How Did I Get Here?
People often ask me, “How did you get into special education law?” It’s an excellent question because there are days when I wonder that myself. I look around and think, “How exactly did this happen?”
It’s not that I think what I’m doing is so objectively remarkable but, when I examine it closely, I realize that it is remarkable for me. I went to law school wanting to help people, to establish a stable career, and, probably more than anything, to buy myself time to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I decided not to pursue my deep interest in psychology because I listened to the critics. “You can’t make a decent living as a psychologist! You’re going to struggle!” I guess I was young and impressionable and, at the time, thought I was making the responsible decision of giving up my aspirations for psychology and choosing a more stable career, which I thought would be fulfilling as well. (By the way, it turns out there’s no such thing as a “career that's always stable” and the year I graduated from law school started the economic crisis that gravely changed the face of the legal job market.)
Somehow I was fortunate to find a job as an associate at a small Manhattan law firm specializing in education law. If you had asked me in 2005 what an education law firm was, I couldn't have told you, and probably didn't even know that such a thing existed. By the way, what is the significance of the year 2005? Apart from being the year I graduated from college, 2005 was also the year that I first learned about autism as part of a child developmental psychology course which I happened to be taking in London as part of a study abroad program during which I finished up my psychology major and my last semester of college. That’s where the magic started. If I hadn’t taken that exact course under exactly those circumstances with that exact textbook, etc. – there's a good chance that my interest in this area would not have been sparked.
Fast forward to 2013. That sense of amazement I was talking about before, where I wake up and wonder how I got here… I’m amazed that I ended up in a field that meshes psychology and law as much as it does. I don’t know how it happened and I certainly didn't map it out this way. I just pursued what was interesting to me. Even though I chose not to pursue psychology initially, I was given a chance to redeem myself. I found the Autism Legislation Project during law school. I worked at the legal headquarters of The Children’s Place (which, actually, has nothing to do with special needs or special education as far as I know). And then I somehow found a firm that specialized in representing children with autism and other disabilities. And after that I took the plunge to start my own law firm. And now, somehow, I have my own practice doing work that I love which involves speaking with psychologists on a regular basis, reading psychological evaluations, and learning fascinating things about child psychology and development. I consider myself really lucky to have gotten a second bite at the apple.
So what was the impetus for this post? Well, I recently came across the phrase “living a remarkable life in a conventional world” and spent some time considering what that meant. After a while, I concluded that, even though I love what I do, I wouldn’t call it “remarkable" in the sense that it's so amazing or so out of the ordinary. My wife challenged me on that point. She helped me to remember how exactly I got to where I am. And now, when I think about it in those terms, I realize that, for me, it is pretty damn remarkable after all.