From The Blog

Estate Planning

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: Estate Planner

Are you married with children?  Are you unmarried and cohabiting with a partner with whom you own assets jointly?  Are you single with a child or children?  Are you retired?  Do you own a small business?  Have you divorced recently?  If you fall into any one or more of those categories and own a home, own other assets that might not pass by virtue of a beneficiary designation, have not planned for the care and financial support of your children in the event you pass, or you have not planned who will make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated, then you must prepare a basic estate plan.  You must plan to ensure that your assets pass in accordance with your wishes, to secure the care and support of your children following your death, and to ensure that someone you trust will manage those assets and your healthcare decisions in the event you are unable to do so.

The firm has prepared estate plans for individuals and couples in Washington which include:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Healthcare directives
  • Financial power of attorney

The firm has a unique interest in preparing estate plans for collectors of fine art.  The firm also has experience handling disputes with long-term care insurance providers and long term care, palliative care or assisted living facilities.

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell:  A Seasoned Washington D.C. Estate Planner

We invite you for a free initial consultation to learn how we can be your partner in preparing your estate plan.

School Discipline

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: A discipline lawyer who represents children who have been subject to repeated suspension or exclusion, children who have experienced toxic stress or trauma

washington DC Discipline and Discrimination lawyerDo you have a child with a disability who has been repeatedly suspended or kept out of class?  Do you feel like your child’s school disciplines your child differently than it disciplines non-disabled students for the same conduct?  Has your child experienced trauma or toxic stress?  Do you think that your child is misbehaving as a response to that trauma or stress?

Discipline is an area of growing concern in traditional public schools and in public charter schools.  School discipline is not always logically connected to student misconduct or designed to teach and encourage students to consider and choose appropriate behaviors.  Often school discipline is implemented reactively because of other factors, including race, disability, zero tolerance policies, or lack of training or adequate resources.

Moreover, students often experience adverse childhood experiences, trauma and toxic stress — whether from divorce, death of a loved one, incarceration of parent, abuse, homelessness, unstable living conditions or witnessing violence in the home or the community.  As a result, these students may suffer negative effects on their brain development, their attention and focus, and, consequently, on their academic progress (especially in reading and language arts) in school.  Students also act out or misbehave as a response to trauma and toxic stress. Though scientific studies have validated the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences, trauma and toxic stress on the  behavior of students, schools have generally continued to implement zero tolerance, discipline based responses to student behavior, rather than implement trauma informed practices.

Mr. Atwell represents children who have been subject to long term suspension or expulsion in connection with behavior at school.

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell provides an experienced Washington D.C. lawyer poised with a background in public education and regulatory compliance to represent your child in communications with school administrators, during the IEP process, and in hearings that concern discipline issues.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA: Discipline Based on Disability

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discriminatory discipline of students with disabilities.  These protections are in addition to those provided under IDEA, which prohibits discipline that would result in a change in placement of students with disabilities, which would affect their access to a free and appropriate education.

The federal rules under IDEA encourage the use of functional behavior assessments and positive behavior supports to address misbehavior in school.  Students and parents are also entitled to a hearing to challenge certain school suspensions or other exclusionary discipline imposed where there is a question whether the student’s conduct is a manifestation of his or her disability.

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell can represent you in any hearing related to unfair or discriminatory discipline, especially with respect to children with disabilities.


Special Education

Nigel M. Atwell: Education lawyer for low income and moderate income parents of children with special needs

special education lawyer
Special education laws protect the rights of disabled children to receive an appropriate education.  The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell represents students with disabilities, and students who have not been identified as having a disability.  The firm will communicate, negotiate, and litigate with schools to obtain the  services and accommodations to which your child may be entitled under applicable law.

Special Education Laws That Protect the Disabled Student

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) is a federal law that mandates special education for children with disabilities from preschool to age 21. There is a wide range of disabilities that qualify for IDEA protections and the disability must somehow interfere with the learning process in order for these protections to apply.  Parents of disabled children are especially challenged to understand and navigate the process of obtaining services required to provide their children an appropriate education under IDEA.

Individualized Education Programs for Your Child

The firm will assist you in obtaining appropriate evaluations for you child, creating an Individualized Education Program (IEP), monitoring its implementation and ensuring that your child is making meaningful academic progress while the IEP is in force.  The IEP should be tailored to address your child’s specific disability or need and the school is obligated to implement the IEP.  There are several key components that must be evaluated and drafted in order to create an effective IEP for your child:

  • Educational Status:  The child’s current academic performance levels
  • Annual Goals:  The goals should be clearly written and student attainment should be measurable by acceptable assessments
  • Instructional Situation and Setting:  The specific placement and instructional tools tailored to the child’s special needs
  • Related Services:  Services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy or behavioral therapy.
  • Transition Service:  For children over 16, evaluation of placement or vocation needs
  • Due Process Hearings:  Third party dispute resolution, to address any inadequacies in the IEP or how it is implemented

We will be engaged with every step in the process of creating and monitoring the IEP for your child, so that you don’t have to navigate the complex legal requirements on your own.  One requirement of the IEP is that it must be offered in the least restrictive environment possible, or at least close to that of non-disabled students.  This is one area to be evaluated closely to make sure that your child is integrated with students who do not have disabilities to the maximum extent possible.

If your child is regressing academically or not making meaningful academic progress, the firm is prepared to represent you in a due process hearing to force his school to provide compensatory education, enroll him in another school, modify his IEP or seek other remedies to ensure that he receives an appropriate education. Please contact us for a free consultation.

