forward to working at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Fritz would like to inspire his clients with his diligence—especially as a person with a disability—in addition to providing top-notch legal support.  Every day as Fritz strives to become a top performer at his law firm, he hopes he is also inching forward the cutting edge recruitment efforts of qualified people with disabilities in the workplace, and showing firsthand their ability to be successful.  “As an employment defense attorney at a top labor & employment firm, this may be one of the first times a person with a significant physical disability has provided legal counsel to some of the biggest and most successful businesses in the world.  By being at the table, I hope to show my clients and others in the profession that there is no ceiling for people with disabilities.  Each time I meet with a client to discuss legal strategy, a case, or even proactive measures for more diverse recruitment, I break down any assumptions by demonstrating that regardless the physical disposition, a qualified employee can get the job done, and done well.”

Fritz hopes to convey the importance of targeted outreach to young lawyers with disabilities as part of any meaningful diversity strategy.  “There is power in reflecting the community in which you serve.  We are a unique niche in the legal market.  It is important to never forget that employers and institutions can be stronger with our membership.” 

As for other recent law graduates with disabilities, Fritz suggests candor, and to view disability experience as an advantage.  “My disability makes me a unique applicant, and if anything a stronger one.  Having a unique approach to life situations is often a strong attribute in any job setting.”  

To read more about Fritz, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently covered his graduation and his amazing journey to it.