Tuesday, April 14, 2009
To answer this question I will try and explain the different types of lawyers and representatives that are out there. There are big nationwide non-attorney companies. There are also big law firms that handle cases nationwide. You will also find local solo practitioners some who practice exclusively in social security disability and others who handle many types of law. You also have every other size you can possibly imagine between of both law firms and non-attorney companies. So how can you tell the difference if you want to be represented by a lawyer or law firm. First, if you want a lawyer working on your claim then you will have to know the difference between law firms and non-attorney companies. You can always call and ask them if they are lawyers but one easy way to tell whether the company you are considering is a law firm is if they advertise as lawyers. This might seem a little silly but any company that advertises that they are lawyers or that they are a law firm would by law have to be a law firm. You have to listen closely to the advertisement for the words lawyer, attorney or law firm. A company may have a name that sounds like a law firm but if you don't hear the words law firm or lawyer they are probably non-attorney advocates. The interesting thing here is some of the big disability firms that you see on TV all the time are no longer law firms. I noticed that many of the big firms are now calling themselves Social Security Disability advocates. This is probably because they made the switch from being a law firm or in some cases never were law firm to being non-attorney advocates. You might be wondering why one of these big companies would do this and lose their status as a law firm. There are a few reasons. One reason is purely economic. You do not have to be a lawyer to represent Social Security Disability claimants and get paid to do so. Fairly recently, a new law went into effect that allowed a non-attorney representatives to have their fee withheld by SSA from a claimants past due benefits just as they have been doing for lawyers for years. Some of the big law firms saw an opportunity to hire people who are not lawyers to represent SSDI and SSI claimants in their claims. As you can imagine the savings these big firms are able to make are huge by not having to hire a lawyers at a lawyer's salary. However, because these firms are now using non-attorney representatives they can no longer call themselves law firms. The other advantage to not being a law firm is that you are not subject to the many lawyer ethics rules on advertising. There are certain things lawyers and law firms cannot say or do in their advertising. Non-attorney advocates are not subject to the advertising restrictions that lawyers are. The purpose of this post is not to say that lawyers are better than non-attorney advocates when it comes to handling a Social Security Disability claim. The purpose of this post is only to make those who prefer to have a lawyer aware of how to distinguish between the law firms and non-attorney advocate companies. I decided to write this post because I have received e-mails from individuals who had hired some of these large non-attorney advocate companies thinking they were law firms and found out later they were not and were upset because they thought they were hiring a lawyer and did not find out they did not have a lawyer representing them until they had already hired them. In one case, the person did not know until he showed up at the hearing. So if you are looking to be represented by a lawyer for Social Security Disability I hope this post helps you to be able to distinguish between the non-attorney companies and the law firms before you sign the papers.