Clinic: Disability Rights
- Semester: Fall 2023
- Course ID: 497C
- Credit Hours: 4
- Course Type: Clinic
- Grading Method: Pass/Fail Mandatory
- Experiential Credit: 4 credit hours
- Upperclass-only elective
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APPLICATION REQUIRED. Application and/or instructions on how to apply for this clinic can be accessed on the web: https://law.utexas.edu/clinics/application-information/
What is the DRC?
Students in the Disability Rights Clinic (DRC) represent clients with disabilities in a variety of legal contexts. In the fall semester of 2023, students will represent low-income parents of children with disabilities in cases brought against school districts that have violated state and federal special education and anti-discrimination laws.
What kind of experience will I gain?
DRC students draft civil complaints, develop expert testimony, mediate their cases, and try them when necessary. Students work in teams on one to three cases, depending on their areas of interest, client need, and capacity.
Will I work to resolve disputes?
Significant focus and attention is given to ADR in DRC. Students serve as lead student counsellors in formal mediation of their complaints before mediators on contract with the Texas Education Agency. Through this model, students develop skills common to both litigation (drafting, discovery, witness prep) and transactional (negotiation, line-editing, creative problem-solving) practices.
Will I have much client contact?
Yes! Students practice the skills involved in building trust with their child clients and families through regular counselling by phone, zoom, and sometimes through in-person home visits. The DRC emphasizes the art of making the law accessible to nonlawyer parents and, where possible, their children.
How does DRC get its clients?
Families needing DRC legal services are selected primarily through a medical-legal partnership with the Dell Children’s Medical Group and other state-wide partners. Many of the children served live in under-resourced rural communities, and a majority are young children of color. Some children are in foster care or have experienced housing instability, and a large number have been identified as having autism.
What kinds of situations do DRC clients confront?
DRC students have worked on cases in which educators have physically abused or neglected children with disabilities, put into segregated and locked education settings kids whose conduct was driven by unmet disability-related need, and failed to therapies and other critical related services necessary for kids' inclusion in school. Many of our cases have involved kids whose behavior has become challenging because of the lack of appropriate services, and some have involved contested hearings in the suspension and expulsion contexts.
What are the course requirements?
The Disability Rights Clinic meets once per week for two hours. 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.
Roughly one-third of class time is devoted to understanding and discussing substantive education law and how it plays out "on the ground" in Texas school districts. Additional class sessions are used to teach and practice specific skills involved in identifying and analyzing the strength and weakness of legal claims, drafting, working with experts, negotiating, conducting formal mediation, and putting on witnesses at hearing. Each week, students deepen their understanding of special education law practice by presenting their case developments and giving feedback through case rounds.
Students are encouraged to apply for the Clinic early as enrollment is limited and faculty permission is required to register. Students should submit an electronic application by the end of the application window. For more information, contact Professor Lucy Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (512) 626-2060.
Taught by Professor Lucy Wood 4 credits (pass/fail) — offered Fall and Spring The clinic is open to students who have completed their first two semesters.
Who should take this clinic?
Students who want to gain experience in litigation and/or mediation, and those who would like to go on to represent children or people with disabilities in either a pro bono or public interest practice, should consider this clinic. DRC partners with it several of its graduates in Big Law to broaden its reach. Graduates of DRC have worked in large law firms supporting special education work as a pro bono focus, in mid-size firm practice representing school districts, as lawyers in nonprofit settings representing persons with disabilities, in juvenile and criminal defense work, and in governmental entities requiring expertise in education or disability law.
An application is required.