If you are making an appeal or preparing for a social security disability hearing, your greatest asset while you make your case is an experienced SSDI lawyer. You should seek out a lawyer as soon as you know that you will go through a hearing or another part of the social security disability process beyond your early applications; the longer you wait, the less time you will have to work with the lawyer to prepare your case.
When you have a lawyer or law firm in mind, the first step is to call and ask to schedule a consultation, which is frequently free. During this meeting, you will give your potential SSDI lawyer enough of an outline of your situation to discuss your case, but this is also your chance to interview your potential lawyer and decide whether this is the right person to represent and advise you. There are three basic types of questions you should ask:
Basic Opening Questions for Your SSDI Lawyer
These are the first questions, the ones that determine whether the SSDI lawyer will be able to work with you and represent your case. Confirm that the potential lawyer is a licensed attorney, since, while it is permitted for advocates who are not attorneys to represent you in a disability hearing, it is more prudent to have someone you know is educated on this area of law. Not only will this give your case a better chance, it is uncommon for attorneys to charge more than non-attorney advocates.
Clarify whether the lawyer will be able to continue to represent you if your case proceeds to federal court; those that do not will probably be able to refer you to another attorney who can, if the case goes that far.
Then ask about the attorney’s office location and training. In order to have a chance to meet in person before the date of the hearing, you will want to find an SSDI lawyer somewhere in your area, or at least not outside your state. Lawyers and firms farther afield may be excellent representation, but they will not be familiar with the administrative law judges in your area. Some large firms have offices in multiple locations: Disparti Law Group is located in both Florida and Illinois, and we have offices in Tampa, Holiday and Chicago. If you choose such a firm, make sure you have an attorney in the location nearest to you.
As for training, a general practitioner attorney is unlikely to be familiar with disability law, so it’s best to have an SSDI lawyer with education or training specific to the field. Look for lawyers and firms who are members of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives (NOSSCR), since these people will have regularly updated training and continuing education on the changing field of disability law.
You should also ask a few questions to determine whether your potential social security disability lawyer is willing to spend the time required to assist you in preparing your case. Over-the-phone discussions should not be your only contact before the date of the hearing: make sure your lawyer is willing to meet with you before then, and ask how frequently you will discuss the case during this time.
There are two things you need to know about costs and finances from the outset: what kind of fees will be charged, and whether there are further costs due to case-related expenses. Make sure you are clear on the payment of fees for different contingencies: most social security disability lawyers charge a percentage of any disability back benefits you will receive if you win your case, and the percentage (or other details of payment) is likely to be different if and when your case is denied and moves on to the Appeals Council or a federal court.
Extra Mile Questions
There are a handful of actions an SSDI lawyer can take that may make the process easier or raise your chances of success. Ask whether your potential lawyer would consider arranging a consultative examination (CE) if the case calls for it.
Also, ask whether the attorney thinks an on-the-record (OTR) request might be appropriate for your case: this is an extensive and time-costly document that requests your hearing judge to approve your case without going forward with the hearing and usually only works if there is clear and extensive evidence of your disability. A social security disability lawyer should be willing to at least consider the option.
If you are looking for a reliable, experienced and trustworthy social security disability attorney, Disparti Law Group is willing to put in the time and effort to best represent you. Contact us at any time to discuss your options or schedule a consultation.