Attorneys for special education students are commonly asked, “what is the difference between an attorney and an advocate?” The confusion makes sense because the rolls are very similar. Both are there to guide parents through the special education process, and advocate for the special education student. Typically both will review educational records including special education assessments and IEP’s; advise on how to work with the schools; inform parents of their child’s rights; and potentially make recommendations for services, placement, evaluations, and strategy. In fact it is extremely common for attorneys and advocates to work hand and hand with families of special education students. But the differences are important.
The most obvious difference between an IEP lawyer in California and IEP advocate is an IEP lawyer can give a parent legal advice. Special education law is very complicated. There is a mix of federal and state statues and codes, 30 years of case law, and complex policies that intertwine the whole system. IEP advocates in San Diego, and elsewhere, typically have a broad understanding of how the law works, have a great understanding of the IEP process in California, but not detailed enough to guide parents through the legal process. So advocates typically do not, nor should they, give parents legal advice.
If you are currently experiencing issues with your child special education program and you’d like to have a consultation please do not hesitate to reach out to our office.