Only 20.3% of people applying for a disability claim win the case on their initial application. The odds are even worse when you’re at the reconsideration or hearing stage, where getting the help of a lawyer can be the factor that makes or breaks your case.
This article will discuss why you need a good disability lawyer, how you can look for one, and the questions you should ask to find the best disability lawyer for your disability claim.
Why do I need a good disability lawyer?
Working with the right lawyer can be critical; you’re three times more likely to win disability benefits with legal representation.
Besides the better odds of winning your case, having the best SSDI or SSI attorney can relieve you of the headaches involved in the arduous application process. The right social security disability lawyer can help you prepare and fill in the paperwork required, and can help you make the best possible case when you’re speaking to a judge.
However, there’s always a chance of you working with a bad lawyer, especially if you don’t vet them heavily enough.
A few “tells” of bad lawyers:
- They’re slow to submit paperwork and gather medical records
- They won’t help with, or guide you through, the initial application
- They show up at your hearing, but don’t cross-examine the witnesses..
- They don’t respond to your messages or phone calls.
- They drop your case right before the hearing.
- They accept your case before evaluating it and later drop it because they find it difficult to win.
You can fire your lawyer if they don’t do the work, but it can be logistically difficult to find new representation—especially if your hearing is fast approaching.
So how do you go about looking for the best social security attorney?
How do I look for a good disability lawyer?
You find a lawyer through online searching or word of mouth recommendations. Or, you can reach out to our team at Atticus. We vet law firms, give legal advice, and match you with the right lawyer for your case. . Let’s address each method.
Evaluating a lawyer on your own
Whether you’re relying on an internet search, or vetting a word-of-mouth recommendation, there are a few criteria to keep in mind when evaluating a lawyer.
Primary area of practice
You may get recommended lawyers that win in other areas of law, but that doesn’t mean they have the right experience for social security disability. Confirm that they only take, or primarily take disability cases—so you know they’ll understand, and prioritize, your case.
Just knowing most of the reviews are good isn’t enough. Make sure you really read the content of the reviews. What you want to see is that the lawyer is really responsive and cares about their clients.
A few bad reviews here and there shouldn’t be cause for alarm—but keep an eye out for patterns. If you’re reading the same points over and over again, like “never calls me back” or “doesn’t show up at hearing”—this might not be a lawyer you can trust.
Don’t treat a single bad review of a lost case as a negative sign: this could mean that the lawyer is willing to take chances.
Generally, if the lawyer went to Harvard Law, that’s a good sign. If they went to a for-profit law school, that’s a bad sign.
Most lawyers fall somewhere in—so as long as their background looks reputable, you don’t need to overthink or overvalue their education.
Number of years practicing
Look at how long the lawyer has been practicing. You want to look for lawyers that have been working for a long time as there’s a higher chance of them already working on cases similar to yours.
New lawyers can be good too, but they’re harder to vet without a legal background.
Having a local lawyer could be good since they can know the local judges, and you yourself can get to know the lawyer personally.
However, if you don’t have any good lawyers in your area, you can look for someone who works nationally—especially if they have a history of taking cases in your region.
Whether or not you can meet your lawyer face to face shouldn’t be a deciding factor unless it’s really important to you. Most disability lawyers are used to working with clients that may not be able to attend regular meetings, so they have a lot of experience in remote work. And since SSDI and SSI are federal programs, there aren't any local laws they need to know.
Working with Atticus
You start by filling out a short quiz that walks you through the basic disability eligibility criteria. If you’re likely to be eligible, Atticus will talk with you about the application process, provide you with legal advice, and connect you with the best social security attorney for your case. Our services are always free.
At Atticus, we’ve spent years vetting disability lawyers and have built a network of legal teams that we trust to treat our clients well, and to win their cases. If you want our help evaluating the right disability lawyer for you, sign up here.
How can I know whether the lawyer I'm talking to is good?
Once you’ve found someone you think can work on your case, the next step is to reach out to them.
4 key questions to ask when vetting your disability lawyer
Make sure you ask the lawyer how they treat their clients. You don’t want to work with someone that has an excellent grasp of the law, but doesn’t communicate with you regularly or worse, doesn’t prepare when showing up at your hearing.
Here are some questions you can ask your social security attorney:
- How do you reach out to/communicate with your clients? Do you email them, call them or text them?
Check if the lawyer responds quickly and really puts their clients first. There is no right or wrong answer here. You should just see if their communication style fits yours.
- How do you prepare for a hearing?
Bad lawyers often show up on the day of the hearing with no preparation. Good lawyers meet with the client at least once or twice before the hearing and go over the case.
- Can I contact you whenever I have a question?
You should be able to speak to a lawyer if you need to. Good lawyers should be available to their clients even if they have paralegals or other staff to handle most of the case.
- Do you fill out the application for me by yourself?
The best answer is yes, they fill out the application for you. But if their response is no, do not disregard them immediately. They might have a rationale specific to their knowledge of your local Disability Determination Service office.
Are there red flags I should be aware of?
One red flag would be when you ask the disability lawyer how they prepare for a hearing, and they answer that they hire people the day of.
Some firms do this: they hire lawyers that aren’t even part of their firm to attend the hearing, and this means that they may not know about your case well enough to fight for you before the judge.
Other than that, pay attention to the answers the lawyer gives to all the questions above. Essentially, you’re looking for a social security disability attorney that is responsive, thoughtful, and really puts the clients first.
Looking for a lawyer myself vs. Working with Atticus
A lot is involved in the process of vetting a lawyer. If you don’t have the time to, looking for a lawyer through a tool like Atticus is the better choice.
Without a legal background, it’s hard to test lawyers on their knowledge of the law. At Atticus, we’ve spent years vetting disability lawyers and have built a network of legal teams that we trust to treat our clients well, and to win their cases. If you want our help evaluating the right disability lawyer for you, sign up here (our services are free).