The group behind the Disability Equality Index, which businesses and law firms use to measure their workplace inclusion efforts, announced Tuesday that seven law firms had been recognized for their progress in making their workplaces more accommodating for employees with disabilities in 2023. …
Nine law firms participated in this year's report, and seven were recognized as having achieved the index's "Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion" recognition: Ballard Spahr LLP, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Epstein Becker Green, K&L Gates LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Reed Smith LLP and Steptoe & Johnson LLP. …
Carrie Valiant, who helps oversee Epstein Becker's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, said highlighting and improving inclusion efforts has been a priority. Valiant said disability workplace inclusion can encompass an array of concerns and initiatives and that the New York-based firm has worked to address and improve in recent years.
"It certainly means accessibility and having an infrastructure in place that is able to accommodate folks with disabilities," she told Law360 Pulse on Monday. "I think one of the things that we all struggle with is the definition of disability — there can be invisible issues that companies need to really try and draw people out in order to understand whether they need accommodation."
She said Epstein's initiatives and events, which include firmwide town hall discussion forums, educational programming and an annual reception, have helped to highlight disability inclusion at the firm.
"We really wanted to do well with this, and one of the things that we do with DEI programming is focus on accountability," she said. "That takes a number of different avenues, and so we're asking ourselves how do we benchmark what we're doing, are we focusing on the right areas and what can we do to improve?"
Valiant said she considers disability inclusion as the next frontier in the general DEI landscape for the legal industry. As law firms across the country make efforts to be more accommodating, the inclusion work is leading to a broader understanding and recognition of disability issues, she said.
"I think this is sort of one of the last bastions," she said. "And I think the time has come. ... You can see that a lot of organizations are thinking about it. They're trying to move the ball forward and not be left out of the room. I think it's just time."