Robinson: Women make a difference at her law firm

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By Jenny Arnold

Lancaster attorney Elizabeth Robinson came from a family of teachers.

She majored in special education and later attended law school at the University of South Carolina  with the hopes of becoming an advocate for children with special needs.

But when she finished law school, Robinson couldn’t find a job in the specialty she wanted.

She began researching and found that only two law firms represent parents of children with disabilities in due-process actions.

By federal law, school districts must provide programs and services for children with special needs, Robinson said.

She recently had a case in Spartanburg representing a ninth-grader who read on the first-grade level. The school district claimed the boy had an IQ of 73 and was borderline mentally retarded, Robinson said.

But an independent evaluation by a child psychologist found that the child has a 104 IQ, but suffers from a visual and auditory learning disability that makes it difficult for him to process information that he reads, Robinson said.

Robinson’s firm, E.H. Robinson Law, lost the case, but the child entered a three-week program to help him learn to read and he’s now reading the Harry Potter books. The case will be appealed in federal district court, Robinson said.

Robinson, 43, takes on these cases from all over the state. She often partners with Appleseed Legal Justice and Nelson Mullins law firms in Columbia.

“Ninety-five percent of these cases statewide are won by the school districts,” Robinson said. “But you can still come up with a better solution for the child.”

On the local level, Robinson assists parents in maneuvering through Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, which plot the course of a child with special needs through school.

Robinson, who has three sons diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), knows first hand how complex and intimidating the IEP process can be. She assists in arming parents with information they need to ask the school district for services for their children.

“If you don’t know what kind of speech therapy, for example, your child needs, you won’t get it,” Robinson said. “You have to learn to be your child’s best advocate.”

Robinson also works with many family court cases and criminal cases. She has recently added Lynn Whitten Garrick of Greenville as a partner.

“It’s a great environment to get my start,” said Garrick, who worked as a clerk with the firm during law school at USC. “I’ve got a good person to learn from and it’s fun getting to know everyone and how Lancaster works.”

Garrick likes working with wills, probate cases and real estate, helping diversify what her firm can offer clients, Robinson said.

Robinson said hers is the only firm in Lancaster with two women at the helm. The office staff also includes Mary Beth Eubanks, Stephanie Bell and USC at Lancaster student Jordan Rogers.

Robinson said she believes it helps families talk about their problems in a mostly female-firm that’s family friendly, equipped with toys, games, snacks and drinks.

“No one comes in here happy,” Robinson said. “They’re in trouble, their child’s in trouble, someone’s cheating. Every desk in here has a box of Kleenex on it. The emotions just come out and clients have told me it’s easier to talk a woman about these issues. Men and women have told me that.”

Contact senior reporter  Jenny Arnold at (803) 283-1151