The Initial Call to a Special Education Lawyer

This post is intended to provide you with the best way to have that first communication with a special education lawyer. This is also what NOT to do in the first call. I hope that you find this helpful.

First, let’s start with what you SHOULD do if you are leaving a voicemail:

1. Identify your name and phone number.

2. Identify the city, state, and school district you are calling about.

3. Say you are calling about “failure to provide special education services” or “failure to provide an IEP for your child” or “bullying your child” or other short phrase that identifies the problem.

4. Repeat your name CLEARLY and phone number.

If you do these things, you will probably get a call back to discuss the matter further and have the attorney do an “intake” about your case (which is another way of saying, getting the initial important information to decide whether or not to take your case).

Next, let’s discuss what you SHOULD NOT do if leaving a voicemail:

5. DO NOT tell the whole story of the problem

6. DO NOT say you are looking for free legal advice

7. DO NOT provide private details that you don’t want public, because at this point you are not sure that you are talking to a child-side attorney or an attorney or represents school districts

Now let’s talk about what you SHOULD say if you get to speak to a live lawyer on the phone. In addition to the things listed above (including what you should NOT do in the first contact), do the following:

8. Wait for the attorney to ask questions. Don’t launch into your story because you are likely to provide unnecessary details at this stage (you can get to those details later if the lawyer takes your case). Otherwise, you are wasting both your and the attorney’s time.

9. Be prepared to tell the lawyer: your child’s first name; gender; age; grade he/she is in; the name of the school district; your child’s diagnosis; whether he/she has an IEP or not; if there is an IEP, what is the date of the last agreed to IEP; and what is the status of the IEP (new one proposed? not being implemented? etc.)

10. Be prepared to give a VERY SHORT description of the problem (not providing services or an aide; not evaluated for 3 years; not declaring child eligible; not enforcing a 504 plan; etc.)

11. Be prepared to discuss the lawyer’s fees and methods of payment (check? credit card? PayPal? payment plan?)

12. Provide your email address, home address, and other contact information. This is so you can have an active communication with your attorney.

The lawyer may not decide to take your case on that call before doing some analysis and a “conflicts check” to make sure they haven’t represented someone before that conflicts with your child’s case (this is rare for a child-side attorney, but sometimes happens if you have a former or current school-side attorney). Once the lawyer decides to take your case, the next step is usually a fee agreement which details what legal services will be provided and the cost. This is usually best accomplished via confidential email.

There may be other tips (and if you have questions, please feel free to post them in the comments below), but that should be a good start to your relationship with a special education attorney.

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