1. Find a Specialist. Special education law is complex and not part of the traditional law school curriculum. Just because an attorney passed the state bar doesn't mean that he or she is qualified to represent your child! The more specialized the law practice, the more likely the attorney is to understand the intricacies of special education law.
2. Ask about Experience. Just because a lawyer specializes in special education law doesn't mean he or she has experience. The ideal lawyer has participated in IEP / 504 Meetings, Manifestation Determinations, Informal and Formal Settlement Negotiations (including settlement conferences at the BSEA) and Due Process Hearings (including expedited hearings). Make sure the lawyer has drafted their own settlement agreements and understands the dangers of simply signing a settlement agreement drafted by the school. Here in Massachusetts, most special education disputes end in settlement, so you may be surprised to find that an attorney who has practiced for five or even ten years has never brought a case to hearing before the Board of Special Education Appeals. Even if your case never results in a hearing, it is important to hire an attorney who understands the process from start to finish.
3. Inquire about Relationships. A good special education attorney understands the role of all the key players in the special education process and has a relationship with these individuals and institutions. He or she can recommend educational advocates, evaluators, and other experts. Your lawyer should be familiar with the reputation of the schools' lawyers and special education directors and be regarded by them as a knowledgeable and reasonable advocate.
If you are looking for a special education advocate in Massachusetts, contact Boston area attorney Lillian E. Wong today.