How to Choose a Lawyer For Your Social Security Disability Case

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Getting Social Security disability benefits can be a long and complicated process. You will work closely with your lawyer and her staff. Before you hire a lawyer you must do your homework. The following steps will help you find a lawyer who can best meet your needs.

  1. Get as much information as you can before you talk to a lawyer. First, go to her website. Is there helpful information on the website about the process you will go through to get Social Security disability benefits? Or is the website just about the lawyer and her law firm? You want a lawyer who will share helpful information and teach you about the Social Security disability process.
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  1. When you call the lawyer’s office, how are you treated? Is this staff rushed or do they treat you like a welcomed visitor? Are they helpful? Are they empathetic? The lawyer sets the tone for the office. How her staff treats you is a good indication of how the lawyer will treat you.
  2. You should meet with the lawyer, either in person or in a telephone consult if it is too difficult for you to get to the office. Were you given a choice? You should be!
  3. When you talk to the lawyer, ask about her experience handling Social Security disability cases. How long has she been handling these cases? What percent of her practice involves Social Security disability cases? Some lawyers only devote a small percentage of their time to these cases, making it difficult for them to keep up with changes in the rules and regulations. In addition, they may not be as familiar with the judges who hear, and ultimately decide, these cases. You should look for a lawyer who devotes 50% or more of her time to Social Security disability cases.
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  1. Ask the lawyer what her success rate is for Social Security disability cases. No lawyer wins every case and no lawyer can guarantee a specific result in your case. Each case is different and must be evaluated on its own facts. You want to ask this question to get an idea of how carefully the lawyer evaluates these cases throughout the process. Social Security disability cases are won or lost on the medical evidence. Your disability lawyer should continually evaluate the evidence to determine if she can prove that you are disabled. If the evidence does not support the claim, a good disability lawyer will tell you so and not take the case further unless additional evidence is available. You should look for an attorney with an 85% + success rate.
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  1. Ask the lawyer if she has any trial experience. Trial lawyers are trained to develop evidence, present it in the court room and argue the case to a judge or jury. Social Security disability cases may go to a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. It is beneficial to have a lawyer with trial experience representing you in these cases.
  2. Ask the lawyer if she has any medical or nursing training. Social Security disability cases are won or lost on the medical evidence and the evidence of physical or psychological limitations. A lawyer with medical knowledge will understand your disabling condition and be in a better position to develop the evidence and present it to the judge.
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  1. Ask the attorney how she will develop your case. You want to know that your lawyer will gather your pertinent medical records throughout the process, not just before your hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. In addition, your lawyer should collect specific information from your treating doctors about the limitations that prevent you from working. Your lawyer will do this through the use of special disability reports and disease questionnaires. These reports will help to strengthen your case. If the lawyer you interview is not going to take these additional steps to gather evidence, you should keep looking.
  2. Ask the lawyer why she chose to work on Social Security disability cases. The answer to this question is very telling. For me, helping clients get their disability benefits is one of the greatest joys in practicing law.

I know that my staff and I can make a difference in our clients’ lives. Clients come into my office troubled, frustrated, worried and in pain. We work through the process together and there is no better feeling than calling a client to report that they have been approved for Social Security disability benefits.

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  1. Ask the lawyer who will be working on your case. The lawyer should have staff to help gather your medical records and develop the evidence. Social Security disability cases are document intensive. It is important that there is sufficient staff to obtain, maintain and file all of the necessary documents.
  2. How are you treated by the lawyer? Do you feel welcomed or do you feel like a number? Ask who you can talk to if you have questions as the case develops. When can you expect a return phone call? Phone calls should be answered within 24 hours. While the attorney will not be able to return every phone call herself there should be sufficient staff available to answer your questions.
  3. Do you feel comfortable with the lawyer and her staff? You are entering a long-term relationship so you must feel comfortable. During the initial consultation, were your questions answered? Were you treated with respect? Was the Social Security disability process described and explained to your satisfaction? Were the office procedures explained? If the answer to any of these questions is no, you should keep looking.
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  1. What do the lawyer’s clients say about her? Go to her website. Are there testimonials from former clients? Is she willing to let you contact other clients for a reference? The best way to understand how you will be treated is to talk to other clients.

For most people trying to get Social Security disability benefits, hiring a lawyer is the best thing they can do to improve their chances of winning. However, you need to have the lawyer who is right for you. Taking the time to gather the information outlined above will help you to make the right decision.

When you are either investigated for a federal crime or charged with a federal crime, you need a lawyer that understands federal criminal law. Not all criminal lawyers are prepared to defend you in a federal criminal case. The United States Attorney only pursues the most serious crimes, such as drug crimes, sex crimes, interstate fraud, kidnapping murder, RICO, and gun crimes. In addition, the federal sentencing guidelines are much harsher than most state sentencing guidelines. There is no parole in the federal system. Although there is time off for good behavior, it is not substantial and you can expect to serve virtually your entire sentence. This is why it is critical that you hire a federal criminal defense lawyer who knows the federal criminal system.

When you hire a qualified federal criminal defense lawyer, there are several things that he should do immediately. First, he should determine the progress of the case. If you are under investigation and have not been charged yet, then it is still possible to avoid a criminal charge. If you have been charged, your lawyer should be prepared to start the case immediately and begin discovery.

The second, and probably the most important step, for a qualified lawyer is to determine the possible sentence. This is more than just looking at the statute. A qualified lawyer will also look at your criminal history and determine whether there are any mitigating factors that could shorten a possible sentence or any aggravating factors that could increase your sentence. This is absolutely critical, because it is the cornerstone of an effective federal criminal defense. In order to create an effective case strategy, your lawyer must be able to predict where you will fall in the federal sentencing guidelines. This is because the US Attorney’s Office has a very high win rate at trial. Your lawyer should base the case strategies against the risks you face in the case. If you lawyer understands the federal sentencing guidelines, then he can tell you the pros and cons of various strategies measured against the risks in the case.

Third, do not pick a lawyer that is afraid to go to trial, but you also don’t want a lawyer who claims to always go to trial. A lawyer who is afraid to go to trial will not be able to stand up for your and protect your rights, which is exactly what you want a lawyer from a lawyer in a federal criminal case. A lawyer who says he always goes to trial is putting you at risk, particularly if you are looking at a high end sentence under the federal guidelines. The bottom line is that you want a lawyer who can either get you a dramatic sentence reduction or who can fight for you in front of the judge and jury. If a lawyer cannot do both things for you, then that lawyer is putting you at risk of doing much more time in federal prison that you have to do.

Fourth and finally, pick a lawyer that you can work with for several months or years. Federal criminal cases can last a very long time. If you pick a lawyer that you do not trust or who you cannot work with, it could hurt your case. If you decide to change lawyers, you will most likely have to get the court’s permission. When the court gives you permission, your new lawyer has to get up to speed on your case quickly and be ready to respond to the prosecution almost immediately. Make sure you make a good choice the first time you hire a lawyer, and then stick with that lawyer. The other part of this is that you do not want to shop for a lawyer based on price. You should be cautious about a lawyer who offers a cut rate, because that lawyer may never intend to go to trial or may not be qualified enough to command the usual rate for federal criminal defense lawyers. Your future is riding on your lawyer, now is not the time to skimp.

Right now, you need to do whatever it takes to get the best possible federal criminal defense lawyer. It is stressful when you are under a federal investigation or have been charged with a federal crime, but a qualified federal criminal defense lawyer can help. Your lawyer can take some of that stress off of you, he can tell you what your options are, he can explain the risks, and he can fight for you every step of the way.

By David H. Fuller.

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