Choosing a Disability Attorney is like choosing any other Attorney
Choosing a disability attorney for a social security disability or SSI disability case is fundamentally no different from choosing any other type of attorney. And, before I launch into a list of the characteristics that you should look for in a disability representative, let me mention my own recent, brief experience in looking for an attorney. I needed to have a procedure done by an attorney who handles business matters. I called one attorney in my local yellow pages and was told that the cost for this very simple procedure would be $1500.00 I was a little surprised by this because I had read that the cost shouldn't be more than $700.00. What did I do? I opened the phone book up again and called another one. This time, I was told that the cost would be $625.
Now, that example is not extremely relevant to disability claims, of course. For one thing, the fee for representation on a social security disability case is generally not negotiable. And its easy enough to see why. The fee for disability representation is actually set by the social security administration.
However, having said that, it still points out the fact that...sometimes its good to shop around. In other words, you don't have to use the first disability lawyer that you contact. If you desire, you can actually contact more than one and then settle on the one you feel most comfortable with.
Now, I have a list of "positive characteristics of disability attorneys" that you might want to look for. These are characteristics that you definitely want in your chosen representative. However, the problem in looking for these characteristics is that you probably won't have the chance to spot them (or spot a lack of them) until you've actually used the services of a disability lawyer. Which brings me to another point---if you don't think you're getting the service you require on your disability claim, you always have the option of choosing a different disability lawyer. In fact, from the perspective of the social security administration, the only thing that is required for this is that you submit a new appointment of representative form (form SSA-1696).
Here is the list of characteristics you should find in your attorney:
1. A willingness to answer your questions.
2. A willingness to actually be the one who answers your questions, versus simply passing the information on to you through an assistant.
3. A willingness to return your calls (a failure to return calls is one of the biggest complaints that claimants have about their reps).
4. A willingness to do the job properly (in other words, getting your appeals in on time, sending you copies of your case file paperwork, keeping up with the status on your case, etc)
5. A willingless to assist you in dealing with special problems (i.e. overpayment situations, establishing good cause for deadlines you have missed, assuming that you really have good cause).
These are just a few desirable characteristics that you should look for in your chosen advocate. True, you won't have a chance to properly evaluate someone until they've actually handled your case, but, as I said, the power to keep an attorney or choose another is always in your hands.
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
How to file disability
Social Security Disability Qualifications
Application for Disability
SSI Back pay