Frances Shefter: A Fighter for Families

Frances Shefter. Photo by Brad Balfour

By Jarrad Saffren

Growing up, Frances Shefter sympathized with special education students. She thought they weren’t getting the help they needed. Shefter felt this way about the education system in general. She thought she was a slow reader who could have benefitted from a little more attention from educators.

That feeling drove Shefter to become a special education teacher and coordinator herself.

But once she was in the system, she saw that students still were not getting the close instruction that they needed.

So at 31, she took the LSAT, applied to law school and got accepted. For a year and a half after law school, Shefter worked for a family law firm and hated it. Then she became an independent contractor doing document review work. It was not until 2011 that Shefter, then 41, figured out what she really wanted to do.

She applied for and received an appointment to a Superior Court of the District of Columbia panel that assigned attorneys to represent parents who needed help getting services for their kids.

“I was teaching families how to advocate for themselves,” Shefter said. “And I was getting children their rightful education.”

By 2012, she had dropped the document review work to open her own firm, Shefter Law, representing families in rooms, and sometimes court rooms, with school administrators.“It’s amazing,” she said. “Having parents see, ‘This is who my child truly is,’ because they are getting the accommodations they need.”


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