If you become disabled and need the help of a lawyer to help you apply for Social Security disability -- or appeal a disability denial -- it can seem an overwhelming task to locate a lawyer that you feel comfortable working with. Because once you locate possible lawyers that you could hire, you will need to meet with the lawyer to determine if they are a good match for you. Once you find a lawyer whom you like, he or she can help you greatly in your Social Security disability case.
Locating a Disability Lawyer
There are many ways in which you can go about finding a lawyer to handle your disability case, including:
Ask your lawyer. If you have an existing relationship with a lawyer (such as one you have used to handle other legal issues), you can ask that lawyer for a reference to another lawyer who has experience with Social Security disability law. Lawyers are generally very careful when giving referrals, because if you have a bad experience with the lawyer they recommended, it will be bad for both lawyers’ reputations.
Ask family and friends. The people that you are close to may have experience with disability lawyers without your being aware of it. There are many reasons family and friends may know disability lawyers, such as a friendship or work relationship. It would be helpful to have family or friend recommend someone they trust, as it may help you to feel at ease with the lawyer.
Ask others who have been through the disability process. Often times when you are disabled you are involved in rehabilitation with other disabled individuals, such as at 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 process before is that they can tell you about their experience working with that particular lawyer (though you do not want to be overly influenced by others' experiences, which are apt to be different than yours). Helpful, objective information that you can ask about include whether:
- the lawyer was helpful in answering questions and explaining things
- the lawyer got back to the client in a reasonable amount of time when a message was left, and
- the lawyer followed through on the deadlines and commitments made to the client.
Arrange a free consultation using our attorney locator tool. This is the quickest way to get started finding a lawyer. You just enter your zip code, and then you'll be given the names of several lawyers or law firms to choose from. The lawyers or law firms will contact you to arrange a consultation, to see if they can help you win your case. Arrange a lawyer consultation here.
Check with the local Bar Association. In every state and county there is 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. Your local Bar Association may also be reached by phone. Multiple names will likely be provided to you for you to choose from. 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.
Look on the Internet or in the phone book. If the above ways do not help you locate an attorney, you can look in the phone book or on the Internet. The advantage of the Internet is that you will likely be able to find more information about individual lawyers, such as reviews from previous clients and ratings from professional associations. You will also likely be able to find if the lawyer has had any disciplinary actions against them in the past. For instance, Nolo's online lawyer directory provides comprehensive profiles for each attorney that tell you about the lawyer's experience, training, and general philosophy of practicing law.
The phone book provides you with contact information but nothing further. With regards to ads placed on the Internet or in the phone book, lawyers are held to a strict code of ethics for advertisements and may not put false or misleading information in their ads.
Deciding on a Disability Lawyer
Once you have names of lawyers that you may like to hire for your disability case, you should set up appointments to meet with them. Generally, lawyers will meet with you for free to talk to you about your case and to decide if they are able to take your case at that time. It is okay at these meetings to ask about the lawyer's experience with Social Security disability cases and with cases like yours.
Below are some things you should look for when hiring a disability lawyer.
- You should feel comfortable speaking with the lawyer. You should be able to tell the lawyer 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 lawyer has all of that information.
- You should not feel like you are being judged by the lawyer for things you have or have not done. If you feel like you are being judged, you might unintentionally withhold information. And if your lawyer does not know all information about you, he or she cannot properly prepare your case to give you the best chance at receiving benefits.
- You should feel like you are being heard and understood by the lawyer. You should not feel rushed or like your case is not a priority for the lawyer.
- You should feel you trust the lawyer that you choose. The lawyer 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 lawyer, it is important to remember what roles disability lawyers play. It is not 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 case and to use their knowledge and skill set to help you to get Social Security disability benefits whenever possible.