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 Recommendations on Finding a Good Lawyer 
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Post Recommendations on Finding a Good Lawyer
Recommendations on Finding a Good Lawyer

* First, get your list of possible names: I have arranged these sources in order of personal preference. Try every way, and if the same few names keep turning up, good and bad, you are at the beginning of a wise choice.

* Contact a support group for your particular medical condition. These groups often maintain referral lists. This is probably my favorite suggestion. The members of the group can compare their experiences with different attorneys, and the group as a whole gradually figures out who does the best job.

* Ask people who are active in helping the disabled in your community. Depending on where you live, this could be public social workers, church workers or pastors active in social work, doctors, nurses, hospital social workers, union representatives, NAACP representatives, or United Way workers. Some of these people are free to recommend someone, and some others are not; volunteers are usually free to speak their mind.

* Ask a few attorneys who don’t handle Social Security cases. You know they won’t recommend themselves, and often they will have a pretty good idea of who the best attorneys are.

* The Yellow Pages in the nearest large city are a good place to look. Only consider attorneys who put Social Security Disability first in the ad. A medium to smaller ad suggests an attorney who is so good that he gets most of his business from word of mouth advertising—that is probably the best lawyer in the area; or someone who is so poor they cannot afford a larger ad—that is bad. A visit to the office should sort out the one from the other. There are exceptions, but a very large ad suggests an attorney who must beg people to come in, who cannot get any repeat business, and who is spending all his money on advertising rather than staff—that is bad. Be aware that anyone can buy a yellow page advertisement.

* Legal Aid might be the only lawyers available if your claim does not involve money, or if it involves a small amount of back time, or SSI, or a child’s claim. That is not necessarily bad; I just mean that your choice is limited; the particular lawyer might be excellent, or not. Legal Aid’s resources are limited, and they have to limit the cases they can take. Legal Aid usually has a list of lawyers that are willing to handle Social Security cases, and the legal aid offices in my area won’t put anybody really bad on the list.

* Ask someone who has gone through the process before. If that person gives a bad review, there well may be something to it. But a favorable review means less. The person knows a lot about one lawyer, but little about the others. Certainly ask the person about the factors set out above.

* I don’t like referral services, which include the bar association. They have to give you the next lawyer on the list, which makes the recommendation semi-random, and generally anyone can ask to be on the list. Maybe call 12 times and work through the group you get, though I suppose they don’t want you to do it that way. Your local Social Security office probably has a list of referral services.

* TV advertising suggests an attorney who must beg people to come in, presumably because those who came in before are not happy, and suggests someone who is spending money on ads instead of your case. Again there are exceptions.

* I suppose the web, but I would distinguish between sites like David Traver’s if you live in Milwaulkee, or Peter Young’s if you live in California, which help you get to know that lawyer, from referral sites that are rated high on the web only because they pay searchengines to put them high up. If there is no helpful content on the site, all the site tells you is that the named lawyer has to pay to get people to come into his office. Some sites are just glorified random referral services.


What to consider when selecting between lawyers:


Now that you have a list of possible lawyers, you need to make a final selection. I have these suggestions. These are general rules, almost all of which have exceptions, except I guess the first two:

* Be careful.

* Talk to several lawyers before hiring one.

* Ask questions, and look around the office. Does it seem like a well run machine, or are people wandering around looking lost? Are people pleasant to you and to each other? Are they working hard, or chatting?

* Experience is important. I would want a lawyer with at least, say, 5 year’s experience as a Social Security lawyer.

* The lawyer should emphasize Social Security. I would want a lawyer whose practice was 70% or more Social Security law.

* Be sure you can get your lawyer by the throat. Be sure you can get the lawyer on the phone if you need to, in a couple of days if there is no emergency, and right away if there is. But if you think about it you will decide you want a lawyer who is busy. If there were two restaurants side by side, would you want to eat at the one with lots of cars in the parking lot, or the one with the empty lot?

* Talk to the staff. Ask who besides the lawyer will be helping you. Meet that person, and size that person up. Make sure that the lawyer you are talking to is the one with the experience, and the one who will handle your case.

