Which type of disability lawyer do you want handling your case?

Here, we discuss two different types of disability lawyers and which may be best.

I once received an email from an attorney who is a partner of a large firm that specializes in Social Security Disability - SSI, Workers compensation, and LTD (long term disability). Before getting into his reason for emailing me, he made mention of the fact that his firm was not a "mill"; in other words, they did not take any and every case they could get their hands on.

In saying this, he seemed to be casting aspersions on practices that did utilize the approach of taking every case that walked through the door, or called on the phone.

I understood what he was saying and I gathered his attitude was something similar to this: the Social Security Disability and SSI cases that are currently in the system would move a lot faster if the system wasn't bogged down with so many dubious cases. I'm sure a fair number of reps think the same way.

However, contrast this opinion with the approach taken by another law firm (won't mention names): They take every case they can get their hands on. You walk through their doors, they'll take you. You call them up on the phone and they'll have your new client papers complete with ssa-1696, ssa-827s, and fee agreement out in the mail to you the very same day.

The gentleman from the first firm might have some disparaging remarks about the second firm. But whose approach is better?

Surprising though it may initially sound, I would have to say the second firm has the better approach and here's why. Disability lawyers and non attorney reps sometimes decline taking a case based on an assesment that is somewhat superficial and often incorrect. For example:

1. Some claimants, such as those with mental impairments, may not have enough insight into their condition to adequately describe their limitations.

2. Some claimants may present a picture of a case that seems "not so strong" now; however, due to worsening health (and this is unfortunate), they may present with a much stronger case farther into the claim process.

Here's what a partner at the second firm had to say about the way his firm handled the intake of new cases: "We don't prejudge cases. We take them and at the proper time we gather the medical updates. Then we know what we're looking at. At least this way, we give our clients a chance".

Obviously, this entails the "Come one, come all !" approach, which is derogated by some. But this, I think, is a good thing. Because at the second firm, they take the cases of disability claimants which other attorneys and non attorneys had declined taking----and they still win nearly 71% of their cases. Good for the attorneys, no question there. But also good for the claimants who couldn't get help elsewhere.

Oh, I should probably mention this. Some firms advertise a 90% win rate (and I am not denying this is true), but, often, this involves screening out every potential new case except for the obvious winners (meets or equals a listing or is 55 years old with medium past work, and a light RFC). Regarding that, the guy at the second firm once made this comment: "We don't take just the slamdunks. What would be the challenge in that?"

And if you're looking for someone to represent your disability claim, that's probably the kind of advocate you want: someone who wants to try and win your case even if its a little hard, versus someone who just wants to do a cakewalk with a fee at the end.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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