Course Information

Course Description: Disability Rights Clinic

  • Taught by Lucy Wood
  • 4 credits (pass/fail) — offered Fall, Spring
  • FAQs for prospective students
  • The Clinic is open to students who have completed their first two semesters.

The Disability Rights Clinic serves families needing legal services that are identified primarily through a medical-legal partnership between the Clinic and Dell Children’s Medical Group developed to serve under-resourced rural communities in and around Central Texas.   Law students will gain hands-on experience in working directly with parent clients to understand the educational needs of each child and to formulate a case strategy for putting services into place.

In the past, students have worked on cases in which educators have physically abused or neglected children with disabilities, refused to provide special education services to children with autism or other neurodevelopmental disabilities, put into alternative education settings kids whose conduct was driven by disability-related need, and failed to provide nursing and other related services necessary for inclusion in school. Many of our cases have involved kids whose behavior has become challenging because of the lack of appropriate services, and many have involved working with experts to develop behavioral interventions and services that improve a child’s circumstances and trajectory.

The basics of federal and state special education law will be taught primarily through the assessment of school districts’ potential liability.  Students will also practice the skills involved in building trust with their client families, empowering parents to push for appropriate services at interdisciplinary team meetings with district personnel, negotiating informally with school district counsel, and where necessary litigating and/or formally mediating special education matters.  The Clinic emphasizes creativity, problem-solving, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the art of making the law accessible to nonlawyer parents.

Graduates of Texas Law participating in these types of matters have later worked as lawyers in nonprofit settings representing persons with disability or their families, in larger law firms supporting special education work as a pro bono focus, in mid-size firm practice representing school districts, in juvenile and criminal defense work involving special education issues, and in governmental entities requiring expertise in education or disability law.

The Clinic meets as a class once per week for two hours, and students also meet with the director individually or in teams to discuss cases and projects. Grading is on a pass/fail basis for this four-credit hour clinic. There is no final exam or paper. Students should expect to spend 10-15 hours per week on clinic work, including class time. Students will occasionally travel to meetings outside of Austin in small-town Texas, where feasible.