When Do You Need a Special Education Lawyer?

special education lawyer

Facing the challenge of developing an individualized education program , or IEP, for your child with special needs can be a daunting task. The process is generally collaborative, marked by a mutual interest in achieving the best results for your child. If you feel competent to represent your child’s interest and find the interaction with the school agreeable, proceed and work through the IEP process as needed. However, a special education lawyer may be necessary to ensure that your child receives access to all resources mandated by law.

A special education lawyer can be of assistance in one of two ways. A lawyer can assist in the background as a source of counsel during the IEP development process. In this case, you will handle the majority of the work and attend all related meetings as your child’s representative. Additionally, a special education lawyer can represent your child formally as a direct representative.

Let’s take a look at why you might need a special education lawyer and in what capacity.

special education lawyer

Assistance and Advice From a Special Education Lawyer

The IEP meetings should include the school’s special education teacher, a district administrator, a general education teacher, and a representative to interpret the data. These meetings should commence no more than 30 days after the child’s evaluation.

The IEPs are extremely long documents that contain very detailed information about your specific child’s recommended course of action, and they should be reviewed annually. A special education lawyer can help you review and understand this document from a perspective that has your child’s best interest at heart.

Once you sign the IEP document, you have given your consent on behalf of your child. An attorney who specializes in special education law can help you understand what your rights are before you sign.

Additionally, a special education lawyer can help you and your child prepare for the eligibility meeting. If you are unhappy with the results of the evaluation, you can have your child retested. An attorney can help you with this process.

Depending on your confidence in your ability to advocate most effectively for your child, you might want to seek legal assistance. The legal team for the school district is well versed in the special education law. Having an expert to represent you in these proceedings only levels the playing field.

special education lawyer

Formal Representation

If your child’s case contains any level of complexity or you’ve worked in good faith with the school and aren’t satisfied with the results, hiring a special education lawyer to advocate on your behalf is an option.

Attorneys can attend the IEP meeting with or for you. If you have a dispute with the school, administration, or school district, an attorney can represent you at any hearings and ensure your legal rights are covered. Generally speaking, the special education regulations are complex and change constantly. Given that this process can move slowly, a specialized lawyer can help speed it up.

While this step may be costly, a reputable attorney can look at your case and help you understand whether it warrants legal representation. You can also compare their rates against your budget. Keep in mind, the quality of your child’s education is one of the key factors that can determine their path in life. You’ll want to ensure that the school provides quality services in the best environment. In the case that your IEP development process becomes adversarial and you don’t feel the school is cooperating in good faith, a special education lawyer will understand how to apply the law effectively to achieve the desired outcomes.

You may also just need an attorney to help you understand the feedback provided in the IEP meetings. Instead of feeling outnumbered, a lawyer advocating on your side can help you assess all the information provided and make the best decision for your child’s academic future.

The Special Education Lawyer: Not Your Average Advocate

As the number of children with autism or learning disabilities across the United States continues to grow, and legislation designed to oversee the education of these children is increasingly drawn upon, it is no small wonder that those schooled in law are looking to become a special education lawyer because they are needed now more than ever.

Those who have studied and practice in education law and have experience in special education issues can help parents navigate the legal complexities of this area of the law. More often than not, a special education lawyer helps to resolve matters of dispute more effectively and efficiently than can parents alone.

Defining a Special Education Lawyer



Special education lawyers must be familiar with all aspects of education law, such as education reform and student  and teacher civil rights. It is also helpful for special education lawyers to be familiar with autism and all types of learning disabilities.

In addition, they need to have a strong understanding of all federal and state legislation regarding special education. They need to have knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (most notably Section 504, which protects those with disabilities from being discriminated against from any organization).

Special education lawyers mainly help to develop an Individual Education Program (IEP) for a special needs child. This is a plan describing how a school will educate a particular special needs child. Special education lawyers can also help mediate disagreements between parents and schools if an IEP is not adhered to, or if other problems arise concerning how the child is educated.

Advocating for the Special Needs Child

In many cases, parents become advocates for their children when it comes to education. However, many parents are simply not knowledgeable in areas of negotiation, legal communication or due process when problems concerning their special needs child or children arise. Some parents simply don’t have the time nor the resources to adequately prepare and present their arguments.

This is where special education lawyers come in.

“A good attorney can advise a parent how to obtain a better program and services, how to effectively advocate for the child,” says David A. Sherman, a special education lawyer for Medical malpractice lawyers phoenix, he also wrote: “Autism: Asserting Your Child’s Right to a Special Education.” Source: (http://www.baizlaw.com/practice-areas/medical-malpractice)

What’s more, Sherman says, “A special education attorney will advise a parent as to how to assert their child’s numerous and substantial rights.”

Going the Extra (Special) Mile

Do special education lawyers do more than any other type of lawyer? On the surface, no. They file documents, attend meetings and hearings, write briefs…in short, do all of the things any lawyer would do no matter the nature of the issue, whether it be a criminal case, divorce proceeding or child custody battle.



But special education lawyers perform a service that other lawyers do not: they bring a voice to those who may not be able to speak for themselves. In many cases, defendants can go to the stand on their own behalf. Some even become active participants in the preparation of their defense.

Special needs children do not have this luxury. They do not understand the laws that are being broken when the school they attend does not honor their IEPs or federal legislative mandates. Most parents are not well versed in these laws. It is the special education lawyer who must act as advocate for these special needs children.

And not just your average advocate, but one who is armed with the legal knowledge and mediation skills needed to get the job done. Considering the importance of what’s at stake (a fair education for all), the impact of a special education lawyer cannot be understated.