Our talented, committed staff are the secret to our success and our most valuable resource. The work we do requires creativity, subject matter expertise, and superb quality public interest lawyering. Every single person at the Law Center must bring their highest level of skill to work every day. This is what it takes to address the systemic problems that our clients bring to us.
It is for this reason that we invest in our staff’s professional development. Each year, every person is expected to attend courses or conferences to learn the latest developments in the law, best practices for solving problems, or technical skills. In 2019, we budgeted $29,000 for lawyers and staff to attend sessions on, for example, education funding litigation, special education developments, evidence, class actions, transition services, human relations and fundraising.
In this space, our staff will reflect on lessons learned from these professional development opportunities.
Advocating for Parents
Inspiring is how to describe the 22nd Annual Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) conference. More than 600 special education attorneys and advocates from across the nation attended the multi-day conference, which included over 40 breakout sessions on a variety of issues that affect students with disabilities.
Darlene Hemerka spent a full day learning writing techniques to present a special education case. This training included drafting a due process complaint and responding to a motion to dismiss.
While the sessions were useful, it was networking with other participants that was most valuable. Connecting with attorneys and advocates from all over the country to discuss challenges, successes and ideas for the future was a great reminder that together we can make a positive difference in the lives of students.
In 2019, one of our attorneys spent seven full days in the National Institute of Trial Advocacy’s trial advocacy training, practicing witness examinations and courtroom arguments, and putting on both a bench and jury trial. They learned to use trial technology, studied jury selection, and watched jurors deliberate in real time. The same attorney also spent five nights in Temple Law School’s Excelling in Evidence class, which provides a deep dive into the complexities of federal and state evidence law, and the trial strategies that follow from them.