Home > Ask the Advocate > Is My Attorney on My Side? by Pat Howey
Friend or Foe?
This question comes up all the time, not just in special education cases. People question this throughout the entire legal system.
I have heard countless folks say that the legal system is not a fair one. They think this because they watch legal counsel battle it out in the courtroom, then walk outside and make plans to play golf the next day.
People assume that it is a “good old boys” club, and that it is impossible to obtain a fair hearing.
They believe there is a conspiracy between all of the attorneys – they are all friends.
One of my wise and deep attorney friends explained this phenomenon.
He said, "Attorneys cannot allow what goes on inside the courtroom to make them hate their opponents".
Sooner or later in their careers, they will face many, if not all, of the attorneys in their area. If they begin to hate the opponents they face, it will not be long until they have to hate ALL of the attorneys because at some time or another, they will face them in court.
Attorneys have an ethical obligation to vigorously defend their clients. The legal system is adversarial, by design. That does not mean that all adversaries are enemies.
I also believe that many attorneys are frustrated actors/actresses. That is part of what makes them good at what they do.
Think about it.
To be a good advocate, your attorney must maintain his emotions. If he loses control, the school’s attorney takes control. Yet, he must be indignant and outraged at the way the school is treating you and your child. This takes a special skill and calling.
Do not assume that because those in the legal profession are civil – or even friendly – to each other that there is a conspiracy.
Your attorney is on your side, or he would not have taken your case.
Meet Pat Howey
Patricia Howey has supported families of children with disabilities since 1985. She has a specific learning disability and became involved in special education when her youngest child entered kindergarten. Pat has children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who have a variety of disabilities and she has used her experience to advocate for better special education services for several of them.
Pat began her advocacy career as a volunteer for the Task Force on Education for the Handicapped (now InSource), Indiana’s Parent Training and Information Center. In 1990, she opened her advocacy practice and served families throughout Indiana by representing them at IEP meetings, mediation, and due process hearings.
In 2017, Pat closed her advocacy practice and began working on a contract basis as a special education paralegal. Attorneys in Indiana, Texas, and California contracted with her to review documents, spot issues, draft due process complaints, prepare for hearings, and assist at hearings. In January 2019, she became an employee of the Connell Michael Kerr law firm, owned by Erin Connell, Catherine Michael, and Sonja Kerr. Her duties have now expanded to assisting with federal court cases.