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Blind lawyer earns 11th Circuit clerkship using screen-reading software

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Blind lawyer earns 11th Circuit clerkship using screen-reading software

Mar 14, 2013, 10:31 am CDT

A lawyer with Squire Sanders in Miami showed up for an interview for a federal appeals clerkship last year with a laptop outfitted with the software that helps him practice law.

Lawyer Dan Matzkin is blind and he uses JAWS screen-reading software, the Daily Business Review reports. The program translates text into spoken words so quickly that the user must be trained to absorb it.

Matzkin managed to impress his potential employer, Judge Adalberto Jordan of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Matzkin will begin his clerkship this fall after beating out more than 100 other applicants.

“He just blew us away in the interview,” Jordan told the Daily Business Review. "We were just amazed at how someone can do what he does with that sort of a problem because so much of legal practice is reading and digesting what you read.”

According to the American Association of Visually Impaired Attorneys, several practicing lawyers are blind. Few obtain federal clerkships, although one blind lawyer had a 2008 clerkship with retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is still hearing cases at the federal appellate level. That lawyer, Isaac Lidsky, was a former child actor who played Weasel on Saved by the Bell: the New Class, according to the National Law Journal. While clerking for O'Conor, he also worked for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Matzkin, 29, has been blind all of his life because of a condition called Leber congenital amaurosis.

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