A Day In The Life of A Legal Aid Attorney
Meet Barry Taylor, Vice President for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation, Equip for Equality
Describe what a typical work day looks like for you.
What’s great about my job is that no day is typical! The civil rights of people with disabilities continue to develop and evolve, so every day presents a new challenge or issue to address. That being said, I frequently spend my days brainstorming with attorneys about strategy in cases and providing training to a variety of stakeholders on the legal rights of people with disabilities. So, personal interaction is a constant in my job that I really enjoy.
What types of issues do you help people the most with?
Most of the cases I work on are disability class actions or other systemic advocacy. I find that exciting because we’re able to help thousands of individuals through one legal action, and change discriminatory policies that will have a positive impact for generations to come.
What would you like elected officials and other stakeholders to know about the people you help?
First, that disability is the one protected class that all of us can join during the course of our lifetimes – so promoting disability rights helps us all. Second, disability rights are civil rights and rather than taking a paternalistic view of people with disabilities or treating them with pity, we should be advocating for their inclusion, independence and self-determination.
Is there a recent case that really stands out for you? Or something a client said to you that you’ll always remember?
I recently gave a presentation on why it is critical that the needs of people with disabilities are incorporated into emergency preparedness plans. Following the presentation, I received an email saying that my presentation would likely result in saving the lives of many people with disabilities, which reinforced how important this work can be.
After so many years as a legal aid attorney, what keeps you going?
While my work primarily focuses on class action litigation, it’s the impact on individuals that really keeps me going – knowing that we have used the law to positively change a person’s life. Plus, I am continually re-energized by getting to mentor (and learn from!) younger attorneys and law students who are passionate about the civil rights of people with disabilities.
Equip for Equality advances the human and civil rights of people with disabilities in Illinois. Established in 1985 as a private, nonprofit organization, EFE is the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy (P&A) agency for the state, endowed with broad federal and state statutory powers to protect the rights of people with disabilities. The IEJF is the primary funder of EFE’s Special Education Helpline.