Finding A Good Lawyer

Bill and I worked very hard to pay off our mortgage and if we use a credit card at all, we always pay off the balance by the end of the month. We don’t have a lot of money but we live within our means and don’t have any debt with the exception of normal monthly living expenses such as water, electric, phone, groceries etc. When we want something we save our money until we have enough to make the purchase. We had been saving our money for a long time to remodel our bathrooms, but now we decided we would use that money to put a retainer on a lawyer. I searched the internet for lawyers and came across one who advertised as having experience dealing with special need cases. I called and made an appointment to meet with her and when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to learn she and her sister were both lawyers and combined their practice. So we would be getting the experience of two lawyers for the price of one. One of the sisters had a special needs child of her own and the other had been a teacher prior to getting her law degree. I wanted to make sure they had no connection to the school district and they didn’t. We explained our case to them and they said they would take it. I explained that we had enough money for their retainer, but also told them if this went to trail and we failed to prove the case we would have to sell our home to pay the court costs. They told me this was a cut and dry case and it most likely wouldn’t even go to trail. They said our case would probably be settled out of court.

As we went through all the documentation I provided, and I began telling our story, the one sister who said she would be the one presenting our case to school district’s lawyer, asked me if I thought I could write the document that she would use to present our case. She said I did such a great job with the documentation that if I could put together a document stating the facts in the order they occurred, she would put the legal jargon around it and cut her price in half. I agreed and told her I would submit the document to her by the middle of the next week.

When we got home, I went to work right away writing the document for our case. School was out for winter holiday break so I devoted my full-time and attention to getting this done. Finally, when I felt I had everything clearly documented, I submitted it via email attachment to the lead lawyer for review. By the next day, I heard back from the lawyer saying I did a fantastic job and she would use it as is without any revisions. She said she would just insert some legal terms and she would present it to the school district lawyer. She told me to sit tight until I heard back from her with the district’s response which would most likely be the next week after school break.

Finally, the call came from our lead lawyer saying the school district wanted to settle out of court with what is known as a settlement agreement. A settlement agreement is just as legal and binding as going to court before a Judge, but if both parties can agree on the terms, the court costs are eliminated. Each party just pays for their own lawyers. We had put up a $5,000.00 retainer that was reduced to $2,000.00 after I wrote the document that would support our case. Our lawyer told us that the school district’s lawyer told her she couldn’t believe the school district would have ever let this case go this far because they didn’t have a leg to stand on and they have no choice but to settle this as quickly as possible. Of course, they would never say that to us directly and I didn’t care as long as I got the help I needed for Shantel.

We weren’t suing for money, we were suing for legal means to force the school and district to adhere to the terms and conditions within Shantel’s IEP. However, I also told our lawyer, I wanted the school district to pay our lawyer’s fees. I said I didn’t think it was fair that we had to hire a lawyer to make them do their job. Our lawyer said she didn’t think they would agree to that since as far as she knew it had never been done before. But, I said I wouldn’t sign off on anything unless that was in the terms of the agreement. She said she would include it and off we went.

Our case was presented, the school district’s lawyer agreed to our terms, AND agreed to pay our lawyer fees as well. Now, if anyone failed to support Shantel’s IEP as written, the school, the district, and each individual person involved would be fined and sent directly before the Judge. The settlement agreement is filed with the court just as any case actually held in a court room and remains in effect as long as the IEP is open and valid.

As sad as it is to say ,what we really won was the right to have the school and the district do their jobs AND they had to pay $2,000.00 to find out they really do have to follow an IEP as written…what a shame, waste of tax dollars, and in reality…who really wins?

Next: Mom Has Another Stroke!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John Kirnberger
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 20:29:05

    You know Sis, there is no cure for stupid! They just don’t know how you are like a bear protecting her young. The only thing Myrna and I have to question is, how will Shantel be treated when she returns to classes? Will they make fun of her or if someone does that isn’t directly involved with this but friends of the assistant to help her if that would be a problem? I just hope it works out. Great story and I hope your mom is ok.


    • beyondcinderella
      Mar 20, 2012 @ 23:52:22

      Thanks so much for following along Bro and for leaving your comments as they mean so much to me. You are right, there is no cure for stupid, and no, they really didn’t know how far we would go to protect Shantel and make sure she had a FAIR chance at her education. Love you…Sis


  2. gotham girl
    Mar 20, 2012 @ 21:19:41

    Who Really Wins?…that is the perfect question. Well written my dear! xoxo


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