Thursday, June 29, 2006
Received a belated response to my nystagmus/disability email from SOLOSEZ:
No. Sorry, but it needs to be said.
Trial work is perception, to the judge, to the other side and to the jury. Anything that detracts from that perception is a risk you cannot force on your clients. It would be one thing if you had a more visible disability that would explain itself. But you risk looking like something you are not even if you explained yourself before each case. But that would also have the effect of causing people to look for that. I had a teacher in law school we called winky. End of the class person who guessed closest to the agreed number won a free round. Everyone did poorly in his classes.
All in all I got four responses. Three said (paraphrasing) "suck it up, you can do it, and hang in there" in a nice and very encouraging way. This was the only note that even suggested that I couldn't or shouldn't take a shot at court appearances. The person who wrote it claimed to have a similar affliction, but he never said whether he tried courtroom work or just wrote it off and never tried.
Just like so many other areas of my life, my feelings on this issue are still up in the air. Personally I'm very confident in my abilities, so I have a hard time getting across to people that I'm not afraid to appear in court. I have lived in this body for over three and a half decades, and I am realistic about my limitations. I know there are certain jobs that I could not do because of the nystagmus - for instance, I will never be a neurosurgeon or a commercial pilot, and I'm OK with that. Besides these professions, which require visual acuity that I lack, there are another set of jobs where appearance is important. For instance, a TV news anchor needs to look good while reading the teleprompter or cue cards. In order for me to read the prompter I would have to turn my head to the left to find the spot where the shaking calms down (my null point), which would make it look like I was staring off into space instead of looking into the camera.
What makes me hesitant about trial work is that I could control every aspect of my performance but still be judged - consciously or unconsciously - on something I can't control.