Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Special Education Legal Representation: Is it a "Good Ole Boys" Club?

Question:

How can I be sure my attorney is on my side? He jokes with the school’s attorneys during meeting breaks. They seem to be very chummy. Is this just another “good ole boys’ club”?

Answer:

This question comes up all the time, not just in special education cases. I often hear people say that the legal system is unfair. They watch the attorneys battle in the courtroom, then walk outside, laugh, and make plans to play golf. People assume it is a “good old boys” club and it is impossible for parents to get a fair hearing. They believe that all the attorneys are friends and that somehow makes it a conspiracy.

An attorney friend once explained it this way to me. He said that attorneys must separate what goes on in the courtroom from their personal life. They cannot let their courtroom opponents become hated enemies. Eventually, each attorney will face many, if not all, of the attorneys in their area as an opponent in court. If they begin to hate the opponents they face, it will not be long until they have to hate ALL of the attorneys because at some time or another, they will face them in court at some time or another.

Attorneys have an ethical obligation to vigorously defend their clients. The legal system is adversarial, by design. That does not mean that all adversaries are enemies.

Many attorneys are frustrated actors/actresses. That is part of what makes them good at what they do. Think about it. To be a good advocate, your attorney must maintain his/her emotions. If she becomes out-of-control, the school’s attorney is in control.
Yet, your attorney must be indignant and outraged at the way the school is treating you and your child. This takes a special skill and calling.
Do not assume that because those in the legal profession are civil – or even friendly – to each other that there is a conspiracy. Your attorney is on your side, or he would not have taken your case.

3 comments:

smith said...

Brilliant post, nicely done. And thanks for mentioning all those blogsSpecial Education

Anonymous said...

wrimpo
hello i'm new at this
but have learned the law
\
our son had OT since kindergarten
and was released last yr .... while he was in the 3rd grade
our child has ALWAYS BEEN A GO GETTER AND ALWAYS TRIED THE BEST HE COULD ..........AND RECEIVED A 'S AND B'S MAYBE A C FROM HERE TO THERE BUT ........... YESTERDAY
I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM THE TEACHER
STATING MY SON IS FAILING ENGLISH, POORLY IN MATH AND SPELLING....... FOR I KNOW MATH AND THE SPELLING HE EXCELLED IN PREVIOUS YRS ...... WHATS HAPPENING ... LUV ING MOM FROM JERSEY ... WHO HAS BEEN BLESSED WITH A BEAUTIFUL BRIGHT CHILD ......... ARE THEY MISSING SOMETHING OR DO I CARE TO MUUCH

Crystal Calhoun said...

Unfortunately, I beg to differ. I’d like to believe that all professionals are moral, honest and fair in their practice or profession, but that is just not the case. Many people have motives that are not pure. In fact, most people I’ve encountered over the last 10 years in professions that were once held with high standards such as Doctor’s and Educator’s are no longer working these jobs because they care and want to help people. Many are in it for the money, job security, and simply because it’s what they know best and they have to earn a living to support themselves and their family. You can see it in their attitude, body language, and their unwillingness to do more than the basic requirement. Nonetheless, I feel that initially people who are afforded the opportunity to attend college and pursue a career of choice typically choose a profession that is near and dear to their heart. However, I think that somewhere along the line they lose sight of that, more so in recent days than in the past. Also, the politics of the job plays a huge role. People no longer are willing to stand up for justice if it means risking their own well-being and life style.

Although some Attorney's may hold their ethical standards in high regard, I believe that there are quite a few who don't. I have witnessed Attorney's who initially appear very passionate about taking on a particular case, then suddenly come up with an excuse for not being able to take on the same case they were once willing and eager to represent. Situations like this have caused me to question the integrity of many Attorneys’. It makes me wonder if school districts payoff Attorney's or use some other means to convince them to not represent certain cases for some reason or another.

There is only a small group of Special Education Attorney's in my state and I know they are all familiar with each other and the local school districts. Many of these Attorney's have worked on both sides of the fence representing the school district at one time or another, and the parent on other occasions. In my experience as an employee of the school district while working as a School Psychologist, and while self-employed as an Advocate, I have seen enough suspicious behavior between Attorney's and school systems to convinced me that all Attorney's are not true to the letter of the law.

In addition, I asked a friend who works very closely with Attorney's if he thought that it was possible that some Attorney's might be in cahoots with large agencies/organizations such as school districts. His response was, "absolutely, they do it all the time". Let’s not fool ourselves people, this is the very reason we have advocacy groups—to fight against, expose, and bring change to the illegal and unfair practices of powerful figures that take advantage of and victimize the weak. As advocates, it is our job to level the playing field by strengthening the forces behind the weak. We should not dismiss these concerns about our legal system or brush them under the rug, they deserve our sincere validation and investigation. Are there any Attorney’s out there who are willing to shed light on this situation and share their experience?

By Crystal Calhoun
www.heartandsouladvocacy.com