17 March 2023
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Everyone’s mind is unique – we each think in slightly different ways. That said, as with many characteristics, people cluster into broadly-similar groups, with the largest – termed “neurotypical” – containing most of us. A catch-all term for people outside the neurotypical group is “neurodivergent”. Examples of neurodivergent groups you may have heard of include those with autism, ADHD, OCD, dyslexia, or dyscalculia, amongst others.

What is neurodiversity?

The term “neurodiversity” was popularised in the 1990s by sociologist Judy Singer, who proposed it as an alternative to the traditional social model of disability as this tends to focus on impairments. As Thomas Armstrong, author of the book The Power of Neurodiversity: Unleashing the Advantages of Your Differently Wired Brain’, points out, we tend to use more positive language when we talk about biodiversity than when discussing neurodiversity. The neurodiversity movement hopes to change this. To Singer, neurodiversity is a result of normal variations in the human genome and neurodivergent people have strengths and weaknesses like anyone else. Many aspects of neurodiversity can actually be a competitive advantage within the right environment.

Many neurodivergent lawyers choose not to be ‘out’ at work about their neurological differences. However, with support from firms such as Mewburn Ellis and organisations such as IP Inclusive and Neurodiversity in Law, a growing number of people within the legal profession are now choosing to speak about their experiences to help destigmatise neurodiversity.

George and Becky

George was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome by the NHS at age 10. In recent years, Asperger’s has been reclassified as a form of autism spectrum disorder. Both are commonly referred to with the acronym ASD. Becky was diagnosed with ADHD in her early 30s. She also intends to have an autism assessment at some point in the future as a younger sister was diagnosed with both ADHD and Autism (‘AuDHD’) around the same age. Late diagnosis is common among neurodivergent women due to differences in symptom presentation and the socialisation of young girls - it has been estimated that nearly 80% of women with autism are misdiagnosed with conditions such as anxiety or eating disorders.

Over recent years, there has been increased interest in considering how neurodiversity can positively affect people’s day-to-day lives, particularly in work. Between us both, we have met neurodivergent lawyers at every level of the legal profession, from attorneys and barristers to trainees and partners. Some estimates put the rate of prevalence of neurodiversity at 20% of the population, so there are likely many of us in functions such marketing, IT and business support too.

As part of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, we therefore wanted to write about how neurodiversity can benefit the legal profession.

Unique Perspectives

Neurodivergent individuals often have unique perspectives on things. Their ‘outside-the-box’ thinking can be extremely useful in challenging cases without a clear path forward. With their brains processing information differently, they may be able to see solutions that others cannot.

For example, people with ASD commonly have a highly focused interest in a particular subject or specialist area. In the legal and patent profession, this can be extremely useful as we often delve into niche areas of law or technology. Having people on the team who have highly focussed interests can help bring more detail and thoroughness to a task where it interacts with those areas.

Having neurodivergent people in teams can also help to ensure that the neurodivergent perspective is considered. Neurodivergent staff can identify where information presented might be confusing and hard to follow for neurodivergent readers. No doubt some patent office examiners and clients are neurodivergent as well! In fact, research suggests that entrepreneurs are more likely than the general population to have ADHD or dyslexia. It has been speculated that many famous scientists were neurodivergent, from Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein to Ada Lovelace.

Pattern recognition and perception

Neurodivergent people can have altered sensory perception which can make them better at recognising certain types of information, particularly in complex text, patterns, and images. This is particularly common in people with ASD and ADHD. This can be useful in the legal profession, as we often have to check our work very thoroughly and being able to detect subtle changes or errors more readily can reduce errors like critical typos. Similarly, people with dyslexia or ADHD can have a strong memory for details, patterns and visual information.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and sharing the feelings of others is a critical skill in all workplaces. This is especially true in the legal profession where so much of what we do is understanding other’s perspectives and trying to convince others through argument that our point of view is the correct one.

