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New Jersey lawyer focusing on special education law and employment law

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Writing Your First Email to a Lawyer

Typically, the first time someone contacts a lawyer is via telephone or email. Some attorneys (like myself) prefer to correspond by email to learn about the facts of the case. I often receive emails from parents who are seeking a special education attorney for legal assistance.

In a previous post, I explained how to prepare for your first in-person meeting with a special education attorney. This post provides tips for writing an email to an attorney for the first time.

Organization is the key to communication. When writing an email, do not write all the facts and your thoughts in a single paragraph. Writing everything in a single paragraph makes it very difficult to read and understand. Please break down your email in multiple paragraphs.

State the facts concisely. Remember the basic Ws and H: who, what, when, and where. If applicable explain why and how. Ideally, each paragraph should contain at least two of these essential pieces of information.

Brevity is essential. If you want to convince an attorney to work on your case, you must understand that the attorney’s time limited. Do not ramble. Do not get emotional. Do not curse. Stick with the facts and express yourself as clearly as your can.

Describe your goal. Towards the end of your email, please explain what it is that you hope to achieve by retaining an attorney. If you are seeking a specific remedy to resolve the issue, say so. If, on the other hand, you are not certain what you want, that’s ok — but please indicate that you are not sure.

Below are two emails that I wrote. Which one of these emails gives clearer information?

Version #1:

My daughter has an IEP and is receiving only basic services. I spoke with the IEP team and they said that she doesn’t need to be reevaluated even though her grades aren’t where they should be. Despite my insistence that they do another evaluation, they refused to do it. They were so rude. The director of special services wouldn’t even listen to what I had to say and he left the room before the meeting was over. I just don’t understand how he could do that. This is my daughter we’re talking about here. She needs these services–both in school and at home! She is regressing in all areas, and needs to be placed in a mainstream class. I want to retain counsel to help me.

Version #2:

My daughter is 10 years old and has PDD-NOS and speech related disabilities. Since 2006, my daughter has had an IEP. For the past three years, from grade 3 to grade 5, she has been in a self-contained classroom at Cookie Monster School in Atlantis. She receives OT 2x a week, PT 2x a week, and speech therapy 4x a week. She also has an augmentative communications device to help her communicate.

My daughter was last evaluated in 2007. The IEP team does not think she needs to be reevaluated. The IEP team also thinks that my daughter will not be able to survive in a mainstreamed class. However, I feel that my daughter has not made progress in the last three years and I think that she needs to be reevaluated. I also think that we need to increase OT services from 2x a week to 4x a week, and I would like to see if we can get an independent OT evaluation.

By the way, the school doesn’t allow my daughter to take the assistive technology device home. I’m wondering if it might be possible for the school to purchase another AT device for her to use at home so that she can continue to communicate effectively with her family and friends.

I don’t know how the IEP team feels about me, but I try to be respectful towards them. However, I am in disagreement with the IEP and would like to retain counsel to help my daughter get the services she needs to do well in school.

As you can see, the differences between Version #1 and Version #2 is like day and night. Yes, it takes more time to write Version #2, but it is much more meaningful and the impact is much stronger. You are more likely to receive a much better response.

Before you send out your first email to an attorney for the first time, read and re-read your email. Make sure that the email contains the basic information broken down in multiple paragraphs. And don’t forget to explain why you want to hire a lawyer and what you hope the lawyer can do for you.

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