Wade Coye, Disability Attorney
Congress allows non-lawyers to serve as “advocates” and represent people filing Social Security disability claims. Unquestionably, consumers have many choices when it comes to hiring someone to assist with their Social Security disability claim, including many lawyers and law firms, or these non-lawyer advocates. While many advocates are not lawyers, all lawyers are advocates for their clients.
I am undoubtedly biased – I am a lawyer who represents many disabled clients, after all – and our office only sends lawyers to hearings that take place before Social Security Administrative law judges. Therefore, I strongly recommend to every person filing a Social Security disability claim to hire a licensed attorney to represent them.
The question is: why? Why should someone hire an attorney to represent them in a case involving the Social Security Administration if they have the option not to? What are the advantages? There are many reasons that consumers may not be aware of, but which will act in their favor. These reasons include:
- A maximum level of cost. Social Security law limits the payment that attorneys or advocates can receive, so for the same amount of money why not hire a licensed attorney?
- Education, experience, and training. A lawyer who has studied disability law, trained to be a Social Security disability representative, and is experienced in the specifics of the case process may be more informed on current trends and law changes, as well as may have access to a variety of resources that non-lawyer professionals don’t.
- Binding ethical standards. Attorneys are at risk of losing their license to practice law if mistakes are made, fraudulent practices are committed, or their behavior is otherwise unethical. Attorneys are overseen by their state’s bar administration and there are recourse measures for clients who feel an unethical act has been committed.
There are many more reasons someone with a Social Security disability claim may want to consider hiring a lawyer for their case. One of my clients put it very well once as an analogy to medical treatment. He said: “If I have surgery I may want a nurse in attendance, but I don’t want the nurse doing the surgery.” For the best chance at the best possible outcome, a Social Security disability attorney is the way to go.