A common misconception is that autistic people lack empathy. It is correct that autistic people often have difficulty reading the emotions of neurotypical people, such as via facial cues or body language. This difficulty can limit their intuitive grasp of social rules. However, to compensate for this, some autistic people develop a complex intellectual understanding of people’s emotions, body language, and theory of mind. They may not necessarily pick it up naturally, but they can learn to observe it, and potentially become very skilled in this area.

This learned skill can be particularly useful in being diplomatic in context where intuitive social cues are not as accessible, for example during phone or video calls, or in anticipating how someone will react to written communication. With so much of what we do in the legal profession being in written form, having a strong intellectual grasp of how readers may react is extremely useful.

By contrast, people with ADHD can have a heightened sense of empathy and can be very attuned to the emotions of those around them. They may pick up on more subtle social cues which they can respond to. This can make them effective in hearings, in client calls, and in managerial roles, since they can be more in tune with people’s emotional states and needs.


A common property among neurodivergent people, particularly those with ADHD, is “hyperfocus”. This refers to a state of intense state of concentration or fixation into a particular task, where they are very difficult to distract. This can be very valuable in certain work situations. While in hyperfocus, the person can work very efficiently on a single task with a heightened attention to detail and thoroughness. This can lead to efficient and innovative work which dives deeply into a problem. It can be particularly useful when working on urgent projects and can allow the person to keep calm under pressure.

Inclusivity in general

Encouraging neurodiverse people in the workplace is an important part of building a diverse and inclusive workplace in general. Neurodiverse people often have a unique perspective on social issues and are more likely to challenge stereotypes.

Neurodivergent people may be more likely to recognise and challenge ableist attitudes. Often these people have experience with discrimination and social exclusion themselves, so they are better equipped to empathetic and understanding of the challenges people can face when they are outside the norm.

A common trait of people with autism is a strong sense of justice and more absolutist thinking about right and wrong. This can be helpful in ensuring that a workplace is fair and honest. This is particularly important in the legal profession as we are required to act with the highest degree of honesty and propriety.

Furthermore, recognising the difficulties that neurodiverse people can face and making accommodations for them can help foster a more inclusive atmosphere where all diversity is celebrated. This helps everyone feel safe and supported as we work together.


Whether ‘out’ or even aware of their own neurotype, neurodivergent people are all around us, including in the workplace. As we have shown, neurodivergent people are often highly skilled in a range of valuable legal skills, including problem-solving, written communication and lateral thinking. Recognising the natural variations in the human brain and the benefits that neurodivergent people can bring can only be helpful to the legal profession.



If you want to learn more about neurodiversity, we recommend checking out the following resources from the Law Society, Lawcare and other organisations.

  1. https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/topics/lawyers-with-disabilities/from-access-to-inclusion-neurodiversity-at-work
  2. https://www.lawcare.org.uk/get-information/articles/neurodiversity-and-mental-health-in-the-legal-profession/
  3. https://www.neurodiversityinlaw.co.uk
  4. https://neurodiversityinbusiness.org/
  5. https://geniuswithin.org/ 


About the authors

This article was co-authored by Rebecca Campbell and George Lucas.

George Lucas Author Circle


George Lucas

George is experienced in prosecution in a range of international jurisdictions. He has experience with opposition and appeal proceedings before the EPO. He also has experience drafting both biomedical, diagnostic, and bioinformatics focussed patent applications. George has an MA in Biological Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge, with a focus on plant sciences. He also has a MSci in Management of Intellectual Property from Queen Mary University. He qualified as a Chartered and European Patent Attorney in 2019. He joined Mewburn Ellis from another London-based IP firm in 2022.

Email: george.lucas@mewburn.com


Becky is a trade mark attorney and a member of our trade mark team. She handles all aspects of worldwide brand strategy and trade mark protection including clearance searching, UK and international trade mark filing and enforcement, opposition and cancellation proceedings before UKIPO and EUIPO, dispute resolution and IP audits. She also has experience advising on related issues including domain names, copyright, and designs. Becky serves on the committee of IP Ability, IP Inclusive’s group for disabled and neurodivergent people, their carers and their allies and is also a Member of IP Inclusive’s Advisory Board.

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