“I’m An Immigration Attorney and My ADHD Emotions Win Cases.”
“I was the kid in grade school who was concerned with fairness and why everyone wasn’t being nice to each other. My work is propelled by frustration and anger towards injustice. People expect attorneys to be logical and unemotional. I’m not. I use my emotions to win cases, and to get families reunited.”
I was diagnosed with ADHD at 26, while in grad school. I always did well in school, although it took me longer than most to get my work done. I skated under the radar because I was a strong student. But by my mid-20s, I had learned a lot about ADHD and was sure I had it. I was relieved to be diagnosed — it made so much sense to me. It also improved my ability to relate to others, and helped me to understand myself better. ADHD was a label that felt empowering.
When ADHD at Work Is a Strength
Many things frustrate me about ADHD — things that involve executive functions. I forget to eat all the time because eating would require that I remember to buy groceries. Even so, some of my ADHD traits are the reason I’m successful in my career. I’m an immigration attorney, in El Paso, Texas. I work with pro bono attorneys who travel to El Paso from across the U.S. to provide free legal representation to immigrant parents separated from their children.
Like many with ADHD, I’m justice-sensitive. I was the kid in grade school who was concerned with fairness and why everyone wasn’t being nice to each other. My work is propelled by frustration and anger toward injustice. People expect attorneys to be logical and unemotional. I’m not. I use my emotions to win cases, and to get families reunited.
My ADHD emotions also allow me to connect easily with my clients — I’m empathetic in a way that others are not. This helps me be a better advocate for them.
How I Manage ADHD at Work
- I use medication, but I work with my doctor and take it as needed. As I mentioned, my ADHD helps me be productive and successful. This includes my ability to think creatively and to tie a lot of loose threads together quickly. Medication dulls these strengths, so I don’t take it when I’m working with clients. I also don’t take medication in the beginning stages of outlining and drafting a legal brief because it makes me feel less creative, but I do once I have to sit down and tackle long-form writing.
- Another strategy that works well for me is asking people to contact me on WhatsApp rather than via email. I can respond using audio clips on this app. It’s much easier for me to talk than to write.
- I’m upfront about conference calls. I cannot be on camera the whole time and effectively listen. Instead, I’ll exercise or do chores with the camera off until it’s my turn to speak. I make sure that everyone knows that this is not a sign of disrespect, and that I need to move in order to process and understand what’s being discussed during the video call.
My ADHD diagnosis was a blessing. Labels can box us in, but they can also lead to growth. Instead of seeing your ADHD as a negative, see it as “welcome to this new community of people who can relate to and understand you.” I’m certain that I couldn’t do what I do at the level I do it if I didn’t have ADHD.
ADHD at Work: Next Steps
- Read: “How An ADHD Diagnosis Changed My Life — A Lawyer’s Story”
- Learn: Practical Work Strategies for Clever ADHD Brains
- Read: Great Job! A Career Happiness Formula for Adults with ADHD
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Updated on May 14, 2021