Michael Gilberg, Esq. is a New York-based special education & disability rights attorney with extensive experience representing students and families. He brings his perspective as a person on the autism spectrum to his law practice, as an advocate for children with disabilities who has walked in their shoes. Michael holds positions on the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and PULSES (Parents United Learning the Special Education System).
I began law school at Pace University in the Fall 2004. I was able to combine my Masters with part of my law degree to reduce my credit load, but even then I quickly learned law school was much harder than undergraduate or even graduate school. The work did not come easily to me. I had to really work at it and could not wing it as I had often in the past. I learned to work harder than I ever had before. I learned to not cut corners but put the real work in and gained skills I had never had before. In May 2007, I graduated from Pace with my Juris Doctorate.
Many people on the Autism Spectrum improve their social skills with age. While at law school, I continued my involvement in the Young Democrats at the local, state, and national levels. Through both my law school and political involvement, I met a number of people who have become true and hopefully lifelong friends.The combination of people being more accepting as we aged and my learning how to interact appropriately led to me finally having the real friendships I lacked throughout childhood.
As I grew up, I learned social skills. I now have friends from politics, law school, a couple from college, and my professional life among others. I have friends my age, older and younger. I have also learned that sometimes people you think are your friends turn out not to be for many reasons. I have learned to be more discerning of “friends” who take advantage or use me for their own purposes.
I always knew my true calling was the field of Special Education Law. I just needed a way to break in and get an opportunity. After law school I again tried to figure out my next steps and worked some political jobs and campaign jobs. After a political opportunity I thought would lead to a long-term job did not work out because I made some mistakes in who to trust, I refocused my energy into the field of Special Education Law.
Through a stroke of luck, a political connection of mine knew someone in the field and it created an opportunity for me. From there, I worked for another attorney in the field for five years learning the law, the field, and how it all works. I represented clients, drafted due process complaints, conducted mediations, and did everything else. During this time period I was honored to be asked to serve on the Board of Directors of COPAA which I have done for the last 4 years and continue to serve.
In 2016 I branched out on my own, opening my own legal practice. By working for myself, I have more flexibility in serving clients and can practice in both NY and CT. Over the past 3+ years, my practice has continued to grow and expand as I have worked to find clients, gain referrals, and increase my reputation. I pride myself on my ability to understand what my clients are going through. I use my own experience to support my clients, having been that child myself. While no two cases and no two children are the same, I bring a unique perspective to each child that I represent. Because of my own experience, I am a staunch advocate for children participating in their own IEP meetings and I am constantly working to promote self-advocacy. I wish I had those opportunities when I was younger.
I do not know what the future holds, but unlike that scared child I was I know I have a future. I will continue every day to fight for children with Autism and other disabilities to have the services they are entitled to and opportunities I was denied. I know I have come a long way from that scared child who felt alone in the world and hopeless.