Frequently Asked Questions About Education Law
When you need answers about your child’s right to education, you need those answers from a trusted source. At Feinstein Education Law Group, we take these matters seriously and use our 40 years of combined experience to answer client questions every day. Some of the more common questions we receive include the following:
Can’t I represent myself?
You can and should work with your school district in a respectful and collaborative way to arrive at a strong educational program to meet your child’s needs. That’s the way special education planning should work and it is the way it does work in most cases. However, You can represent yourself in an education law matter, but it would be a mistake. Parents bringing due process actions themselves, called pro se, seldom win, while due process actions brought by lawyers on behalf of parents succeed about 50% of the time. A due process action needs to be properly prepared, often for weeks in advance of filing. You stand the best chance of getting what your child needs if you start working with an attorney early in the process.
Can’t I use an advocate? They cost a lot less than lawyers.
Advocates serve a very important role in the process. Advocates are very good at working with parents to determine what an appropriate program and placement would look like. They help parents set effective and realistic goals. Advocates can serve as important personal support in PPT meetings. Yet, when it comes to confronting the district, you need a lawyer. You need a lawyer to represent you in mediation when your legal rights are compromised. You need a lawyer to set up and bring a due process action.
Why hire the Feinstein Education Law Group? Aren’t there other good lawyers around?
There are. The fact is that there are very few lawyers in Connecticut with the experience and expertise necessary to help parents win appropriate educations for their children. Some well-known special education attorneys in Connecticut are overly eager to settle without going to a hearing. Not us. We are glad to litigate if we need to do so. In every case, we work with our clients to evaluate whether what the district offers in settlement discussions is as good or better than we are likely to obtain if we go through a full hearing. That said, we work with you to calculate the cost and benefits of settling or going forward to a full hearing, inputting a realistic risk factor into the calculation. We do not use fixed-price retainer agreements, which create an incentive for the lawyer to push the client to a quick settlement. Furthermore, when you work with an attorney at the Feinstein Education Law Group, you work with them directly. You do not speak to paralegals, secretaries or advocates.
How much is this going to cost me?
We understand that clients are often concerned with cost, which is why we try to be upfront with how we charge clients. The truth is, every case is different, and we do not know how much time your case will take, but we can give you an idea for budgeting purposes. When you sign a retainer agreement to hire us, we ask you for a retainer fee of $5,000, payable by check or credit card. Many of our clients will pay at least double that amount by the time we finish their case. Attorney Andrew A. Feinstein charges $500 per hour and attorney Griswold charges $400 per hour. To review the file, talk with parents and experts, prepare a request for due process, schedule a prehearing and mediation, and attend mediation generally take between 25 and 30 hours. The vast majority of cases in which we file for due process settle at mediation or in negotiations shortly thereafter. If the case does not settle on terms satisfactory to you and the case goes to a hearing, you can expect the hearing to last eight to 12 days. We generally put in 12 to 15 hours for each day of hearing (that includes the actual time in the hearing) to prepare witnesses and questions. A post-hearing brief will generally take 20 to 30 hours. If we prevail at the hearing, the school district will be obligated to pay attorney fees. Because the cost of fighting for your child’s rights is so high, should your case go to hearing we are willing to discuss payment plans and adjustments, based on your own needs.
Do you take cases on contingency?
No. Contingent-fee arrangements are available when there is a sum of money that can be won. In personal injury cases in Connecticut, the lawyer receives, generally, one-third of the amount recovered. Such a system does not work for special education. The relief we seek is often extra services, designation or an appropriate placement. There is no monetary recovery to split up at the end. Due process cases are substantially more complicated than personal injury actions.
Do you charge for travel?
No. We help parents and students all over Connecticut and do not bill for travel time.
How long will this process take?
Once your case is ready to be filed, we will get it filed quickly, after we agree on a statement of the case to trigger the process. The law then sets a 30-day time period for resolution sessions or mediation. After that, the hearing officer has 45 days to hear the case and render a decision. Normally, there is at least one 30-day extension. A sample time frame would be as follows:
||Client retains Feinstein Education Law Group.
||Request for due process filed.
||Prehearing conference held.
||Mediation held. If a settlement is reached, the case is over, although we do work with you to ensure that the district upholds its end of the bargain.
||First day of hearings.
||Last day of hearings (Hearings are not scheduled on consecutive days.).
||Post-Hearing briefs due.
||Reply briefs due.
||Final decision and order of hearing officer.
Get Answers To Your Education Law Questions
Our lawyers are here to answer questions related to your specific education law needs. To arrange a free initial consultation with an experienced Connecticut education law attorney, contact our law offices online or by telephone at 860-969-0086.