Lawyers, by definition, are excellent advocates. In fact, the French word for lawyer is avocat.
Advocating requires the ability to assess a situation, review evidence, consider implications and effectively communicate thoughts, concerns and ideas. Lawyers do this professionally, and these skills are transferable to many situations such as arguing whether or not the two-for-one golf coupon applies to twilight rates.
These skills come in pretty handy when advocating for a child.
In addition to these skills, lawyers have enormous amounts of Social Capital.
The OECD describes 3 categories of Social Capital:
- Bonds: Links to people based on a sense of common identity (“people like us”) – such as family, close friends and people who share our culture or ethnicity
- Bridges: Links that stretch beyond a shared sense of identity, for example to distant friends, colleagues and associates.
- Linkages: Links to people or groups further up or lower down the social ladder.
Skills and Social Capital make a pretty good combination when it comes to advocating for a child.
- These are the parents and caregivers who make teachers double-check those comments/marks on the progress report.
- These are the parents and caregivers who come to the principal’s office if their email wasn’t responded to in a prompt manner.
- These are the parents and caregivers who are willing (and able) to effectively access superintendent attention on a given issue.
But what of the parents and caregivers with limited Social Capital?
What of the parents and caregivers who don’t have the time or the ability to be a strong advocate for their child?
Consider the following:
If this student’s parent/caregiver was a lawyer…
- would I suspend him?
- would I spend extra time ensuring the IEP was accurate and followed?
- would I recommend a Special Class placement?
- would I suggest the student take Applied classes?
- would I keep him in for recess?
- would we take extra steps to ensure the Safe Intervention Plan is followed to the letter?
- would we suggest a reduced day?
- would I double and triple-check my A+E practices?
We cannot overstate the importance of treating kids with the same amount of care, attention and thoughtful responsiveness regardless of the power and privilege (or lack thereof) attached to the family.