I get numerous calls every week from students who, for one reason or another, want to sue their school. The reasons vary. Some have been kicked out of their program. Others have been suspended or put on probation. Others feel that the school fraudulently induced them to enroll, only to discover that the program was not what was promised. After going over what types of claims can be brought, the discussion then has to turn to costs. Filing a lawsuit against anyone, especially a school, can be pricey. Unfortunately, suing a school is typically not handled by a contingency fee. Meaning, the lawyer will not charge you a fee up-front and will only get paid if there is a recovery. That is the typical way a personal injury case is structured, but not general litigation. Once I tell people the type of money they are looking at they realize that suing their school might be out of their means.
So what are my options if I can’t afford to sue my school?
Don’t despair – there is another option. An option that I have had great success in getting students what they deserve. It is called a demand letter. From my previous blog posts, you probably know I am a proponent of good, strong writing. See that blog post here. When I am talking about a letter to a school I am not talking about a simple two-paragraph, “Hi, my client was wronged. Give us what we want” letter. I am talking about a very detailed, well-written letter. It outlines what happened, why the school was wrong, and what we want. The letter would also have what I call “legal buzzwords” throughout it. These are subtle references to the types of legal claims the student will make if the matter cannot be resolved through negotiation. Now there are some lawyers out there who will take advantage. They will feed off the student’s anger and emotions and convince them that filing or preparing a lawsuit is the only option. It’s not. I have personally had great success with my demand letters and have gotten what my clients need without resorting to a costly lawsuit. Here are some of the reasons why I like this tactic: • It costs the client much less. Yes, I am advocating for my clients to spend less, not more money, on legal fees. • It can achieve a faster result. Lawsuits take time to complete – a long time. It is not unheard of for a lawsuit in Florida to drag on for three or four years. A well-written demand letter could achieve the same results in less time. • It does not put the client in a worse position. What happens if the demand letter does not work? Nothing. As long as there are no immediate time limitations then the client has not lost anything. OK, so if the matter cannot be resolved by way of a demand letter, what about the money spent on the letter? If the client then wants to pursue an actual lawsuit, many times I will credit the amount the client has already paid for the letter towards the preparing of the complaint. Why? Because the background work has already been completed. Why should I double charge my client’s for the same work? Sometimes a lawsuit is necessary and letters will not get the job done. But explore your options first. Make sure whatever lawyer you speak to goes through all of them with you – not just the most expensive ones. Richard Asselta is an award-winning education law attorney and founder of Asselta Law. Asselta Law concentrates on Education and School Law, as well as Appeals. Mr. Asselta was the attorney for a large public school district. He draws upon the knowledge gained from the other side of the table to work with teachers and students on legal issues in all education settings. Asselta Law advises clients throughout the United States. Contact us today for a free consultation with a knowledgeable education lawyer.