Haley Moss believes she is the first “openly autistic” lawyer after being admitted to the Florida Bar last month, CBS News reports.
Moss, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, went from special education classes to mainstream classrooms before becoming an advocate for children with disabilities at age 13 and publishing her first book at age 15.
Moss, 24, graduated from the University of Florida and enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law. She graduated from law school last May and spoke at the commencement ceremony.
After being admitted to the Florida Bar in January, she was hired by a law firm where she is now practicing law focused on health care and international matters.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Doctors Worried Haley Moss Would Never Be Able to Work After Diagnosis
Moss was diagnosed with autism at age 3. At the time, doctors worried that the gifted but non-verbal child would not be able to have any real employment or be able to live independently, HTV reported.
By age 4 Moss began to speak and soon was moved from special education classes to mainstream classrooms.
It did not take long for her to speak out on behalf of other children with disabilities.
“I first shared my story at a conference when I was 13 years old,” Moss told CBS News. “I’ve always enjoyed getting to connect and share.”
2. Moss Went From Special Education to Three-Time Author
Moss wrote her first book by the time she was 15. The book was called “Middle School — The Stuff Nobody Tells You About: A Teenage Girl with ASD Shares Her Experiences.”
She has since written another book and contributed to a third book, a collection of essays.
Along with her legal and writing career, Moss is also a speaker and an artist.
“I’ve always been raised to give back and help others in need and help the community,” she told CBS News. “It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an even bigger village to raise a child with a disability … I realized by sharing my story, I could be a part of someone else’s village.”
“I’m very passionate about things I enjoy and I love to write,” she told HTV. “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.”
3. Moss Graduated With Two Degrees After Just 3 Years
Moss attended the University of Florida where she graduated with two bachelor’s degrees — in psychology and criminology — in just three years.
Moss told The New York Post that she wanted to study psychology because she wanted to understand and help others understand how the human brain works because of her experiences.
Moss went on to study law at the University of Miami, where she was chosen as the Class of 2018 student commencement speaker.
During her second year in law school, Moss was hired by Joseph Zumpano, the co-founder of the law firm Zumpano Patricios.
“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,” Zumpano told HTV.
Zumpano said the decision to hire Moss was a personal one.
“I have a child who is severely autistic,” he said. “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.”
4. Moss Was Admitted to The Florida Bar Last Month
Moss did so well at the firm that it offered her a job before she passed the bar exam. She passed her bar exam and was admitted to the Florida Bar on January 11.
She was sworn in by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh.
She is now practicing law at the firm with a focus on health care and international matters.
5. Moss Was Hired by Top Miami Law Firm, Which Says She is The ‘First Openly Autistic Lawyer’
Moss and Zumpano believe that she is the first openly autistic lawyer.
“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 told HTV. “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.”
“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,” he said. “Our firm is at a level where we can actually align people with extraordinary strengths to achieve extraordinary outcomes.”
“If you’re an autistic individual or a family with an autistic family member, don’t let anybody else’s perceptions of your limitations dictate your own,” he added. “Haley has broken through this glass ceiling, and the firm is proud to be the hammer that shatters it, there’s hope for everybody.”