Following the Winding Road
I entered law school with the mission often spoken by idealistic twenty-somethings who have virtually no work or life experience. I wanted to help people. I wanted to right the wrongs that I saw in society. I fancied myself as a civil rights lawyer, so I went to a small law firm and practiced labor and employment law, representing labor unions and plaintiffs. I went into court. I looked through a lot of papers, and wrote a lot of legal briefs. I got great hands on experience. I was thrown into the deep end, and I didn’t know any better, so I just swam. I was the quintessential example of a young associate who was incredibly stressed out, and simultaneously bored.
I soon got the opportunity to work at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the flagship federal agency that champions civil rights. I thought, “This is it! This is where all the exciting stuff happens. I am going to find this interesting, and I am just going to love being an attorney. Finally!” Wrong. I looked through a lot of paper. I wrote a lot of decisions on whether or not discrimination had occurred, and often, following legal analysis, concluded that it had not. I worked there for several years, and enjoyed the work, particularly the disability cases, but had no client contact. I wanted to know the people beyond the paper, but that does not often happen in a federal agency.
My first daughter was born. My second daughter was born. I blinked, and my youngest daughter skipped off to kindergarten, and I decided to go back to work. “Finally,” I thought, “I’m getting my professional identity back.” I plunged headfirst into what I convinced myself would be the perfect job. I worked with nice people. I represented sophisticated companies. Perfect job, right? Wrong again. Do you remember that idealistic twenty-something who went to law school wanting to help people and make the world a better place? She still lives inside my head.
After many conversations over the years, I concluded that I have heard too many stories of children not getting the services that they need to access their education. I have seen the painful consequences of what happens when schools are ill-equipped to handle children with special needs. I have seen the frustration of well-meaning parents get in the way of advocating for their own children. I have seen confusion on the faces of the most educated of people.
There is a need in our community, and it is a need that crosses all socio-economic barriers. Call them learning differences, special needs, disabilities. Put whatever label you want on it, but our community’s children need advocacy. They need advocacy at the school and local level.
After seeing my first client as an educational advocate, and securing and increasing a lot of necessary services for her child, I realized something else. Oddly, I needed to leave the law in order to find it. I want to represent people who need a voice, and I want to do it at the most fundamental of levels, in the schools. I want to see the law followed, and I want to be there when it happens.
If you are in need of educational advocacy services please contact me. Every case is unique and I look forward to hearing from you.