Accessing appropriate accommodations in law school is challenging for a number of reasons, like unfamiliarity with the school, misunderstanding of what a ”normal” testing or learning experience includes, and the stress associated with big life decisions to name a few.
As someone who did not access accommodations before law school, the entire process appeared daunting and inaccessible, but I learned that we all just have to start somewhere. Below are the four most important pearls of wisdom I learned in the process of getting my own accommodations.
1. Use Google to Find Your Law School’s Disability Services Office and initiate the process.
The student- not a parent or an attorney or the school itself- must initiate the accommodations process. While some schools explicitly state this fact, like Stanford and UC Boulder, others do not. A Google search of “[law school name] accommodations” gets you to a website that is connected to the office that is dedicated to disability service. For example, the first result after searching “UCLA law accommodations” took me here, linking to the UCLA Center for Accessible Education; the first result after searching “Texas Tech law school accommodations” took me here, to the Student Disability Services Office; and the first result after searching “Colorado Law school accommodations” took me here, to Disability Services within the Division of Strategic Resources and Support.
Generally speaking, the process of accessing law school accommodations follows the same arc no matter where you are attending– you register with the necessary office, provide documentation, and then meet with an official in an intake meeting. After that, you’ll receive a determination, so the entire process can take a few weeks.
2. Give yourself- and the disability office - plenty of time.
Law schools recommend applying for accommodations at the beginning of the semester and often specify minimum registration deadlines anywhere from 10 days to 30 days before the accommodations will be needed.
Not all students are approved for accommodations, or for everything that they request. If a student believes they have not been properly accommodated, they may utilize their institution’s appeals process.
3. Ask for any test and class accommodation you reasonably believe you need.
According to the IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University, an accommodation can be anything that changes a learner’s environment or practices to overcome their specific barriers with respect to learning or testing. Students should not be the ones telling themselves no when it comes to accommodations the law school can implement- don’t pre-emptively act as applicant and assessor out of fear.
If you are unsure about what accommodations are possible to request, you can ask your school, your care provider, or an accommodations consultant for examples of accommodations that are suitable for students with your particular disability, needs or learning challenges.
4. Don’t be afraid to appeal.
Law students are training to be lawyers. 100% of casebooks include parties using the appeals process to challenge a lower court’s ruling– it is a normal process, and a part of the accommodations process as well! Initiating an accommodations appeal is often time-sensitive (The University of Houston Law Center has a 5-day appeals deadline; Brooklyn Law School’s most recent guidance from 2015 lists a 10-day window to appeal), so knowing that window of opportunity is crucial.
If you need assistance in preparing your law school accommodations or appeal, you contact the Ginsburg Legal Services team for support.