Letters of the Law

President's column and 'Byrd' article very helpful

The following letter was written to Andrée Blumstein about her article, "Bye, Bye Byrd? Summary Judgment After Hannan and Martin: Which Way to Go?" which appeared in the February Tennessee Bar Journal.

I really enjoyed your article on summary judgment in the recent Tennessee Bar Journal. It was very well-written. I particularly liked how you laid out the way the new decisions may be used in practice. Sometimes the articles in the Journal can be a little academic, but I thought yours was thoughtfully practical. Thanks again for writing the article!

" Tim Pierce, Knoxville

Through our General Counsel, I received a copy of your President's Perspective, "What's So Great About Diversity?" article (by Buck Lewis, February 2009). This is a great article and communicates much of what our organization regularly attempts to communicate to our employees. It would be greatly appreciated if I could make this article available to our workforce. If approved, it will be published in our quarterly Diversity e-News.

" Rose Napier, director, Employee Relations & Diversity, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge

 

'Advancement of Diversity' issue leaves out a major group

Thank you for the February 2009 issue dedicated to advancing diversity. While proud to see fellow lawyers taking the lead in recognizing the leadership talent that women and racial minorities bring to the bar, I was disappointed that the issue ignored the most significant minority of all: individuals with disabilities. This minority group (21 million Americans of working age) includes all other dimensions of diversity because disability is not limited by race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. It is also the only minority group that anyone can join at any time.

I joined this group 12 years ago when I collapsed during a hearing. A spinal stroke left me with quadriplegia and the fear that I would never be able to practice law again. My expectations and perspective changed with one visit from an old friend, the lawyer who hired me right out of law school. Near the end of my eight-month hospital stay, this lawyer said to me, "I didn't hire you because you could put your shoes on, feed yourself, put your arms over your head, or walk. I hired you because you are smart, can think critically, can solve problems, and you are a good lawyer. None of that has changed; you still have those skills." The best advice I ever got from a lawyer was his advice: Don't let your frustration with your physical limitations deprive the world of your talent. So I returned to practicing law, doing everything I did before my disability, including travel.

Since my return to the workforce, I have embraced an opportunity in state government to administer, among other things, Tennessee's $75 million vocational rehabilitation program. I serve as the Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Rehabilitation Services in the Department of Human Services. My work is proof that disability is the latest wave of diversity.

As lawyers, we have the knowledge and skill to be social change agents. Advancing diversity in the workforce as well as in our own profession is powerful change. We cannot ignore disability as an element of diversity.

After all, any one of us can become a person with a disability through injury, accident, mental illness, substance abuse, or the aging process in general. Disability does pose limitations, but entering and thriving in a career for which we are qualified should not be one of them.

" Andrea L. Cooper, Hermitage