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Ask the Experts

Q: I am an educator and interesting in getting a law degree and pursuing a career in education law. Do you have any information on the needs in this area and which law schools have some focus on education law?

Congratulations on your decision to parlay your education experience into a legal career! Education law is a vibrant and fascinating area that has undergone dramatic changes in this country in the past fifty years. This area relates generally to the branch of laws and regulations that govern federal and state education, including the administration and operation of educational institutions, athletic programs and student and employee rights. An attorney practicing general education law will likely work on a wide range of matters requiring many different skills. Some of the types of issues and matters that might be handled by an education law practitioner include: school governance, elections and voting; real property and facilities acquisition; school finance, funding and tax matters; disputes between parents and schools about the evaluation, placement and education of special needs students; labor and employment issues; disputes regarding student rights to education, free speech, privacy, and other issues; tort-based matters; and sports law and intellectual property matters.

Attorneys practicing education law can work in a variety of contexts, including small, mid-sized or large firms; the general counsel's office of a college or university; or a federal or state department of education office. Their clients may include students, parents, employees and/or school districts and educational institutions. There are numerous ways to research this topic further. Many bar associations, including the New York City Bar, have Education Law Committees, and the internet is replete with sites and information on this field. The Chronicle of Higher Education (www.chronicle.com), for example, is considered by many to be the leading source of news, information and jobs in higher education. Consider going to www.martindale.com to search for education law attorneys practicing in your geographic area and see whether it may be possible to speak with them about their career paths and advice.

To select a law school that has a strong Education Law department or group, you may need to simply check the curriculum pages of the websites for the schools that you are interested in attending. Some schools also offer, for example, special education law clinics, through which you can get practical experience representing a client in a special education law matter.

Best of luck as you make this exciting career transition!

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