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.


0 replies
  1. Cindy Hamer
    Cindy Hamer says:

    I am a 17 year special education teacher. I want to become an attorney for special education. Is there a law school that is specific to special education law?

    • sun park
      sun park says:

      I’m a 11 year special education professor and have a sample plan!
      It depends on the areas you live.

      Below is a short list of Law Schools that offer Children’s Advocacy Programs.

      William and Mary Special Education Advocacy Law Clinic (PELE)

      DePaul University College of Law Special Education Advocacy Clinic

      Duke Children’s Law Clinic

      University of Richmond Education Rights Clinic

      University of the District of Columbia Juvenile & Special Education Law Clinic

      Harvard Education Law Clinic

      Rutgers Education and Health Law Clinic

      Stanford Youth and Education Law Project

      New York Law School Suspension Representation Clinic

      Pepperdine University Special Education Advocacy Clinic

      Southwestern Law School – Children’s Rights Clinic

      Loyola University Child and Family Law Clinic

      Youth Justice Education Clinic (YJEC) at Loyola law School Los Angeles

      University of San Diego School of Law – Education and Disability Clinic

      University of San Diego – Special Education Advocacy Certificate Program offered in cooperation with USD’s Professional and Continuing Education.

      – See more at: http://www.wrightslaw.com/lawschool/#sthash.B3A3FsUI.dpuf


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