Commerce and Technology

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: Experienced counsel for technology firms, small businesses, and artists

washington dc business lawyerBusinesses often have an ongoing need for legal counsel, without the expense of a large corporate law firm.  We provide the benefit of our extensive background working in house with corporate executives, mid-level managers, and subject matter experts serving in a variety of corporate functions, including sales, marketing, product management, legal and regulatory.  We collaborate effectively with other lawyers working on matters for which we have been retained.  We offer the flexibility of creative pricing and the responsiveness of a personalized law practice. We value effective communication and collaboration so that you understand every step that we take to serve your enterprise.

Commercial and Technology Law Practice

Our commercial and technology practice encompasses a wide spectrum of transactions required for you to start, grow, and manage risk in your business.  We provide advice in the following areas:

  • Business organization and operating agreements
  • Product and service development
  • End User terms of service
  • Vendor to vendor agreements for products and services
  • Customer facing goods and services agreements
  • Terms of service for software applications
  • Basic agreements for visual and performing artists, including music publishing, works licenses, artist management, commissioned works, and art consulting/advisory services agreements
  • Business/contract disputes
  • Evaluation and compliance with business regulations
  • Operational issues
  • Strategic matters

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: A Seasoned Washington D.C. Business Lawyer

When you are a client of our firm, we will learn your business quickly and be ready to act as your strategic partner.  We will build productive relationships with key stakeholders in your organization, spot issues, and work with your team to develop creative solutions.

We invite you for an initial consultation to learn how we can be your partner in building and continuing the success of your enterprise.


The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: A lawyer for children with special needs, and low income, moderate income parents

education lawyer in washington dc Parents of children with special needs face significant challenges to receiving a free and appropriate education in school. As a former District of Columbia Public Schools teacher and adjunct professor of education, Nigel M. Atwell is uniquely qualified to be advocate for your child, whether she is struggling academically or with behavioral issues, and whether she attends a traditional public school or a public charter school.

The Legal Rights That Are Available Under IDEA

IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) is a federal law that establishes the legal obligations of schools to educate children with special needs and a process for enforcing those obligations through due process hearings and monitoring. Under IDEA, an eligible child is one with a disability that includes:

  •      Intellectual or learning disabilities
  •      Hearing, speech, or language impairments
  •      Visual impairment or blindness
  •      Emotional disturbances
  •      Autism or traumatic brain injuries

For your eligible child, public schools are required to create an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to meet the child’s specific educational needs. The IEP will describe your child’s current performance levels, measurable performance goals, the specialized instructional services that will be provided, and any accommodations your child may require. The law requires that the IEP be implemented within the least restrictive environment.

As parents, you have the right to be involved in the evaluation of your child and in the creation and monitoring of the IEP. You have the right to initiate a due process hearing when your child is not making meaningful progress, if the IEP is inadequate or if the IEP is not being implemented. There are several remedies that hearing officers may award in order to ensure that your child receives the appropriate education to which he is entitled.

The IEP Process

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell is intimately familiar with the IEP process. Disagreements can arise over the evaluation process, the adequacy of IEP goals, or whether your child has made meaningful educational progress. We are prepared to communicate with your child’s school administrators, teachers, other members of the school’s multi-disciplinary team, and independent psychologists and service providers to ensure that you are a fully informed, active participant in the creation of the IEP, that you can monitor its implementation and that you can advocate for your child when she is not making meaningful academic or social progress.

Whom we represent and services we provide

We represent children enrolled in traditional public schools and public charter schools. We have a particular interest in representing low income and moderate income parents of children with disabilities and children who have not been evaluated or identified as having a disability but who are struggling with reading.  Our services include:

  •      Explaining your rights and the school’s obligations under IDEA
  •      Advocating for appropriate learning goals in the IEP
  •      Ensuring the use of research based teaching practices and qualified teachers
  •      Monitoring academic progress and educational goals
  •      Attending IEP and other meetings concerning your child
  •      Initiating due process hearings
  •      Settle due process complaints
  •      Appearing at discipline hearings and manifestation determination reviews

It can be difficult for parents to understand the complexities of the IEP process, as well as the terminology used in IEPs, psychoeducational evaluations, and in teaching assessments.  Our perspective, based on years of relevant experience teaching in public schools and advocating on behalf of children with disabilities uniquely positions The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell to advocate for you and your child.

School Discipline

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973  prohibits schools from discriminating when they discipline students who have physical or other impairments that prevent them from conducting major life activities by imposing discipline that is different from what they apply to kids who do not have such impairments.   Also, IDEA requires a review of school discipline when a child with disabilities who violates the school conduct code is punished in a way –such as suspending him from school or coercing parents to remove him from school without documentation— that results in a change in his placement, when the child’s behavior is a manifestation of his disability.  IDEA and the Department of Education’s regulations encourage schools to use functional behavior assessments and positive behavior interventions to address the behavioral challenges of students with disabilities.

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: Your Education Lawyer in Washington D.C.

Our practice is focused on protecting the rights of children with special needs.  Please contact us for a free consultation to evaluate your case.

Practice Areas

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell

We offer the following legal services:


  • Special Education Law Protecting the Rights of Disabled Students
  • Discrimination and Discipline in Education


  • Product Development
  • Contract Drafting and Negotiation
  • Business Strategy
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • Business Issues concerning Artists, Entertainers

Estate Planning

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney