When you have decided to hire a lawyer — rather than a non-lawyer “representative” — to represent you in your Social Security benefits claim, you need to consider some important factors. Often overlooked, however, is your lawyer’s style. Style does matter. A lot. Why?
A Good Fit
Over my 18 years years of practice, I have known many attorneys. I have noticed that some attorneys gravitate toward areas of law that match their personalities. Areas of law are different. In essence, it is a marriage. A good fit between personality and practice area, in turn, helps the client. For example, criminal law tends to attract attorneys who have hard-driving, suspicious of authority, and aggressive. There are exceptions, of course, but it is good that some attorneys choose the practice areas that play to their tendencies. Estate planning, conversely, tends to attract attorneys who are comfortable with numbers and detail and who, like accountants, size up situations and carefully weigh options before proceeding. Different personalities, different fits.
A Bad Fit
From a client’s perspective, you should know that some attorneys do not quite fit their practice areas. This happens for various reasons. Some chose their practice area only for earnings potential. The marriage is essentially arranged. Some attorneys are idealistic, but mistaken, about what they are getting into. Take family law. In theory, there can be a romantic notion of working with families toward a common good. In practice, it sometimes has little to do with “uniting” families. Finally, some attorneys do not fit their practice areas because they just took the first legal job they got, like their first date, learning later to simply make do or plan to leave it.
From a client’s perspective, a bad fit can play out like a bad marriage. Some are worse or better than others. For the attorney, the question is how well can you adapt your style to foreign terrain. Attorneys need to be different. Different talents are needed. An aggressive attorney can help uncover an improperly handled drunk driving charge. But that same aggressive attorney can cause problems when an estate plan raises too many tax code questions or when the behavior sours important working relationships with judges.
Finding a Good Fit
As a client, you want to hire the best attorney in the best firm possible. You likely, though, have absolutely no idea what kind of people the firm has. You are not doing personality tests. Referrals are a good start. But to see if your Social Security attorney is a good fit to work with the government on your behalf, you should know what an effective Social Security attorney does. This is the key.
I practice Social Security disability law. Since you are at our web site, you may be looking for an attorney. What do Social Security disability attorneys do? We gather and personally read volumes of medical records. We analyze how medical records fit the law. We use technology to track all procedures and the status of all claims. We make daily legal arguments before a small group of the same federal judges. We also cross-examine experts at federal hearings. Most important, though, is that we continually work with a limited group of judges, Social Security staff at all levels, medical facilities, and government experts. Effective Social Security attorneys must get things done through other people. We need to know our limits, and appreciate how we rely on others to help our clients. Without this, attorneys in this practice area can lose credibility. Without credibility, attorneys can create needless goverment obstacles to getting worthy clients approved for Social Security benefits.
Questions for Social Security Attorneys
Knowing that Social Security attorneys must work effectively with many different groups of people, from judges on down, there are 6 good questions a law firm should ABSOLUTELY let you know:
What style representation do you offer in Social Security clients? Aggressive? Passive? Collaborative? No idea?
Have any of your attorneys ever avoided appearing before certain judges? Why?
Has a judge ever asked any of your attorneys to leave a hearing before it was done? Why? Don’t know?
Do you regularly help clients who have “difficult cases” that might be approved but may require more effort?
Does your office have a good working relationship with your local Social Security hearing office? Can you give examples?
Is your firm a law firm that only hires lawyers? Why?
Some attorneys may be convinced that their “style” is right. Straight answers to these questions, though, can help you know whether the cliche “aggressive” or “hard-hitting” lawyer style really fits your needs.
At Hoglund Law Offices, we have consciously hand-selected Social Security attorneys who can work collaboratively with people, even under adverse circumstances. We think of it this way: We believe our attorneys are at our best under pressure. Under pressure, we try to understand what prompts the issues — such as information gaps. Many times, problems arise because the right people do not always have the right information. With over 30 years combined experience, we carve out solutions to help our clients with an eye to maintaining good communication with “the other side”. Our credibility is important.
Finding an effective Social Security attorney is an important choice. Find a collaborative attorney that can confirm examples of this for you, and you should have a good idea whether you have the right attorney for the job.
Andrew Kinney, Esq.