Degree Requirements for a Special Education Lawyer

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Special education lawyers have many responsibilities in the course of representing their clients with special needs. To become a special education lawyer there is no specialized degree one needs to acquire beyond a general Juris Doctor degree. There are some dual-degree programs that may be helpful, though they are not required. After one takes and passes a state's bar exam to become a member of the state bar, personalized training and work experience is needed to create specialized expertise in the area of special education law.

  • Earn a law degree. To become an attorney in the United States it is a requirement that one receive a law degree, called a Juris Doctor. You do not have to take the bar exam in the same state that you attend law school. The Juris Doctor is received after the undergraduate degree and is typically a three-year course of study. Law schools in the United States are accredited by the American Bar Association.

    There are several joint-degree programs that allow for greater specialization, such as the J.D./Masters of Science in Cultural Foundations of Education with an optional Certificate in Disability Studies offered by Syracuse University in New York and a J.D./Ph.D. in Education Law with an optional emphasis in Special Education at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. These are not prerequisites to the practice of special education law, however.

  • Take and pass the bar exam of the state that you want to practice in. A bar exam is a two or three-day test that ascertains the taker's mastery of state law, and larger legal principles. Being admitted to practice law in most states is contingent on both passing the bar exam, passing a background check, and passing the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam.

  • Apply for a clerkship with a firm that focuses on special education law. This is a highly recommended step, as it puts an attorney in constant contact with the duties that a special education attorney has to perform an a daily basis.

  • Maintain your continuing education credits and continue to educate yourself on recent developments in special education law. A judge needs to continue his state Bar membership, so taking the required courses to maintain one's license is a must. These are called continuing education credits and completion of classes must be reported to the state bar of the state in which you practice.

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