Friday, November 27, 2009

Social Security disability lawyers and non attorney representatives

When trying to find and choose a Social Security disability lawyer the information out there can be quite confusing. Social Security disability claims representation has gone through some big changes over the last couple of years. Many of you might not know that there are lawyers and non-lawyer representatives. Not too long ago, SSA has made it possible for non-attorney representatives to get paid directly from the Social Security Administration out of your past due benefits in the same way they do for lawyers. The purpose of this post is to make you aware of this fact so that if you want a lawyer to represent you you will not be mistakenly hiring a non-attorney company. If you watch TV you have probably seen many nationally televised commercials for Social Security advocates. There are several companies of non-attorney representatives doing this. Now there is nothing wrong with a company advertise its services on TV or the Internet. However, if you want to be represented by a lawyer and if you decide to call or send an e-mail to one of these companies you should make sure to ask them if they are a law firm. Many commercials and Internet ads very convincingly give the appearance that they are a law firm even though they are not. By law they cannot advertise that they are a law firm if they are not, so listen to or read the advertisements carefully. If you do not hear the words law firm, lawyer, or attorneys then chances are if you hire the company you will be represented by a non-attorney advocate. Now let me be clear that there are many fine non-attorney advocates out there. In fact, some non-lawyer representatives know and will be able to represent you better than many lawyers. So if you decide you want a lawyer then you certainly do not want to just choose just any lawyer or a lawyer that is handling another matter for you. You will want to make sure that the lawyer you are hiring has handled many Social Security disability claims. Some SSD lawyers have even gone a step further and become Social Security disability specialists. Not all states recognize law specialties but if someone has taken the time to go through the process you will at least know they would have had to have handled many SSDI and SSI claims, submitted copies of their briefs at all levels of the process for review, taken a test, and submitted information from judges and other lawyers in their field to get this recognition from the organization that has certified them. I went through and completed this process and can tell you it takes a lot of time, effort, and knowledge of the Social Security disability system. I became a Social Security Disability specialist through the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy, an ABA approved organization. To be fair I will point out that someone cannot just declare themselves to be a non-attorney representatives and start representing clients for pay. Non-lawyer advocates have to attend a certain amount hearings and take a test before they can be paid as non-attorney advocates. This is why I stated earlier that some advocates may represent you better than a lawyer who does not handle Social Security disability cases on a regular basis. The problem I see with hiring a big company with many advocates that are not lawyers is that you simply don't know what you are going to get. Do they have years of experience or are you their first real client? What you can take from this post is to do your homework and ask questions of the person or company who you are considering to represent you. I am writing this post because I have received countless e-mails recently from people who have signed up with some of these companies thinking they were hiring a Social Security disability law firm and later found out (sometimes not until the hearing) that the person representing them was not a lawyer. There is one more thing I have noticed from the e-mails I have received and the ads I have seen on the Internet. Many companies are claiming they win a certain percentage of their cases like 95%. Always read the fine print on these types of claims and if there isn't any then they are not telling you the whole story. Many of these companies drop cases that they do not feel they will win (and do not count these in there statistics) or only take cases that have a very good chance of winning. It is also worth noting that lawyers who are bound by the ethics laws of their states are not allowed to tell their winning percentages. What you can take away from all this is don't higher a representative based on the advertisement but rather on the qualifications of the person that will be representing you in your case. If you would like to ask me any questions about SSDI or SSI feel free to call me at 1-877-527-5529.