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Jean Murrell Adams: Establishing a special education law practice

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Jean Murrell Adams is the Senior Managing Attorney of ADAMS ESQ, a law firm that Jean opened in October 2002. Jean dedicated her career to representing parents of children with special needs and ensuring that their children get the support they need.

Being a parent of a child with special needs:

A child’s teacher is going to notice if the child may have a disability. As a parent, it is important to listen to the child’s teacher and be receptive. Next, do the research and educate yourself about the disability and rights.

As a parent, you are the child’s advocate so you have to step up as their defender and advocate, fighting for the support that your child deserves. Jean understands that parents who call her for help have already experienced their own challenges in attaining services and are receptive to getting help.

Being culturally sensitive in your practice:

It is important to be respectful of cultural differences because disabilities affect each child differently and each family has their own preferences for treatment. For example, a learning disability like ADHD manifests itself differently in each child depending on that child's personality, living environments, social life, etc. Additionally, some families are looking for treatment without the use of medication. ADAMS ESQ is a firm that looks at the child individually rather than grouping them into a category, and meets the family where they're at.

How ADAMS ESQ charges $1 to clients:

ADAMS ESQ only charges $1 to their clients. If they are successful in the case, then the school district has to pay the legal fees. One of the mission's of their firm is to provide accessible support to all of those who need it. To do so, they charge only $1 so that those with low-income can still have access to the support their child deserves.

They are the first law firm to have this model and be successful, having 6 offices in 2 states. This business model may not work for many small businesses or a startup, but it has worked great for this firm and aligns with their mission. Every business is different, use your own discernment to charge what you believe is best.

Jean's key for knowing if you have won a case:

Winning a case happens before you enter the courtroom. When Jean first reviews the assessments and the IEP and concludes that they fail to pass the assessment and the IEP is inappropriate, then Jean has already won the case.

You can find Jean at AND get her book The Top 5 IEP Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)


Sean McCormick 0:00 This week on Earn More Tutoring, I talk with Jean Murrell Adams about how she's able to charge only $1 to her clients to represent them as their special education attorney, how she left her job as a DreamWorks attorney to follow her dream of becoming a special education attorney, and her passion for Star Trek. Jean Murrell Adams 0:21 I went to my boss at DreamWorks and she's the General Counsel, like, okay, I know. You're gonna be suspect about this, but I want to be a special education lawyer, I'm going to quit my job when she's like what? So she gave me she extended my contract for just a year. And she allowed me to work from home on Fridays, so that I could develop a business plan. And that's what I did. Sean McCormick 0:50 Welcome to Earn More Tutoring. I'm Sean McCormick, the founder of Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that helps middle high school and college students feel better organized. And I started this podcast to learn more from people like Miss Jean Adams, who's an expert on special education. So to introduce her, my guest today is Miss Jean Adams, welcome to the show. Jean Murrell Adams 1:10 Good morning, Sean, thank you for having me. Sean McCormick 1:13 Absolutely. I'm so excited to have you here. I just read your book, the top five IP mistakes and how to avoid them. And it was awesome. And I'd love for you to share a little bit of background about why you wrote this book. I know that, you know, is very a personal very personal reason. And I'd love for you to kind of share a synopsis with our audience so they can be more in tune. Jean Murrell Adams 1:33 Sure, happy to bounce. Oh, actually, over 20 years ago, I attended an IEP meeting for my son, who had special needs. And at the time, I was an executive working with a big movie studio. I didn't know anything about special ed. I had no idea what to expect. But it was it was a horrible experience. Like I think I still have post traumatic stress, you know, even a few decades later, and sitting there in that meeting, discussing my son and his needs. The school district person got up from the table, walked around, stood over my shoulder, yelled at me and told me I had to sign off on their plan. She didn't know I was a lawyer. She didn't she didn't ask I didn't tell. She didn't know my husband, who was sitting next to me was a physician. Nobody asked. Of course, I didn't sign off on a plan that was inappropriate. But sitting there, I thought, wow, you know, I can manage to get services for my son. But what about other parents who can't? So that was the moment Adams ESU was born. And I decided to dedicate the rest of my career, which I have to representing parents of children with special needs, and ensuring that their children get services and supports that they're entitled to under the law. Sean McCormick 3:11 I can't believe they were so foolish. I mean, to yell at you. I mean, just the idea of doing that to anybody is crazy. And I'm sure it happens more than I can even imagine even I'm a former special education teacher are still credentialed. I've seen some pretty contentious meetings, but to get up out of your chair, and yell at you, right, that is just unbelievable. I mean, what, what was your thought in the moment? I mean, I'm sure there's that, like, fight or flight response. And then there's like, I'm a lawyer, you know, I mean, I'm about to, you know, we're gonna figure this out on my terms. Unknown Speaker 3:48 Yeah. So So yeah, so part of me is like, girlfriend, do you know who you're talking to? Like, in my head, right, that was going on. But another part, remember, I was a mom, I was an older mom, but my kid was was like, five, right? And so when you're a parent, in that situation, all you can think about is your child, like, you can't really process what's going on. And you assume, when you go to the school district that you're going to get help. And you assume that the people in the meeting are, you know, all professionals who can help you. And Sean, I think, I think for the most part, that probably is true, right? And, and, you know, I'm gonna say perhaps I got a rogue administrator, that particular day. But in my head, it was, again, like, How can this be happening? You know, I'm going to get help from my kid no matter what. And, and I can do that I have the means I can do it. But what about parents who can't? The nice part of that story is that I did end up, you know, finding, you know, excellent, excellent service providers. Paying for them myself, my husband and I, and my son grew up, went to college graduated and is doing quite well. Sean McCormick 5:09 Yeah, that was a really beautiful part of the story. I believe you included, kind of a little I remember reading like about how he's grown up, and he's doing great. And, and just the beginning, though, I think is so relatable to so many parents that I work with, I'm sure that you've seen them...

Check out the full interview below!

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