Make the most out of your meeting with your special education lawyer, whether at the initial consultation or on subsequent visits, by being prepared with all the necessary documents and information. The tips below will help you organize your notes and questions before the clock starts running at the attorney’s office.
You may have had to fill out a questionnaire prior to meeting with your lawyer so that you won’t have to waste time during the meeting going over basic information. Either send the completed form to the office with copies of all documents that accompany the questionnaire, or, if requested, bring that with you to the initial consultation. Like a first date, this first meeting can set the tone for the rest your relationship.
Additionally, you should ask the lawyer if they have handled similar cases in the past and how they addressed the case then. Find out how long it took them to reach a resolution, and how much of their practice centers on special education needs. His/her response will give you a sense of how they plan on managing your situation. Did he/she handle each case personally, or were a number of junior attorneys the main point of contact? Ask to meet with other members of his team that may work on your case.
Bring copies of every document that pertains to your special needs child’s file, no matter how insignificant or old it may seem to you. You lawyer will rely on that information to create a picture of the situation, and later, use it as support for their arguments.
The documents below are just a few of the reports, forms and evidence of correspondence that will help your attorney. Bring copies to your initial consultation and any new documents to subsequent meetings.
– all evaluations done by the school or privately
– waiver forms
– emails and letters between you and the school and the child’s doctors
– report cards and progress reports
– disciplinary reports (if any)
– any other school records
– doctors’ and therapists’ records
– hospital admission records (if any)
– any other documents pertaining to the case
Organize your child’s files chronologically prior to handing over the copies. By preparing these files in a systematic way that allows the lawyer to quickly peruse the documents, you will save both you and your lawyer time. Use binders and tabs to keep all the paperwork neatly organized. This will also allow you to double-check for duplicates of documents or omissions.
Prepare a list of objectives and expectations for your lawyer prior to your meeting. This will help your lawyer determine if this is a case that he or she is able to take on, as well as the best approach to achieve those aims. The goals may be broken down to smaller steps to be accomplished between each meeting.
Some common goals set for each meeting include reviewing contracts and other legal documents, responding to a legal complaint, lawsuit or threatening letter, obtaining legal advice to understand your rights, or determining if you have a case or legal recourse against someone else.
Attend meetings with your special education lawyer with a list of questions related to achieving your goals. Here are some sample questions to help you and your lawyer work toward your objectives:
– How should you respond?
– What are the legal areas of concern?
– How is the opposing side likely to respond (to our action)?
– What are you options, in and out of court?
– What difficulties can the lawyer see with the case?
After you’ve met with the lawyer, follow their instructions to the letter. If asked to provide more paperwork, sign forms, etc., perform the tasks in a timely manner. You will accrue additional fees if attorneys have to follow up with you.
By spend a little time preparing to meet with your attorney and setting goals for each meeting, you’ll be able to get the most out of your time with your special education lawyer and get your case one step closer to resolution.