The Schoolyard Lawyer: A Parent’s Guide to Hiring a Special Education Attorney


The Special Education process can be frustrating, time-consuming, and upsetting to many parents. When parents feel that they can no longer face the school district on their own, many choose to hire a Special Education attorney to help them. This is an extremely important decision because it involves one of the most important things in any parent’s life… your child’s education.

Before you hire an attorney, read this guide to learn many helpful tips on hiring an attorney who can best help you and your child.

Tip #1: Find an attorney who knows the law.

You want to make sure that the attorney you hire knows the Special Education laws. It is important to realize that Special Education laws are complex and often difficult to understand. Your next door neighbor or cousin may be an attorney, but they do not necessarily know the ins and outs of this area of the law. Therefore, finding an attorney who specializes in Special Education law is essential to finding an attorney who can best advocate for your child.

Tip #2: Find an attorney who has experience.

When hiring an attorney, it is completely appropriate to ask about the attorney’s previous cases to help you judge his/her experience. You may also want to ask the attorney about other types of training he/she has.

Tip # 3: Find an attorney who understands schools.

Special Education attorneys deal with schools, school districts, and school district attorneys on a regular basis, so it is important to find an attorney who is familiar with school systems and how they operate.

Tip # 4: Find an attorney who helps you to advocate for your child.  

All too often, once an attorney is involved, many parents will no longer communicate with the school. It is important to find an attorney who will not only advocate for your child but will also help you to advocate for your child. Once the lines of communication break down between parents and school staff, it is very difficult to accomplish your goals. Therefore, a good attorney will also help you to become a better advocate for your child.

Tip #5: Find an attorney who will take the time to understand your child’s disability.

No one knows your child better than you. Therefore, when you hire an attorney, you will need to educate your attorney about your child and his/her disability. Attorneys may have experience with certain disabilities from previous cases, but attorneys are not educators or doctors and will need to understand certain specifics about your child’s disability in order to effectively advocate for your child.

Tip #6: Find an attorney who helps you understand realistic expectations.

Of course every parent wants to hire an attorney who will promise the moon for their child. However, your goals may not be realistic. Therefore, find an attorney who helps you understand realistic expectations about services, reimbursement of fees, or private placements for your child. Be cautious of attorneys who make promises… a good Special Education attorney will tell you the likely best and worst case scenarios—and everything in between.

Tip #7: Find an attorney you trust.

You need to trust your attorney, so be sure to find someone with whom you can communicate and someone you truly believe is doing everything he/she possibly can for your child. Follow your gut on this one.

If you are thinking about hiring a Special Education attorney, contact Andra Hutchins at Kerstein, Coren & Lichtenstein to find out if she is the right attorney for you and your child.