Home > So You Want to Go to Law School? Special Education Law & Advocacy Clinics
"I advocated for my two children for many years. I also attended IEP meetings with other parents to provide advocacy and support. Now, I'm interested in law school. What do you recommend?"
Law schools around the country are developing children's programs and advocacy clinics that address the critical shortage of legal assistance for parents of children with disabilities. Student lawyers provide representation and advocacy to youth, families, and caregivers in special education and school discipline matters, community outreach and education, school reform litigation, policy research, and advocacy.
In most clinics, students are actively engaged in interviewing, counseling, negotiation, fact investigation, community and school meetings, as well as administrative and court hearings. Law students learn special education law and are encouraged to learn to use their legal skills to solve problems while seeking to obtain appropriate early intervention and educational services and placements mandated by both federal and state law.
Student lawyers offer their services to families at no charge. They educate parents and others involved in the lives of children with disabilities about their legal rights and responsibilities.
William and Mary Law School
In January 2009, William & Mary Law School announced the opening of a new Special Education Advocacy Clinic (PELE) to assist children with special needs and their families with eligibility or Individualized Education Program meetings, discipline matters, mediation, and administrative hearings.
A new course, Law 363: Special Education Law & Advocacy, taught by Pete and Pam Wright is part of the Law School's new PELE Initiative.
Test Your Knowledge
For a good overview of the law and a test of your knowledge, try the final exam Pete and Pam, Adjunct Professors of Law at William and Mary, administered to their students.
Try the practice questions first. Follow the directions for downloading the exam and submitting your answers. You can spend as much time as you need on the questions.
Students have the opportunity in a real-life context to hone their lawyering skills such as interviewing, negotiating, counseling, pre-trial litigation, and oral advocacy.
To see a Law 363 student in oral argument in an LRE case, click here.
View the video or powerpoint slides from the following Resource Training for Parents presented by law students in the PELE clinic.
Many law schools offer programs in Disability Law, Special Education Law, or Family and Children's Law. Child Law Programs or Children's Advocacy Clinics vary from school to school. To find out more about the types of programs offered, you need to go directly to the law school and research the program.
Below is a short list of Law Schools that offer Children's Advocacy Programs.
University of San Diego - Special Education Advocacy Certificate Program offered in collaboration with the USD’s Division of Continuing Education and the Legal Clinics.
To find additional programs in specific areas, use Google search. Enter "special education law clinic [state]" in the google search box.
American Bar Association: Disability or Special Education Law
Here's a handy resource from the American Bar Association that shows disability related programs throughout the US. Click a state on the map to find what programs are offered by the law schools in that state.
Some law school programs have clinics that offer their services at no charge to assist families of children with special needs. Some clinics conduct free training classes so parents can become more knowledgeable advocates for their children. Use the map to find what programs are available in your state.Bellinger '09 Receives Equal Justice Works Fellowship
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Last revised: 12/20/10