Haley Moss was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Doctors initially believed she might never have the ability to live on her own or work a minimum wage job. Last month, Moss showed them just how much she was capable of by being admitted to the Florida Bar, the first openly autistic person to accomplish that feat.
Moss, a Parkland native and graduate of the School of Law at Miami University, passed the Florida Bar exam last month. She has also published several books, lives completely independently, and has a job with a leading law firm in Miami.
She has also had her fair share of struggles, though they are balanced out by her strengths and drive.
“I’m very passionate about things I enjoy, and I love to write,” said Moss, according to a report by Fox 5. “That’s also part of why I went to law school, and I love to be able to help others, so even with writing, I love that I’m able to express myself completely and what I can say has the ability to help someone else.”
On January 11, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh administered Moss’ oath during her swearing-in ceremony.
Moss even had a job waiting for her, as she was offered a position by Joseph Zumpano, the co-founder and managing shareholder of Zumpano Patricios, before she passed the bar.
Zumpano says that the firm’s practice specialties – anti-terrorism and managed care law – were “intrinsically related” to his decision to offer Moss a job.
“When I was introduced to Haley by a former lawyer at our firm, I immediately picked up on the fact that she was obviously brilliant – brilliant and a good person,” said Zumpano.
“As a core value, we wanted to be the first firm to bring in an openly autistic lawyer and make the point that if you align people to their strengths then given the chance, they excel,” Zumpano added. “To our knowledge, Haley is the first lawyer that we know of in a substantial law firm in the state of Florida that is openly autistic. There may be others, but we haven’t found them.”
Along with wanting to promote diversity at his law firm, Zumpano had another reason for hiring Moss.
“I have a child who is severely autistic,” he stated. “He is largely nonverbal, he will speak a few words, but he is an angel, and it’s been my honor and my wife’s honor to have him in our lives, and we raise him, and we love him and we hope for a day when there’s a better future for what we would consider neurodiversity in our country.”
Zumpano and Moss also had advice for other employers considering hiring people who have been diagnosed with autism or other conditions.
“To employers, I would say ‘don’t put limits,’ and ‘you’re investing in what someone can do, and you need to look at what people can do as opposed to what they might not be able to do,'” said Moss. “A disability generally is not all-encompassing, it is just part of who someone is, not everything they are. Everyone is unique, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and everyone has talent.”
“The advantages that I’m going to have, tactically, when I open up my firm to people with neurodiverse conditions, with strengths that may be overlooked, I’m going to get the benefit, this firm is going to get the benefit, and the clients are going to get the benefit,” said Zumpano. “Our firm is at a level where we can actually align people with extraordinary strengths to achieve extraordinary outcomes.”