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Education Law Paralegals Help Clients, Community Alike

published August 29, 2005

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( 47 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
<<From labor disputes to licensing, from civil rights issues to suits against individual teachers, the field of education law encompasses a variety of legal areas. Perkins has worked with teachers whose contracts needed to be negotiated, school districts amidst race discrimination suits, and individuals involved in molestation suits. As with any area that involves litigation, education law firms often focus on one side—some represent plaintiffs, often students or parents, while others may defend teachers, school districts, and school officials. Educational law organizations that serve the public also offer employment opportunities for legal staff. And the work doesn't stop with public school districts. Education law also covers private institutions, including colleges and universities.

"I draft pleadings and documents for the attorneys, interview witnesses…and get exhibits together," says Perkins. "We often help teachers renew their contracts and superintendents structure their contracts and policies." With so many individuals involved in most cases, Perkins interacts with clients and others extensively. "In order to be involved in this position, you have to be able to talk and meet with people and make them comfortable," Perkins notes. "In school law, you have to be specialized in what you do. It's very specific and based on individual needs. There are specific reasons why something has happened or will happen." Because of the human drama involved, the work is often moving, Perkins notes. She recounts a molestation case involving a teacher and several students in which her firm represented the school district. "It was one of the saddest cases I've worked on," Perkins says. "It was so emotional."

While assisting clients is any paralegal's main goal on the job, Perkins feels she also assists her community at the same time. "It's rewarding to know that you're doing something to help your school district, your community," she says. Paralegals and legal assistants are particularly essential at law firms that represent teachers and school officials, as they can help cost-conscious school districts cut down on the price of legal representation. With ever-changing laws and various agencies and lawmakers involved, education law paralegals must stay on top of state-specific statutes and requirements. "It's very important that you can get your hands on information that's up-to-date," Perkins states.

Perkins is also in charge of her firm's litigation docket and says prioritizing is one of the job's biggest challenges. "Every day, I have to come in and re-prioritize," says Perkins. She notes, however, that the field often offers amicable resolutions to cases for both sides. "In educational law, you get to see a lot of closure," Perkins explains, citing it as one of the most rewarding parts of her job. She contrasts the mutually beneficial resolution of teachers' contract disputes with their school districts with her prior job in family law—in divorces, for example, where both sides often walk away with less than they had bargained for.

Perkins says her job has also made her more aware of educational issues in her own home. "When you see it in black and white, you become much more inquisitive with your children," she says. "I've become more involved with my community and my [kids'] school."

published August 29, 2005

( 47 votes, average: 4.7 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.