Directory Image
This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

What are the differences between an attorney and an advocate?

Author: Ottis Brook
by Ottis Brook
Posted: Jun 12, 2022

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.

IEP advocates in San Diego for special education students play an important role and are better suited to help parents through the IEP process. A good example of this is attending IEP meetings. Many IEP lawyers in California will go to IEP meetings, but this is usually going to be far more expensive than bringing an advocate and also less effective. First, attorneys cannot be reimbursed for attending an IEP meeting so the cost will fall on the parents. Second, most attorneys cannot draft an IEP, make recommendations for goals and services, or effectively engage the IEP team. Our experience has been when an attorney shows up at an IEP the team tends to speak less. It seems obvious that an advocate will be seen as less adversarial than an attorney. Also, advocates typically have a good understanding of the IEP process in California.

Advocates also have specialty skills that most attorneys do not have. Many are former teachers, parents of children with special needs, or work in related fields. This can be of immense help when it comes to drafting an IEP. An advocate who was a teacher can certainly draft a better IEP than an attorney.

In general, the easiest way to think about the difference is an advocate is there to guide the parent through the IEP process, helping draft the IEP, explain the process, and make recommendations to the parent. An attorney is there to force the district to do something the parent believes is necessary. If there are questions about whether to contact an attorney for special education students first or an advocate, either is perfectly appropriate. Both can guide a parent on whether or not they should call an advocate or an attorney. In fact, it is very common for our office to have a consultation with a parent and then refer them out to multiple advocates.

If you are currently experiencing issues with your child's special education program and you’d like to have a consultation please do not hesitate to reach out to our office.

About the Author

Our team has had personal experiences with the injustices of the special education system, making us uniquely qualified and especially empathetic to our clients.

Rate this Article
Leave a Comment
Author Thumbnail
I Agree:
Author: Ottis Brook

Ottis Brook

Member since: Dec 15, 2021
Published articles: 5

Related Articles