The stakes are incredibly high when one is representing the interests of children with special education needs. While I think it is a good idea to weigh the “pros and cons” of entering any field of practice, or any profession for that matter, my personal belief is that this particular calling requires more consideration, research and training than one gets in law school. This is especially true, since most law schools do not even offer a course on special education law.
If you are considering becoming a parents’ attorney under the IDEA, here are the most important things I would recommend you do:
Tip #10: Learn About Social Media and Legal Blogging, and DO IT
If you are reading this, you are obviously aware of the fact that I have a blog. What you may not know, however, is that I had been practicing law for nearly thirteen years, almost exclusively during that entire time as a special education attorney in Connecticut, before I even began to venture into “social media.” I had a very successful law practice, but I didn’t even have a website!
How and why did I decide to start blogging about the rights of kids with disabilities? More importantly, why do you care?
For me, the decision to begin blogging was the culmination of a number of external events, including the economy. I was noticing that I was still getting many phone calls from prospective clients, but fewer were in a position to hire me. Not only did I realize that I needed to have a website to continue to be competitive in the market, but I started to consider how even more families than ever before would be desperate for information about their rights under the IDEA. When people are unable to access quality special education advocacy, school districts get away with even more. In fact, as the economic situation got worse, I was getting more “push back” than ever before from school board attorneys as we attempted to settle cases.
So I decided, why not channel my knowledge of special education law, my practical experience in working with school districts, and my love of writing into a forum that simultaneously gives parents and professionals in the disability rights community much-needed information, and has the potential to grow my business?
So far, it has worked. The blog has brought me several new clients who found me through the site, and it is getting much appreciated attention from legal professionals as well. I have been contacted by lawyers and law students throughout the country who are reading this series, and I have had several discussions on line with parents who I know learned about a particular right that they have for the very first time by reading my blog. As icing on the cake, after practicing in an area of the law for so long that can often leave you feeling emotionally tapped, I have “recharged” my commitment to helping children with special needs.
You don’t have to blog to take advantage of social media, although it certainly helps. Take advantage of social networking organizations like Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Facebook to spread the word about what you are doing.
Blogging about special education law is not the only way to use social media to benefit your business. In fact, until you know what you’re talking about, it’s risky to hold yourself out as an authority on the subject; a little knowledge can be dangerous. As I’ve said before, don’t feign experience until you have it. If you start by finding and posting articles of interest to parents of children with special education needs, you will be be learning about disabilities yourself, and beginning to form a network of individuals who know that you care about these issues, and, eventually, someone who is knowledgeable about them.
Getting into social media is good advice for virtually any business, but there is a reason it is particularly important if you want to start or grow a special education law practice.
If you have chosen this field, it is hopefully because you are passionate about making sure that children with special needs receive an education that gives them the skills to lead a happy, successful and independent life. As far as I am concerned, private attorneys and advocates who go into this field have an obligation to spread accurate knowledge to as many parents as they can.
Use the new media wisely, and you will be empowering parents, securing the civil rights of children with disabilities, taking on City Hall, and marketing your special education law firm at the same time.
Not a bad job, if you can get it.