* Choose a lawyer who appears regularly before the judges in your area. The lawyer should be experienced at handling cases in front of the judges in your area. There is no way that an attorney from three states away can know just what might set Judge Fredrick off, and what you need to do to win your case depends as much on what is going on in Judge Fredrick’s brain as it does on what the law is, or what he is supposed to do. “In your area” means “in area served by the Office of Hearings and Appeals that will hear your case.”

* It is usually better to hire an attorney and firm that primarily handles Social Security Disability. Attorneys who name several practice areas in their ad, including Social Security Disability second or last, cannot be great experts in disability. It is possible to have a larger firm in which one or two attorneys become very good in this area, but sometimes in such firms the Social Security department is in effect subsidized by the other attorneys. If disability is most of what the firm does, the attorneys need to be good at it or will go out of business.

* Be sure the firm handles appeals beyond the hearing, that is, to the Appeals Council and to the Federal District Court. Any serious Social Security lawyer does this. If the judge knows that your lawyer will not appeal his decision, he or she is free to ignore the law.

* Don’t worry about being able to pay for a lawyer, at first, anyway. In most Social Security cases, you can hire an attorney for a percentage of what you get at the end of the case. This is not always true, but often enough so you can assume it is until it is proved untrue. In some areas of the country, some or all attorneys will not take children’s cases, or SSI cases, in this way; in other areas some or most lawyers will.

* Referrals from past clients can also be useful in making your final decision, especially if such referrals come from friends or people you trust.

Article by Paul McChesney, Attorney, who has been practicing Social Security law for about 25 years. For more details see his website.


Sun Jan 09, 2005 2:46 am
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Soulstice,

I've decided to apply for SSDI. Do I need a lawyer or can I do it without one?

Thanks,
Joanne


Wed Oct 19, 2005 4:25 pm
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Soulstice,

I've decided to apply for SSDI. Do I need a lawyer or can I do it without one?

Thanks,
Joanne


Wed Oct 19, 2005 4:30 pm
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Joanne, you can apply without a lawyer. Is it worth it?

I've heard of people that got approved without a lawyer, and I've heard of people with lawyers that got rejected.

If you do choose to go with a lawyer, take heed of the advice written above. Your livelihood is at stake and you should go into this process with both eyes open. *eyes*

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Wed Oct 19, 2005 4:53 pm
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Post thank you so much
I'm in a real pickle and considering applying. Your advise has been fantastic and much needed. Just wanted to say thanks! You rock!

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Tue Dec 12, 2006 4:21 pm
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Post Re: Recommendations on Finding a Good Lawyer
Hi all. First off I'd like to say I went through the SSDI nightmare very recently and I will try to be brief. I used a SSDI lawyer from New York,(I live in Wisconsin.) First off read and follow the advice above. I did not do any of that as I did not know from a hill of beans. I feel that my attorneys did a good job in winning my case. I am pretty sure I will have to pay the max allowed by SS. That is $6,000. They can charge 25% or $6000 which ever is lower. Keep that in mind but also they can not charge up front fees. You may want to consider that there is a back log at SSDI. I waited close to 4 years. Some people get approved right away some have to wait. I have heard and read about people that wait over 5 years. Try not to get discouraged. There are many reason for the back log first being lack of funding( Thanks Congress). Way too many people applying for hang nails and tooth aches and the like. Be very consistent with your med records and make a copy of every single piece of paper you submit. SSDI has a problem with keeping track of things like confidential med records and such. Very important. If you are denied the first time. (Pretty good chance of that.) Do not re-apply. You have to request a reconsideration. Time is not on your side. You only have 60 days I think to ask for a reconsideration. No reason to wait. If you are having problems do not hesitate to write your Congress person. Not an E-mail although that would be a good start. Then follow up with a written paper letter. Keep a copy. Copy's are important. Copy copy copy. It's only paper and don't worry about the trees they grow back. I have a few links to good help full sites that can answer a lot of question's so if you'd like just message me and I'll send them to you. Good luck and don't let it get you down. I will be happy to help.. Have a wonderful day..


Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:08 am
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