Nelson Mullins



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Nelson Mullins (139)


Erik Norton joined Nelson Mullins as an associate in 2006, but he didn't forget his previous life as a high school English teacher. In 2006 he began the firm's Student Advocacy project, which trains Nelson Mullins attorneys to represent students with disabilities in school administrative proceedings.

The Am Law Pro Bono 100The firm has represented more than 100 students in such proceedings, as well as helping some of them through the legal system. Most cases involve disciplinary proceedings, where students are expelled or suspended improperly, Norton says. Lawyers from the firm are often called in by parents when communication has broken down between them and the school. The Nelson Mullins lawyers advise the children's parents of their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—the federal law that mandates that public schools provide early intervention, special education, and other services to students with disabilities—and help families work with the school to ensure that students are receiving the services they need. Norton says that, of all the students the firm has represented, very few disciplinary or behavioral cases have turned into criminal or juvenile complaints outside of the school system.

As part of the Student Advocacy Project, in 2007 Nelson Mullins associate Chris Genovese started the Conservatorship Guardianship Program to help parents obtain legal guardianship of incapacitated and disabled children older than 18, if they are not capable of making decisions for themselves. The firm has taken on 15 guardianship cases over the last two years. Clients for the Student Advocacy project and the guardianship program are referred to Nelson Mullins from several different sources, including the South Carolina Autism Society, the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, schools, and other parents.

Genovese says these programs are important because they give parents an opportunity to protect their child. "We want to make sure the best interest of the child or incapacitated adult is being served," he says.

—Kristen Putch | July 1, 2009

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