Advocacy: HIRING AN EDUCATION/SPECIAL ED LAWYER

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Bob:  How does a family determine whether or not an educational lawyer is a quality hire? Qualities? Experience? How does a family determine when an educational lawyer should be fired?

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4 Comments on "Advocacy: HIRING AN EDUCATION/SPECIAL ED LAWYER"

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As a school employee I see a good educational lawyer as someone who can ask relevant probing questions, ask parents to speak up, ask the parents if they need clarification and correct the law when school employees say things incorrectly. They advocate for services and placement when needed. Reviewing goals for appropriateness, being measurable and having a baseline is one thing but taking 2 hours to just check the grammar/word usage seems like a little much. I have seem teams screw up and the parents are rightfully upset and angry. In those situations, I see the lawyer as someone who can be professional, firm, and help the family get resolution for the error but not be rude and belittle the school personnel. I’ve had a lawyer forbid the team to speak to parents in a meeting and only speak to him, when the meeting was going along smoothly. I’d also say that a good educational lawyer has a good idea of who your child is and what your priorities are for him/her.

I have had personal experience with two special ed lawyers, Ms Good and Mr Mediocre. Ms Good communicated efficiently with me via email, was also available to discuss questions over the phone, told me what documents she needed, listened to what my priorities were, and advised me on how to accomplish them. She had the respect of the district’s lawyer, and made sure my voice was heard in the meeting. Mr Mediocre arrived late to my meeting; I felt I would have accomplished more if he hadn’t bothered to come at all.
Would you like to describe the problems that lead you to consider dismissing the lawyer?

Friends, I want to hear specific suggestions from you all as we are shopping for a good educational lawyer. Does anyone have a checklist as anyone can arrive on time, while at the same time not be what they were expected to be as an attorney.

Mr Mediocre was ineffective primarily because he let the other lawyer walk all over him. My checklist: be a good listener, (some people ask a question and then interrupt your attempt to answer), catch on quickly to what I’m describing, read my documentation efficiently, be familiar with the legal issues at stake, have a knack for finding a compromise, hold firm where it really matters to me, give me a realistic idea of my chances foreach possible course of action, give regular updates about costs, be responsive to email, be available for phone consults, don’t waste my time saying I “must be very sweet to everyone” (one lawyer I called actually said that), don’t sit on my paperwork for a month without reading it.
Ms Good let me save some money by allowing me to write my own first drafts — and then she would edit them. She didn’t nitpick but she really strengthened them.
Your priorities might be different from mine.

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