Finding a Local Disability Lawyer or Advocate

Learn the best ways to go about searching for a Social Security disability attorney and finding the best one for your case.

By , Contributing Author
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If you become disabled and need the help of a lawyer or disability advocate to help you apply for Social Security disability—or to appeal a disability denial—it can seem like an overwhelming task to find a lawyer you feel comfortable working with. Not only do you need to locate possible representatives that you could hire, but you'll also need to meet, or at least talk to, a few representatives to determine who is a good match for you.

Locating a Disability Lawyer

There are many ways in which you can go about finding a lawyer or advocate to handle your disability case, including:

Ask a lawyer. If you have an existing relationship with a lawyer, you can ask that lawyer for a reference to another attorney who has experience with Social Security disability law. Lawyers are sometimes careful when giving referrals, however, because if you have a bad experience with the lawyer they recommended, it could harm both lawyers' reputations.

Ask family and friends. The people you are close to may have experience with disability lawyers or advocates without your being aware of it. There are many reasons family and friends might know disability lawyers, possibly through a friendship or work relationship. If you can find a family member or a friend to recommend someone they trust, it can help you to feel at ease with the lawyer.

Free consultation with a disability firm. Setting up a free consultation is probably the quickest way to find a lawyer and figure out if you qualify for disability benefits. You will just need to enter your zip code and answer a few questions about your situation. A disability firm will contact you to arrange a free consultation, to see if they can help you win your case.

Your local Bar Association. Every state and county has a Bar Association, which is an organization made up of those in the legal profession. The Bar Association is intended to provide services and support to lawyers, as well as to those who are in need of a lawyer. Generally, there is a section on the Bar Association website where you can search for lawyers by their areas of practice. Keep in mind that the lawyers recommended are merely members of the Bar Association, and the referral is generally not based on personal knowledge of the lawyer and their abilities.

Lawyers.com and Avvo.com, two sites that are part of the Nolo family, provide free lawyer directories. These directories allow you to search by location and area of law, and they list detailed information about lawyers. You can visit www.lawyers.com/find-a-lawyer or www.avvo.com/find-a-lawyer to find out more.

Ask others who have been through the disability process. When you're injured or recovering from an illness, you might be involved in rehabilitation with other disabled individuals, such as at physical rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and other places of service. Additionally, you may get to know individuals who are disabled through work or work training, living situations, or other community activities.

The advantage of asking someone who has been through the disability process before is that they can tell you about their experience working with a particular lawyer, disability firm, or disability advocate. Helpful, objective information that you can ask about includes whether:

  • the representative was helpful in answering questions and explaining things
  • the representative got back to the client in a reasonable amount of time when a message was left, and
  • the representative followed through on the deadlines and commitments made to the client.

Deciding on a Disability Representative

Once you have the names of some lawyers or advocates who you might ask to represent you in your disability claim, you should set up appointments to meet with them. Generally, representatives will meet with you for free to talk to you about your claim and to decide if they're able to take your case. It's a good idea at these meetings to ask about their experience with Social Security disability cases and with cases like yours.

Below are some things you should look for when hiring a disability lawyer or advocate.

  • You should feel comfortable speaking with them. You should be able to tell the lawyer or advocate information about yourself openly and honestly. You should review your medical history and physical or mental problems, since the disability may be hard to talk about, but it is important that the representative has all of that information.
  • You should not feel like you're being judged for things you have or have not done. If you feel like you are being judged, you might unintentionally withhold information. And if a representative doesn't know all of your information, they can't properly prepare your case to give you the best chance at receiving benefits.
  • You should feel like you're being heard and understood by the representative. You shouldn't feel rushed or like your case is not a priority for the representative.
  • You should feel you trust the representative that you choose. The representative will play a very essential part in your Social Security disability process, and you need to be able to work together well.

As you go through the process of finding a disability representative, it's important to remember what roles disability lawyers play. It isn't their job to tell you what you want to hear. Rather, they are there to provide you with a realistic view of the pros and cons of your claim and to use their knowledge and skill set to help you to get Social Security disability benefits if possible.

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