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More than 20,000 South Australians are registered with Autism SA as being on the autism spectrum, yet for these people, acceptance and access to various services can still be quite a challenge. For example, the process of seeking legal advice can be overwhelming for any person, let alone for someone with autism. 

This is where Maggie Yarak, founder of YLP Legal (Your Legal Partner) comes in to feature as our Inspirational Adelady. With two sons, both diagnosed with autism, Maggie wholeheartedly understands the challenges that children such as hers face in our community. This is why she was determined to create an autism-friendly law firm with a caring, honest and supportive approach. 

Maggie has ensured that her all-female team is properly educated on autism and that the office is designed to minimise sensory overload. Her aim is to make legal services more accessible to all people and to promote greater understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity. And speaking from experience — there is no better motivator than a Mumma Bear with a fire in her belly to pave the way to a better world. Maggie — we see you!

No one can explain this incredible business better than Maggie herself, so over to you Maggie — our Inspirational Adelady of the week.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and YLP Legal?

YLP Legal – Your Legal Partner is a law firm that specialises in offering advice and personalised strategic solutions in commercial law, and wills and estates. We have a focus on providing advice to small and medium businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, families, women and older South Australians.

However, what our business “does” goes so much deeper than that. 

As an all-female firm with over 20 years of combined experience and as the only accredited Autism-friendly commercial and wills and estates firm in South Australia, we are passionate about ensuring that the groups who can be overlooked or swept under the rug in more traditional legal practice are able to receive advice and support that is tailored to them. 

Our approach to the practice of law is unlike the traditional corporate law firms. Instead, at YLP Legal we provide a caring approach, paired with honest advice and personalised strategic solutions to legal matters. We want our clients to leave a consultation with us possessing a deep understanding of their options and feeling supported by our firm. That’s why we’re called Your Legal Partner because it is our goal for clients to see us as their partner throughout the legal process. 

This has been recognised by our clients across the business sectors, as well as private clients who we strive to provide the utmost support for within the emotionally taxing area of wills and estates. 

Most recently, I’m proud for this work to have been recognised through my nomination for, and State Finalist status within, the Telstra Business Awards 2023 – Accelerating Women category, which recognises workplace environments that empower women.

Image Credit :: Your Legal Partner 

Being the founder of Adelaide’s only autism-friendly commercial law and wills & estates legal service, can you tell us your connection to autism and why autism is close to your heart?

This is particularly dear to my heart, as I have two sons who are both diagnosed with Autism. My youngest is 11 years old and non-verbal and both have social and communication challenges. My children were diagnosed at 2 years of age, so we have been living with autism in our family for a long time and have faced the various challenges that families such as ours and individuals such as my children face in our community.

Perhaps the biggest challenge that people with autism face is acceptance and access to various services. This prompted me to ensure that YLP Legal provides everyone in our community with access to legal services. I have ensured that our team is properly educated on autism and our office is designed to minimise sensory overload with minimal colour and distractions, sensory toys for modulating emotions as needed and a safe separate space if an individual requires time out to modulate their senses in their own way.

I believe that with more awareness and understanding of autism  by the community,  “my boys will grow up in a world that will accept them as they are and not force them to try and fit into a world that can overwhelm them and seem frightening. Individuals on the autism spectrum each have their own talents and skills that they should be given every opportunity to use, grow and contribute to society.”

Having two young sons with autism is what motivates me to make the effort to strive for inclusivity in the hopes that when my sons enter the workforce or seek to access important services, all businesses will be as inclusive as YLP Legal – Your Legal Partner. 

Why is shining a light on autism awareness and promoting accessibility for neurodivergent people so important in 2023?

More than 20,000 South Australians are registered with Autism SA as being on the autism spectrum, with that number growing by an average of 20% each time the census records the statistic.  And South Australia also has the highest percentage (1%) of neurodivergent people in the country. 

These numbers indicate a growing need for autism awareness by businesses and individuals alike, so that we can provide an inclusive environment for those affected. 

By taking steps to become an autism-friendly law firm, we hope to create a welcoming environment for all clients, to make legal services more accessible and to promote greater understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity.

Image Credit :: Your Legal Partner 

For people with autism who may need legal support, what does your firm do that’s different to other legal firms?

People with autism will flourish in a place where their needs are accommodated. At YLP Legal, we believe that every client deserves to feel comfortable and supported when seeking legal services. 

We provide sensitivity training to all staff members, which is a unique education that is not taught in the traditional law firm setting. We ensured the layout, design, and décor of the YLP Legal office is suitable to many people with sensory needs, which enables such people to feel safe and comfortable. This includes a sensory-friendly waiting area, and meeting options for clients who may be overwhelmed by bright lights or loud noises. We also have a sensory-friendly and interactive website, catering to the needs of the neurodivergent.

What do you hope for the future of the legal industry at large?

The legal industry is a very traditional one in which change can sometimes take longer to achieve. Just as the push for female equality and shining the light on harassment of women in the industry is slowly progressing, my hope is that the same can begin with autism awareness.

I hope that YLP Legal can lead by example and that the rest of the industry review their own practices and make any changes necessary to provide legal services in a more inclusive manner to our community. The “one practice fits all” mentality needs to change as people on the autism spectrum deserve access to legal services in a manner that makes them comfortable and respected.

For those with autism who wish to enter the legal profession, my hope is that the profession supports them accordingly to enable them the opportunity to contribute to society, be role models to all and demonstrate that anyone can achieve their dreams with support and determination. 

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