Previous articles have discussed the merits of working with an experienced Social Security disability attorney to represent your interests as you apply for benefits because, statistically speaking, your chances of getting approved for disability benefits improve greatly with the help of an attorney, especially at the hearing stage. Here, we examine the things that you should consider and look for when choosing which attorney to hire.
Your first concern might be where to find such experienced attorneys. You can contact your local bar association, look in the phone book, or do online research and read reviews. Additionally, you can ask an attorney you know if he or she would recommend someone. But don’t be hurt if you are not given any names—attorneys have professional reputations of their own to uphold, and they might be put in an uncomfortable situation if someone they recommended is not a good fit for you.
Your best bet on how to find a good Social Security disability attorney is to speak with friends and family who have been through the disability benefits process. Firsthand perspective can prove invaluable when making an important decision like selecting legal representation. And keep in mind that you will be working closely with this attorney and his or her staff for many months, sometimes years. You want to be sure that you get along well, that you feel comfortable asking questions, and that you feel confident that this person can work on your behalf throughout the entire process.
When you’ve written down some phone numbers and are ready to call potential firms, prepare to pay close attention. You can determine a lot about a firm and the people who work for it in your initial conversation. But before you pick up the phone, do a little due diligence on Social Security disability in general. You want to at least have a working knowledge of what the process is designed to do so that you can ask the right questions.
It is quite common not to speak to an attorney the first time you call. The person you speak to will ask you a few questions about your disability and the circumstances surrounding it to see if the firm might be able to represent you. If the initial phone interview goes well, you can request an appointment to speak with an attorney in person or continue telephone communication.
You should pay close attention to how that first conversation goes. Were you treated professionally and with courtesy? If you had to leave a message, was someone prompt in returning your call? Even though it goes without saying that successful firms are busy places, they should never be too busy to contact you in a timely fashion and allow you the opportunity to ask questions.
These initial contacts are important because, aside from gathering important information about your situation, they are opportunities for a firm and its employees to show you their philosophy toward clients. Do people appear accessible? Do they make you feel that they have the necessary knowledge and experience to represent you successfully? Do you feel respected and understood?
One of the most crucial aspects to finding the right attorney to represent you is the ability to ask and receive honest answers to questions about the firm’s experience and success rate. What is the firm’s overall approval rate? What percentage of its wins are for full benefits? For partial benefits? How many of its approvals are at the hearing stage? How many people will likely work on my file? How often will you check in with me about the status of my claim? How involved will the attorney be, and how often can I expect to talk to him or her?
If you are speaking to an attorney, ask him or her how many years he or she has been practicing disability law? How long has he or she practiced in this location? How many cases does he or she handle each year? Is he or she willing to provide testimonials or references from past clients? If you’re feeling bold, consider asking the attorney why he or she decided to start practicing disability law in the first place; the answer might surprise you and tip the scales in favor of one attorney over another.
Remember to set reasonable expectations and go into the process already having an idea of what makes a good disability attorney. A skilled, experienced disability attorney is not going to tell you what you want to hear just because he or she knows it sounds good. A good disability attorney will honestly and candidly evaluate your case, tell you what your situation’s strengths and weaknesses are, and use his or her expertise to help you obtain Social Security disability benefits whenever possible.