A Florida woman diagnosed with autism at the age of three has become the first openly autistic person to pass the Florida Bar and become a licensed attorney in the state.
Haley Moss, a native of Parkland who graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2018, was sworn into the Florida Bar by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh on January 11 in Miami, the Associated Press (AP) reported Saturday.
Moss, who has high-functioning autism, told the AP that doctors told her family members she would never be able to work a minimum wage job or live without assistance. Two decades later, Moss lives on her own and works at a Miami area law firm.
“I’m very passionate about things I enjoy and I love to write,” Moss said. “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.”
Moss said she was offered a position at her firm, Zumpano Patricios, in Coral Gables before she passed the Florida Bar exam.
Joseph Zumpano, the co-founder and managing shareholder of the firm, said the practice areas of the firm— including managed care legislation and anti-terrorism law— were “intrinsically related” to his decision to hire Moss.
“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 the AP.
“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, whose son also has autism, 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,” he said.
Moss also accomplished other things in her life before her admission to the Florida Bar. The 24-year-old completed her undergraduate degree in 2015, finishing a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology & Law and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in three years. She is also the author of two books and is an artist.
She was recently honored for her achievements at a Saturday event in Boca Raton.
The Sun Sentinel reported that Moss received the Occhigrossi Family Youth in Service Award — an honor which recognizes young people who work to increase opportunities, acceptance, and support for those with special needs— at an event hosted by the Unicorn Children’s Foundation.