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Ask Atticus: Can You Use an Out-of-State Disability Lawyer?

Written by
Sarah Aitchison
September 29, 2023  ·  3 min read
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Dear Atticus,

You matched me with a disability lawyer for my disability hearing in a few months, but the lawyer lives in another state. I was expecting to get a lawyer who lives near me so we could meet in person before my hearing. But instead, my disability lawyer is all the way across the country — I live in Montana, and they’re in Colorado. Why did you match me with a lawyer who’s so far away? Can I even use a disability lawyer who doesn’t live in my state?

Sincerely,  Afraid of Getting Denied Again

Dear Afraid of Getting Denied Again,

Yes, you can use an out-of-state disability lawyer, and a good lawyer in another state is just as likely to help you win benefits as someone who lives near you.

SSDI and SSI are federal programs, so a qualified disability lawyer from any state in the U.S. can help you with your disability application, appeals, and hearings. Plus, since the pandemic, a lot of hearings happen over the phone — which means it isn’t necessary for your lawyer to visit the court in person. Many lawyers even work remotely with clients who live in their state, meaning they will talk with you and prepare you for a hearing over the phone or by video call instead of at a physical office.

A good remote lawyer is better than a mediocre local lawyer. And Atticus works hard to vet all the lawyers we work with and match you with a lawyer who we think will be a good fit for your case. It’s all about giving yourself the best chances possible of winning your case, and sometimes that means an out-of-state lawyer.

Don’t I need to meet my lawyer face-to-face?

It’s not mandatory to meet with your disability lawyer in person, as long as you have a clear way to communicate with them. And Atticus will always provide you with your lawyer’s phone number so that you have a way to connect with them.

Lawyers can effectively gather medical records, submit applications, file appeals, and communicate with clients remotely. In fact, handling cases electronically can save time and streamline the process. In many cases, local lawyers might prefer phone or video calls over meeting their clients in an office, so it doesn’t matter where your lawyer is based.

Does a local lawyer increase my chances of winning benefits?

No, having a local lawyer does not increase your chances of winning disability benefits. SSDI and SSI are federal programs, and the application and hearing process is the same from state to state.

In certain cases, hiring a local lawyer can be advantageous. A reputable local attorney might know the judges in the hearing office and be able to shape your case accordingly. But Atticus only works with lawyers who we trust to put in the time and research to give you the best chance of winning, and having a great out-of-state lawyer is better than an average local lawyer. 

Does an out-of-state lawyer cost more?

No, working with a lawyer in a different state does not cost more than working with a local lawyer. There are no upfront costs for working with a disability lawyer. You only pay your lawyer if they win your case, and the maximum a disability lawyer can receive is capped at $7,200, in any state.

What does a lawyer do that I can’t?

There is no requirement to have a lawyer at your disability hearing, but a good attorney can help streamline the process and increase your chances of winning by three times. Lawyers can help:

  • Review your case and set expectations

  • Submit your application

  • Collect medical records

  • Navigate the appeals process

  • Prepare you for and represent you at a hearing 

  • Handle post-hearing files and appeals 

The bottom line is working with a good disability lawyer for your hearing is one of the smartest moves you can make. 

How do I find a good disability lawyer?

The quality and experience of a disability lawyer are more important than their location. When asking for attorney recommendations or searching online, consider the following:

  1. Practice area: A good lawyer primarily takes disability cases and has experience in that field of law. While some disability lawyers also handle workers’ comp cases, someone who mostly takes personal injury or employment law cases may not be a good fit.

  2. Education: It is important to find a lawyer who attended an accredited law school. 

  3. Experience: A lawyer with several years of experience helping clients win benefits will have the expertise necessary to help you through the process. 

  4. Reputation: A good disability lawyer will have consistently positive reviews from past clients. Be sure to look for reviews about an attorney’s communication style, preparation, and availability to clients. Make sure you also look for patterns in any negative reviews. Everyone loses cases sometimes but if all bad reviews say the lawyer was rude or unprepared, that’s a worrisome trend. 

How should I work with an out-of-state lawyer?

Communication is essential whether you are working with an out-of-state lawyer or a local attorney. It’s helpful to discuss your preferred times and methods of communication with your lawyer from the start. Ask your lawyer about their availability — a good lawyer is available to their clients, even if paralegals or other staff members are also working on your case with you.

It is important to gather as much medical information as possible to support your lawyer. Having a list of your doctors and their contact information will help your lawyer obtain the necessary medical information for your case.

Here at Atticus, we match disability applicants with the best lawyers for their cases. Our vast network of vetted lawyers across the country is full of lawyers who can increase the odds of winning your case. Start by taking our 2-minute disability benefits quiz. Then someone from our team will contact you about the next steps.

All the best,


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Sarah Aitchison


Sarah is an attorney at Atticus Law, P.C. Prior to joining Atticus, she was a civil public defender in Brooklyn, NY and a business reporter in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.
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