Ruth Hocker, a member of the J.D. Class of 2015, recently achieved second place in the Jameson Crane III Disability and the Law Writing Competition. The competition is hosted by Thomas Jefferson School of Law and, according to the competition announcement, was designed to encourage student scholarship that "promotes an understanding, furthers the development of legal rights and protections, and improves the lives of those with disabilities." Her paper was titled "More than a Consolation Prize: Using Section 504 to Advance Special Education Rights." As the second prize winner, she received a cash award and the opportunity to publish her paper.
Prior to law school, Hocker was a trustee of a charter school. As a trustee, she said, she witnessed first-hand the lack of knowledgeable advocates and attorneys for children, an experience that fostered her initial interest in education law, particularly special education law. Hocker said she decided to attend law school at William & Mary due to the school's philosophy of developing "citizen lawyers," men and women who are not only excellent advocates, but also good citizens and leaders of their communities, states, and nations.
In the summer following her first year of law school, Hocker attended the annual William & Mary Law School Institute of Special Education Advocacy. She credited this program for providing the initial foundation for her prize-winning paper. Additionally, Hocker enrolled in the PELE Special Education Advocacy Law Clinic during her second year of law school. The PELE Clinic, she said, allowed her "to bridge the gap between doctrinal courses related to education law with meeting the real world goals of clients who need assistance with educational issues." While enrolled in the PELE Clinic, she assisted with school expulsion hearings, addressed discipline problems attributable to a child's disability, and acted as an advocate to obtain the strongest individualized education programs for clients of the PELE Clinic.
Hocker plans to pursue a career in the field of educational law. When asked if she has any advice for William & Mary law students interested in this area of practice, she suggested that students "take the PELE Clinic; the opportunity it presents is invaluable."
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.