Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Find a Lawyer

In the old days, before I got my license, attorneys could not advertise.  Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977) changed the landscape.  Bates qualifies as a watershed decision that changed the landscape of how attorneys tell you, the consumer, about their services. 

Before Bates, finding an attorney required asking around.  Other people had used the attorney in the past, had dealings with the attorney, or knew of the attorney's reputation.  The good will of the attorney pushed the practice of law. 

But that isn't true anymore.  Many people find their attorneys the modern way, on the internet.  This is similar to the predecessor to the internet, the yellow pages.  The television provides fertile ground to market the attorney's wares.  Does the presence of an advertisement in the yellow pages, on television, or on the internet speak highly of the attorney's ability, reputation for honesty, or general integrity?  No.  The presence of advertisement in any media speaks to the willingness to spend money on an advertisement in the yellow pages, on television, or on the internet.  That investment leads to some measure of financial success when engenders more advertisement in the yellow pages, on television, or on the internet which serves to heighten the perception of ability, never implicating honesty or integrity. 

60 Minutes aired a piece called Disability, USA.  If that isn't enough, 60 Minutes Overtime has another internet piece What happens when the U.S. disability fund runs dry? The leaders of the Association of Administrative Law Judges makes the point in the aired piece that attorneys are in the disability practice because it is lucrative.  That is true.  Attorneys have to eat too.  So says Chief Judge Alex Kozinski in Moreno v. City of Sacramento.  So attorneys are not likely to engage in an area of practice that doesn't put food on the table and keep the lights on at home. 

So what does that have to do with picking an attorney?  Everything.  The truth of the matter is that the practice of most kinds of law becomes easier with time and experience.  Disability litigation before the Social Security Administration takes out the learning curve for the majority of winning cases.  Most disability cases are won or lost before the case gets heard by an Administrative Law Judge.  People without attorneys win a healthy percentage of their claims.  So we know that an attorney doesn't have to be very good at all to win 40% to 50% of the cases that he or she brings to SSA.  The problem is that to win 60% to 80% of the cases that an attorney has requires that person to either reject cases on the cusp or to work 50% harder on all the cases in the office. 

Those really are the three kinds of attorneys out there practicing disability before SSA:  those that do only marginally better than a lay person; those that select on the very best cases and reject the rest even though they are winnable; and those that work harder on every case resulting in lower case volume.  Within those three broad categories, there are variations and exceptions.  But you are the consumer and you need to find out whether your attorney throws everything against the wall with minimal or no effort, just to pick of the winners selected by the Administrative Law Judge or whether you attorney only takes the low hanging fruit if easy winners (you probably don't need an attorney), or if your attorney takes the responsibility of representation seriously and will do everything ethical to win. 

That is the fundamental problem.  To run a business, attorneys need to be either the minimal effort and see what sticks model or the very selective model.  The minimal effort and see what sticks model is just plain unethical.  It isn't representation at all.  The highly selective model discourages many valid claims but ethically represents those selected.  The last model, the over the top model, that is the attorney you want in your corner. 

So back to the topic after a bit of digression:

1.  Don't rely on advertisements, ever.
2.  If you must rely on advertisements, don't rely on ads to hide the name of the attorney, ever.
3.  Ask attorneys that don't handle your kind of case for a referral to someone that does. 
4.  Ask judges, expert witnesses, or others in the industry.
5.  If you have an attorney appearing at your hearing, ask him or her if he or she will get paid more, less, or the same if he or she wins your case. 
6.  Check out the attorney's reputation for skill, honesty, and integrity. 

Good luck.  Half of all lawyers are below average, in case you didn't know. 

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for the advice, I will have to talk to my uncle about it. He has been thinking about hiring a social security disability lawyer up here in Minnesota. He has never worked with lawyers before, so he was just going to go in to the one that he always saw on commercials.

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  2. Thank you for this informative blog, Attorney Rohlfing. Experience supports your categories of disability attorneys. I find that the more "mainstream" the law office, the less time and attention the attorney(s) will give to any one case. Claimants should especially be wary of one law firm in particular, who advertise nationally "We'll deal with the Government. You have enough to worry about." When a law firm favors quantity over quality, many cases that could be won with a little research will often be abandoned in pursuit of the cases that have obvious, visible impairments. When choosing a disability attorney, it is definitely a case of "caveat emptor".

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  3. Thanks for all the great advice. I need to find a social security disability lawyer in Cincinnati, OH and don't even know where to begin. This is really helpful!

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  4. Thank you for the facts you stated. I have a friend looking for a minneapolis social security lawyer. I will have to show her this post before she decides on one.

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  5. My father has been trying to get a social security attorney in Chicago IL. I believe your information will help us a lot! Thank you so much!

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  6. Wow I had no idea that practicing disability for SSA was like that.. I will pay more attention now while looking for an Orlando social security disability attorney. Thanks for the information, that really clears things up!

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  7. I am wheelchair bound and tried to apply for social security disability and the SSA denied me. I want to take my case to a well-known Orlando Social Security Disability Attorney. What information will I need to bring with me to an interview with the attorney?

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  8. My friend's grandma is looking for a good place to help her with social security disability in Minnesota. I'll let him know what to look for know that I know a bit more. Thanks for the information!

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  9. I was wondering how I could find a lawyer. My mother is needing a social security attorney in Chicago IL. She definitely deserves it but isn't getting it for some reason.

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  10. My brother got into an accident, and he is looking for a great disability lawyer in weymouth ma. Any sources or suggestions? Thanks for the help!

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  12. When looking for a social security attorney, it is important that you look at many different things to decide if they are the right one for you. My mom had to hire someone and she said she is glad that she found someone that helped her out with her case. http://www.ohio-comp.com/social-security

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  13. Finding a right lawyer is one of the most important task because good lawyer can help you lot in your legal divorce process. lawyer you are looking to hire should have good amount of knowledge about legal process.

    find a lawyer

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  14. Lawyers are something you need to be wise with especially if it's for your identity. If someone has your identity then you better make sure you choose the best lawyer to help you get you back.

    Edmund Well | http://www.gieg-law.com/services.nxg

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  15. I like your list of what you should do when looking for an attorney. It's smart to ask an attorney for one case for suggestion about an attorney for a different case. It's smart, because then they'll give you a better answer. http://www.daglawteam.com/social-security/

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  16. I like how, right up front, you say don't trust advertisements, ever. I really agree with that piece of advice. Most advertisements make people and businesses look better than they may be, so it's good to take them with a grain of salt at first. Definitely check them out before choosing any attorney.
    -Seamus | http://www.largelaw.com/social-security-disability/

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  17. The internet is such a great place to find almost anything that you might need. I haven't looked up an ad in the yellow pages for years, and I think it will be only a matter of years before the yellow pages becomes completely obsolete. When looking for a disability lawyer, the internet is such a great place to find reviews as well. http://www.lostjobs.ca/en/disability_claims.html

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  18. I didn't realize that advertisements for lawyers could be misleading! I'm glad that there are still ways to find a good honest lawyer though. Especially in cases of disability, those people deserve to be treated with respect and trust. Thanks for sharing these tips!
    Rae | http://www.attorneylindsayrand.com/profile.html

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