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.

Law student working with elementary student

The Disability Rights Clinic (DRC) serves families needing legal services identified primarily through a medical-legal partnership with Dell Children’s Medical Group. The partnership has been developed to serve under-resourced rural communities in and around Central Texas.  Law students gain first hand experience by working directly with parent clients to understand the educational needs of each child. Students formulate case strategies in an effort to put necessary educational services in place.

Through hands-on interactions, DRC students assist their clients with a broad variety of matters, including:

  • Representing students with autism or neurodevelopmental disabilities to secure special education services
  • Securing alternative education settings for students whose conduct is driven by a disability-related need
  • Advocating for students with disabilities whose educator has physically abused or neglected them
  • Working to ensure nursing and other related services are in place at inclusion schools
  • Mediating with schools on behalf of students whose behavior has become challenging due to inadequate services
  • Working with experts to develop behavioral intervention plans that will improve a student’s circumstances

The basics of federal and state special education law will be taught through the assessment of a 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 meetings with district personnel, negotiating informally on behalf of families with school district counsel, and litigating or formally mediating special education matters. The Clinic emphasizes creativity, problem-solving, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the practice of making the law accessible to nonlawyer parents.

Graduates of the Disability Rights Clinic have 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. Students work in teams on one to three cases, depending on their areas of interest, client need, and capacity. Grading is on a pass/fail basis. 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.