Thursday, February 03, 2011

How to Find a Good Social Security Disability Lawyer

This post on how to find yourself a good Social Security disability lawyer will talk mostly about searching on the Internet for an SSD or SSI lawyer. I am going to talk about how to determine if the person or company you are considering is a lawyer or non lawyer advocate. I will also discuss the right questions to ask, as well as some frequently asked questions that are not particularly helpful in picking a disability lawyer. I will also discuss how to determine if a particular website is a lawyer, a non-lawyer advocate, or a website that is going to sell your information to random attorneys or non attorney advocates. In this article, I am assuming that you are looking for lawyer and not a non lawyer representative. I think there are some good non-lawyer advocates out there but there are so many big non-attorney companies that are not bound by lawyer ethics rules so it makes it difficult to give advice on how to find a good non-lawyer representative. I also believe that most people would prefer to have a lawyer to represent them in their Social Security Disability case. But if you find a non-lawyer representative you like you can ask similar questions you would ask a lawyer.

So, how do you know if the company or person you think you want to represent you is a lawyer or a non lawyer representatives? If you call the company you are thinking of using asked them if they are a law firm. If they tell you they have lawyers in their company, but avoid the question then you know they are not a law firm and a non-lawyer representative may show up at your hearing. Every big company has lawyers, but if you want make sure a lawyer is going to represent you in court then you will want a law firm. If it is not a big company, but rather a single representative you can simply ask them if they are a lawyer. Many of the larger companies will use many tricks to infer that they are a law firm. So even if you have questioned them thoroughly on the phone you will want to make sure you read the paperwork they send to you and read all the fine print. If you have reason to suspect that they are not a law firm then visit their website and if it does not say specifically that they are lawyer, attorney or law firm but instead use the term advocate or representative then chances are they are not a law firm or lawyer.

Now that you have separated the lawyers from non-lawyer representatives the best you can, you will now want to ask the right questions to determine what attorney is right for you. One question that is frequently asked which I believe is the wrong question to ask of a lawyer is what their winning percentage is. This is a question that many nonlawyer companies tell you to ask on their websites. One thing they don't tell you is that lawyers and law firms have to follow the ethics rules on advertising for attorneys. A lawyer or law firm may be violating the ethics rules if they disclose winning percentages to potential clients. These ethics rules do not apply to non-attorneys. When you see a website that boasts about their winning percentage chances are they are not a law firm and you must always read the fine print. Many non-attorney companies will claim to win 90 to 95% of their cases. Let me point out a few things about claims such as these. If you read the fine print on some of these sites it will say in cases that we represent the client through the entire administrative process. What they don't tell you is that they frequently drop cases that they don't feel they can win (unfortunately many lawyers do this as well). I have received many e-mails from people who have been dropped weeks and sometimes days before their hearing. Another thing to consider is that many non-attorneys or non lawyer companies are not willing and possibly not able to take on the more difficult cases. Also, most lawyers are required to do a certain amount of pro bono cases, which many times are not great cases, because they are the cases where the claimant has not been able to find someone to represent them, or they were cases referred to them through legal aid to help with their case load. So, what questions should you ask of a SSDI or SSI lawyer. You can ask them what percentage of their cases are disability cases. You can also ask them how long have they been handling Social Security Disability claims. You can also ask them if they are in NOSSCR. This is The National Organization of Social Security Claimants Representatives. This organization is for lawyers and non-lawyers and they have two conferences a year and send a newsletter every month to their members to keep them up-to-date on the latest Social Security disability news and cases. Not all Social Security disability lawyers are in this organization and should not be the deciding factor in whether you hire a particular lawyer but if they are a member it shows a certain commitment to this area of law. You can also ask the lawyer if he or she has been certified as a Social Security Disability Specialists by any organization or by their State Bar. One thing I should note here, is that some states do not recognize specialization by lawyers, so again this should not be the deciding factor but rather another thing to consider. If it is a large or medium sized law firm you may want to ask the experience of the other Social Security disability lawyers in the firm since you will probably not know which particular lawyer will be representing you if you have a hearing. If you want a lawyer from the start you will also want to ask if they take cases at application. Probably the most important thing when choosing a lawyer is not so much how they answer all your questions, but how did you feel after talking to the attorney. In other words, did you feel rushed, did the lawyer seem interested, did the attorney ask you questions about your claim, did he or she appear honest, was the attorney willing to answer questions about Social Security disability in general and most importantly where you comfortable speaking to the lawyer. To find a good and experienced Social Security Disability lawyer it should not take you having to call more than a few lawyers to decide. If the lawyer has been handling Social Security disability claims for a long time and you are comfortable speaking with that lawyer then you have probably found the good fit for you. Most experienced SSDI and SSI lawyers will handle your claim in a similar way as other experienced disability lawyers so if you find one you are comfortable with it should be easy to make a choice.

In the last part of this article I want you to be aware that you should not fill out every form you come across on every disability website. There is a very big business of website companies that make very nice and high ranking websites and the goal of these websites is to get you to fill out a form so they can sell your information to lawyer and non lawyer representatives. I personally answer all my e-mails and do not sell any of my e-mails I receive. However, there are many websites that do. It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether the website you are reading, and that you want to send information about your case to, is a lead generating website to sell your information, or a website that is willing to answer your questions and keep your information confidential. If you are filling out the form on a law firm website then it is fairly safe to assume the law firm would have an interest in answering your questions or representing you. If the website does not disclose what firm or company is running that website then it may be a lead generating website. If the company that owns the firm sounds more like an Internet company than a disability firm then this could be a red flag as well. Most websites that offer to answer questions or give free evaluations that only intend to answer your question or evaluation and not sell your information will have the name of the law firm or disability company somewhere on the site. It is also a good sign if the author of the website clearly states who he or she is and what his or her disability lawyer credentials are to answer your questions. You should also always read the footnotes at the bottom of the website which will some times tell you that your information is sent to third parties. The good thing is that even if you do send your information to a lead selling company chances are the third party will be an attorney or non-attorney representative who most likely only want to represent you and have no interest in passing your information beyond themselves. The one thing you should never do is send your SS number to anyone on the web. I hope you found my article to be helpful but sometimes the best way to find your SSDI or SSI lawyer is to use a disability lawyer a friend or family member used and liked. Good luck.