Social Security Representation - What type of Attorney Should you NOT get for your Disability Claim?
Ok, there are lots of different ways in which to approach this question, but I think the easiest way is to approach it in "list" fashion. Basically, you don't want a disability lawyer (or non-attorney disability representative) who:
1. Doesn't return your calls ever. Now, on this subject I will state that many disability representatives have very busy schedules, schedules that include daily preparation for upcoming hearings as well as traveling to hearing sites. Some attorneys cover a fairly wide area and many end up traveling to disability hearing locations that are far removed from each other within their state (or states) of operation. Still, having said that, your representative should, at some point, return your calls if you have found it necessary to leave messages. And most will, or will have their paralegal do it for them. And let me speak to that: in many offices, the attorney's primary paralegal will be your chief point of contact. Is there anything wrong with that? Not at all. In most instances, the attorney won't be able to tell you over the phone anything that the paralegal couldn't tell you himself or herself, such as status updates, what to do next, etc. Every law office is different, of course, but in some offices the paralegal is extremely knowledgable about social security disability and SSI (conversely, in some offices the paralegal knows squat).
2. Doesn't seem to know a whole lot about social security disability or SSI. Here's the thing. Many attorneys specialize in social security disability cases, have been doing it for years, are familiar with the regs and rules, and know the quirks of the ALJs (administrative law judges, the individuals who decide claims at the disability hearing level) they present cases before. Other attorneys...have limited--in some cases almost zero--experience with such claims. You would do best to stay away from such an attorney (or non-attorney claimant's representative). Why? Well, everyone has to start somewhere, but do you really want your particular disability claim to be part of that attorney's learning curve? Ideally, no. Ideally, of course, you want someone experienced, and this is why "recommendation", by other individuals who have actually been represented by a certain attorney, can be often be the best manner in which to find your own lawyer.
3. Doesn't allow Social Security to contact you and tries to get you not to contact social security. On this subject, let me point out that after you notify the social security administration that you have representation they will be bound to A) send copies of all correspondence to your attorney and B) contact your attorney to obtain permission to contact you, the claimant. All of this makes perfect sense since it is designed to protect you. However...there are some firms out there that will do everything to ensure that you never have contact with the social security administration. All this does is IMPEDE your case because firms that do this tend to be the kind that do sloppy case development. In other words, they don't want you to answer questions from the social security administration, but, at the same time, they are slow and inefficient when it comes to A) gathering the information that social security wants and B) submitting it to them. Firms like this are not particularly helpful to your case. So, in my own opinion, if you are considering social security representation from a firm like this, you may wish to rethink it.
4. A law firm that never lets you talk to your actual attorney. Yes, I said in number 1 above that your attorney may be busy and that the paralegal should usually be able to answer all your questions. All correct. Nevertheless, you have the right to speak directly with your attorney if you insist. And if that doesn't happen, you should consider changing attorneys. Also, if you don't feel comfortable with the fact that you are not speaking to the actual attorney when you first "sign up" with them, and after insisting on direct contact (not having to go through the paralegal) you still don't get to talk the attorney, then move on to someone else. The fee that the attorney receives, in the event your case is won, comes out of your back pay, and you deserve the option of speaking with your attorney if that's what you want.
Return to the Social Security Disability SSI Benefits Blog
How to Claim Disability Benefits from the Social Security Administration
Social Security Disability Hearing
How to get Approved for Disability Benefits - Information on disability claims
If Social Security Disability sends you to a Consultative Medical Exam, will it be done by your own doctor?
If I Receive SSD Benefits and I Begin To Work And Earn Below The SGA Limit, How Much Does Social Security Deduct From my Benefits?
Social Security Disability Re-evaluations a.k.a. reviews
Can you qualify for social security disability with fibromyalgia?
Will my doctor charge me for a letter or statement to help my disability claim?
How Many People get Approved for Disability from Social Security?
Social Security Disability Requirements and Eligibility Criteria
Social Security Disability Representation and Falling Short
Free Legal Representation for Social Security Disability or SSI claims