Your Social Security Disability (SSD) lawyer helps you get the maximum disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). An attorney gathers evidence, submits paperwork, and constructs your claim so it has the greatest chance of a favorable outcome.
Once the SSA makes a final decision on your case, it is exceedingly difficult to change it. That is why it is vital to have the best disability lawyer working on your case from the beginning. The following tips can help you choose an attorney with whom you can feel confident.
Where can I find a disability lawyer or representative?
You have endless sources for finding an SSD lawyer. Here are a few places you can begin your search:
- The Online Yellow Pages;
- Search engines;
- Your state bar association’s attorney referral service;
- Legal aid clinics; and
- Referrals from friends or family.
Keep in mind, though, that while the above sources may give you access to a number of disability lawyers, most of them offer little in the way of quality control. In other words, these sources provide little assurance that each attorney is an active lawyer in good standing with the state bar and that he or she has a strong reputation for getting results for past clients.
It requires due diligence on your behalf to choose the best lawyer for your case. Before agreeing to work with an attorney, research him or her online and see what previous clients have to say. Check with your state bar to see if there is any history of disciplinary action against the attorney. Most importantly, interview them. Ask lots of questions about your case and choose the attorney you feel provides the most competent answers.
How can I vet a prospective disability lawyer?
When shopping for a lawyer, you should look for the attorney best-suited to handle your unique situation.
Keep in mind that disability cases are as varied as criminal cases. Just because someone is the best traffic ticket attorney in town does not necessarily mean they can handle a capital murder case. Similarly, a lawyer could have a fantastic record fighting for Social Security claims, but if they lack experience working cases similar to yours, they might struggle.
First and foremost, ask lots of pointed questions. Avoid asking for general information about disability and their case history. Instead, pick their brain with specific queries related to your disability and condition and gauge their responses.
What kinds of questions should I ask?
Ask specific questions that relate directly to your case. Here are some examples of specific questions you might ask a prospective Social Security disability attorney:
- How many clients have you had with my particular condition;
- What results were you able to get for them;
- What are some unique features of my case that you can focus on in your claim;
- Based on the information you have on me, what potential challenges or pushback might I face from the SSA; and
- How will you proceed if the SSA denies my claimor offers a lower amount than I feel I deserve?
What else do I need to consider before choosing a lawyer?
Communication is also an important factor when choosing a lawyer. Your attorney should be responsive and keep you apprised of each new development throughout the process—and there will be many. When your lawyer is distant or hard to reach, it may be difficult to keep confidence in them.
You can gauge an attorney’s level of communication by your first few phone calls with their office. It is reasonable to expect a disability lawyer to be busy. However, it should not be overly difficult to reach your attorney. If a lawyer does not promptly return calls or emails when you are a prospective client, it is unlikely to get better after you sign a fee agreement.
What is the difference between a disability lawyer and a non-attorney advocate?
During your research for a lawyer, you might run across something called a non-attorney advocate. This is a person who has not been to law school or passed the bar exam, but is legally qualified to represent you at a Social Security disability hearing.
The requirements for becoming a non-attorney advocate are as follows:
- Bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience;
- Clean criminal background;
- Professional liability insurance;
- Successful completion of SSA-administered exam; and
- Continuing education.
Attorneys and non-attorney advocates charge similar fees, and, unless you sign an agreement that specifies differently, both get paid only if you win your case.
So what are the advantages of going with one over the other? You are likely to see the biggest benefits by choosing an actual attorney. This is for several reasons:
- Attorneys adhere to stricter professional conduct rules and face disciplinary action and even disbarment for not upholding stringent ethical standards;
- Attorney-client privilege laws ensure anything you tell your lawyer remains confidential;
- Attorneys have more years of education and more thorough training; and
- Attorneys can appeal your claim to an even higher court if the need arises. Non-attorney advocates have no standing beyond the Social Security system.
When you hire an attorney, you get more knowledge, experience, and legal capabilities for the same fee.
How can I speak to a qualified disability attorney about my case?
At the Disability Advantage Group, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss the specifics of your case and determine if we can help you. Our attorneys have years of experience winning cases for our disability clients.
Contact us so we can discuss if we are a good fit for your unique situation. We will pursue your case aggressively and fight for a favorable outcome. Call today at 865-566-0800.