Places to Find Disability Lawyers
National directories and groups of disability lawyers and representatives:
AVVO (Hint: If you scroll to the bottom of each lawyer’s page and click on “legal answers” you may see how they have answered other people’s questions. I find this very enlightening.)
NOSSCR – Contact them for names of disability lawyers and reps in your area
NADR – same here
ALLSUP (Hint: They are pretty picky. They turn a lot of people away. Occasionally drop clients. If they don’t screen you out and don’t drop you, some people love them.)
SOAR for People who are Homeless or At Risk (Hint: They are the BEST. Most programs require a mental health diagnosis.)
Do I want a Lawyer?
Lawyers can be a great help, but working with a lawyer does not work out for everyone. If you can take some steps yourself, you can make a great difference.
Learn more about what your lawyer will and won’t do and what you need to do for yourself: How to Work with Your Lawyer
What is Better: An “Attorney” or an “Representative”?
You can hire an “attorney” or you can hire a “non-attorney representative.” These may also be called “disability advocates” or “accredited disability representatives.”
Attorneys are people who went to law school. They did not take any kind of special test about Social Security. They may specialize in Social Security, or they may work in a variety of areas.
Representatives are people who took a special test about Social Security disability. They did not go to law school. Many reps are former employees who used to work for the Social Security administration making disability decisions.
Some people find that representatives are better for initial applications and attorneys are better for appeals.
Attorneys and representatives are equally good. (Even though both sides will tell you that their way is better).
Even though it is incorrect, I tend to call both types “lawyers” because that is what everyone else does, and it makes my sentences less awkward
How Do I Find a Good One?
You can hire a small local firm or a large national firm. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages. (Once again, both groups will tell you that their way is better).
Disability applications can take 2-3 years. If you feel there is any chance you might be moving to a different area in the next few years, you might consider going with a national firm. The large national firms will be able to work with you from any location.
Some people have success finding someone good by asking their doctors if they can recommend a local disability lawyer. If a lawyer has taken the time to develop connections with local doctors this is sometimes a good sign.
I met one person who found a great lawyer by calling several local lawyers and requesting a free consult. At the consult she asked them each to recommend local doctors who might be willing to evaluate her for a disability claim. Three lawyers had nothing to offer, and one was able to share excellent recommendations and explain the strengths and weaknesses of each doctor. I thought this was a rather clever way to find a lawyer (and a doctor).
You can ask for recommendations from other people on disability or you can inquire at local support groups.
I used to think asking for recommendations was a good way to find a lawyer, but I’ve changed my mind. It is a good way to tell whether the lawyer and office staff will be nice to you, answer your questions and return your phone calls. These things will help you feel supported, but they often have nothing do with how good a job the lawyer is actually doing on your case.
Sometimes you can discover things about lawyers by Google searching their name and seeing what other clients have written. I don’t pay too much attention to good reviews, since they may be fake (you can hire people to post good reviews around the internet!), but the negative reviews can be revealing. For large companies, glass door may include some reviews from people who work there.
Beware of stockpiling lawyers. Some disability lawyers and personal injury lawyers do heavy advertising and take on hundreds of clients, saying yes to nearly everyone. Then they let all the cases pile up in their file cabinet. Some cases win and some don’t. Even if only half the cases win, that’s still plenty of money for not too much work. Good for the lawyer; not so good for the client.
If a lawyer is a good salesperson and eager to sign everyone up, this might make me a little wary. Personally, I would prefer a lawyer who is more discerning and takes the time to carefully screen my case or review some of my medical records before deciding to accept me as a client.
Many websites advertising lawyers are actually lawyer referral services. They will refer you to a lawyer in your area and collect a fee for recruiting you. They will may not screen the lawyers or know anything about them. They may just send you to whoever pays the fee.
Just Starting Out?
Many lawyers will not take on clients at the beginning. Don’t worry if this happens. It will be easier to find a lawyer later if you appeal.
You do not need a lawyer for an initial application. You can get one if you want one.
Lawyers generally take 2-3 years to get a case approved (especially for conditions that are not simple to prove, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Lyme Disease). Whenever I meet someone with these conditions who got approved in less than six months, I always ask if they had a lawyer. 99% of the time they did not have a lawyer, or they had a lawyer but took steps to improve their application on their own, usually with help from friends and family.
Other Kinds of Lawyers
The above lawyers are for Social Security Disability. If you are applying for disability through your employer, you will need a different kind of lawyer – one that specializes in ERISA law. From what I have heard these lawyers are often very good and super expensive. Learn more: How to Apply for Disability Through Your Employer.
💠 You may also be able to find a lawyer with knowledge of employer disability through NELA
Updated June 2017. Please comment below with stories, questions, input or ideas. Please let me know if any links on this page stop working.