Information for Students and Prospective Students

The Practice

At first glance, special education might seem to be a “niche” practice with little application to the skills needed to practice law in other areas.  That’s simply wrong.

Special education legal and advocacy work provides an ideal training opportunity for aspiring attorneys.  The experiential opportunity furnished by William & Mary Law School’s Special Education Advocacy Clinic will allow students to represent their first clients, develop the soft skills that every attorney needs to add to their portfolio, and prepare themselves for post-graduation practice.  Students in the Clinic will:

  • Learn the substantive law that applies to students with special education needs
  • Acquire client interviewing experience and learn how to develop a factual record that supports important legal rights
  • Develop an understanding of the role of strategic decision making and advice in pursuing legal outcomes
  • Translate legal concepts into plain language and understandable goals, objectives, accommodations, and service requirements for the Clinic’s clients
  • Become better oral and written advocates
  • Expand their negotiation skills

Students who complete the Clinic will also be encouraged to consider using their experience to continue to provide special education legal help after they graduate and join the Bar.  This kind of work is accessible to attorneys irrespective of their primary practice area and is a wonderful outlet for the annual pro bono hours each member of the Bar is asked to provide.

The Clinic Course

The Clinic is a 3-credit course offered in both semesters to both second- and third-year law students, and students may opt to spend a second semester doing advanced work in the Clinic.  An example of the syllabus for the Clinic is here, but the content and requirements of the Clinic may change from semester to semester. 

Prospective law students who are interested in the Clinic and would like to learn more, and William & Mary Law students thinking about taking the Clinic, can contact the Clinic director, Jim Wheaton, at any time.