Attorney James Baron, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Special Education Lawyer
Special Education & School Law
You are probably reading this web page because you are dealing with an education-related dispute, and you are thinking of hiring an attorney or advocate. You might even be thinking that litigation is the only way to resolve the issue. Not necessarily. In fact, when it comes to educational issues, litigation should be your last resort. It is expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining. Unlike other areas of the law, in Education Law you usually don't "sue" expecting to win a sum of money (with some exceptions). Legal actions in this area of the law are usually for educational services and placements. Only when there are no options left should litigation be considered.
I understand what you are dealing with, because like you, I am the parent of a child (now an adult) who has gone through the special education system. I understand that you are trying to balance limited financial resources with the need to provide proper educational services for your child with a disability. That is why my philosophy is that victory for parents does not mean winning at litigation - it means resolving your dispute before litigation.
Think of it this way: Litigation is like surgery - if there is a way to get what you need without it, you are better off. A good doctor will utilize a wide range of tools to cure his patients and avoid surgery. Similarly, a good education lawyer will also utilize a wide range of tools to obtain educational services and placements without litigation.
The most important, most powerful, and most successful tool is to empower parents. Very often, I will sit down with parents to explain the applicable special education laws, and explain the application of the law to their situation. I then counsel parents, helping them to act and react in order to be productive in dealing with the school system. I also often help parents to draft written correspondence with the school. At this point, the school system may not even know that you have engaged the services of an attorney.
As a next step, it might be necessary for more direct advocacy. If there has not yet been success, or if the case is already very advanced, I might need to attend IEP Team meetings, and/or negotiate with the school or the school system's attorney. By the time the issue gets to this point, the relationship between parents and school system has often broken down and become very adversarial. Direct communication between the parent's lawyer and the school's lawyer will often - though not always - break this logjam so that proper services and placements can be made. While school systems will often hold their ground when dealing directly with parents, the reality is that schools don't want to litigate any more than parents do. It is very common for IEP meetings to suddenly become very cooperative and productive once the parents get a lawyer involved. This is where the art of negotiation as a form of advocacy becomes extremely important. Cases often get resolved during this stage. Only when it is clear that the two sides will not be able to settle their differences is it necessary to file for a special education hearing. If you take a look at the BSEA Statistics, you will see why litigation should be an option, but only as a last resort if all other efforts have failed.
To set up time to speak with me about your school-related legal issues, click here.
The 7 Stages of Special Education Legal Representation ©
Listed below are the 7 stages of legal representation that describe my typical engagement with parents of special education students. These are listed in the common order of events for a new client. Your situation might require starting our engagement at a level other than Stage 1, and issues often get resolved prior to litigation. My goal is to get your situation resolved at the earliest stage possible: