There are different avenues under which a school district will pay the parents’ attorney fees.
First, let’s take a look at what the IDEA provides with regard to parents paying for an attorney to file a due process complaint in their state. In its simplest form, the IDEA requires that every public-school district provide a disabled student with a free and appropriate public education. This includes the cost of attorney fees, should the parent need to engage an attorney to secure a free and appropriate public education for their special needs’ child. This provision is called “fee shifting” meaning that the responsibility for paying the attorney fees is shifted from the parent paying their attorney to the school district paying the student’s attorney.
There are different avenues under which a school district will pay the parent’s attorney fees. In many parts of the country, and even in the various counties across California, law firms will require parents to pay their attorney fees as they accumulate. Subsequent to a case being resolved either via resolution or mediation, the attorney will provide the parent with a final invoice and the parent will pay the outstanding invoice. Once the invoice has been paid and parent has proof of the same, the parent will provide the school district with a copy of the paid invoice and proof of payment and the school district will reimburse the parent the attorney fees. In the event the case goes to a hearing and the student prevails, the student’s attorney fees will be reviewed for reasonableness in accordance with the community standard rate and a directive will be made for the school district to pay reasonable attorney fees to the student’s attorney. While this does provide for parents to secure a free and appropriate public education for their special needs’ child, the outlay cost for attorney fees can be more than most parents can manage, even with the eventual reimbursement from their school district.
In San Diego County, our firm recognizes the significant burden this may place on parents with special needs children.
Therefore, we offer a different option also available under the IDEA and through our attorney client agreement.
In doing so, we can review and assess a case for the legal issues and handle all of the proceedings without charging parents our fees upfront. And while this can pose some financial risk for our office, we are more concerned with being available to all parents who are struggling with securing a free and appropriate education for their child.
As such, and in accordance with the IDEA, we provide parents with the option of shifting their right to collect attorney fees from their school district, to us. To provide this service to parents we take special care to explain the legalities of fee shifting and the potential for any conflicts of interest that could arise as we move through the litigation process. By offering this fee shifting option to parents’ families do not have to concern themselves with mounting legal costs and instead, can focus on being part of the process and providing the necessary information and insight to help us fight for their child.
In utilizing this method for collecting attorney fees, our office takes full responsibility for the fee rate, the tracking of the legal services provided, the billing statement and negotiating the final amount of attorney fees that will be paid by the school district to our office, in full satisfaction of the outstanding invoice.
It is through this option that parents can secure a special education law attorney at no cost to their family.