KNOW WHEN TO HOLD ‘EM, AND WHEN TO FOLD ‘EM
Now that I’ve begun to receive fairly regular mail from the AARP folks, I feel the time has come for me to share some of my collected wisdom with all you younger lawyers and advocates. Over the course of my time in practice, I have had the opportunity, and privilege, of working on the opposite side of some very fine lawyers. Occasionally, though, I come across some lawyers who, probably due to inadequate amounts of yoga, cannot help themselves. They absolutely must hurl the most outrageous zingers at me and I think it’s nice for you younger folks to know how to respond when that happens to you. So I’ve created this handy “Guide to the Proper Response” when these gems are directed at you. When perusing this guide, keep in mind several things:
1. All of the remarks in this guide were actually said or written to me, or about me, or to co-counsel (in one instance).
2. These remarks were directed at me equally by male and female attorneys.
3. I am a fairly petite female, and while I do not purport to be a thing of beauty (unless compared with a fairly unkempt sheepdog, most of whom have bad breath), I do try to present a stylish appearance largely to make up for my other inadequacies.
4. I am the parent of a child with autism.
5. I have had two pregnancies and now have 2 children.
6. Did I mention that I didn’t make this stuff up? If I had, I’d be making John Grisham money instead of the bupkas I’m getting.
7. I am an attorney.
So here it is:
Aimee’s Guide to Special Education Advocacy Appropriate Responses
1. Remark: The question I am asked most often is “Are you the court reporter?” This one always amuses me, and face it folks, this one always comes from a member of the opposite sex whose gender shall remain nameless but which begins with “m.” Response: Of course the proper response to this is to politely advise Mr. M that you are, in fact, opposing counsel and proceed to kick his butt.
2. Remark: “I’ve been doing this for 35 years.” Response: Since this remark was recently made to me and I am only in my 30th year in practice, you can only imagine the fear it struck into my heart. The appropriate response here is, “I was not aware of that Mr. School District attorney and since the “35 year rule” applies in this instance, we will immediately dismiss our due process and go home.”
3. Remark: “I see they brought the big guns in.” Response: This remark was made to me upon my appearance at a deposition. Actually there is no appropriate response to this comment-you must move forward and proceed to kick their butt.
4. Remark: “Your honor, she’s always pregnant.” Response: First, a pregnant pause (sorry, couldn’t help myself) and then proceed to kick butt. No verbal response is necessary though if you get close enough you can intimidate with your size depending on how far along you are.
5. Remark: “Your client was caught speaking to another parent in the district about the other parent’s child. She should not be doing this because these communications are meant to incite panic.” Response: This remark was made to me by a young attorney who is a personal favorite of mine because of the hours of amusement she provides. The proper response to this is: “I had forgotten about the constitutional amendment which prohibits parents from the same school district from speaking to one another about anything except the weather and professional sports (college and high school athletics are still off limits). I will speak to my client and I can assure you this rare event will not happen again.”
6. Remark: “How could you know what happened at the IEP meeting since you spent the entire time looking at your iPhone?” Response: The proper response is to sheepishly acknowledge your addiction to internet porn and promise opposing counsel that you are in the process of getting help.
7. Remark: “As for your clients “expert” reports, suffice it to say they will be subject to cross examination.” Response: This is a tough one. How do you argue with an attorney who possesses this kind of razor sharp legal analytical skill? This is one of those instances where the appropriate response can only be: “I hadn’t even thought of that counselor, probably because my Pilates class coincides with the critical Law and Order episodes which might have given me the necessary insight. We will promptly dismiss.”
8. Remark: “Your client cannot expect my client to cure her child.” Response: “What? No cure? All these long wasted years trying to advocate for her needs and now you tell me you can’t cure?” You must promptly dissolve into tears and put a comforting arm around your client’s shoulders while gently escorting her from the room.
9. Remark: “You’ve made this into a legal issue.” Response: This one did stump me, I have to admit. But upon reflection, the appropriate response is, “Moi? A legal issue? Well I certainly didn’t intend that. Let’s forget all this and shop.”
10. Remark: “If you’re autistic and you know it, flap your hands.” Response: Some of you may have heard this remark which was made at an out of state training I attended. The individual who said it is a well known school district attorney who rarely appears without her wonderful sidekick, the psychologist. There is no proper response to this one that does not include bodily injury which I generally frown on.
Well, there they are—my top ten. I hope y’all find this guide helpful. If you have some zingers you’d like me to see and advise you on how to respond, send them to me at email@example.com. All submissions will be kept confidential (until printed on the internet), and are not subject to cross examination, though I may not get to them until the next IEP meeting when I can check my iPhone.