What Is A Best Lawyer For Social Security Disability?

Navigating the Social Security disability benefits process can be complicated and frustrating. Having an experienced disability lawyer on your side can make all the difference in getting approved for the benefits you deserve. But not all lawyers are created equal. Choosing the right one to handle your disability claim is critical for a successful outcome.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the key factors to consider when looking for the best lawyer for your Social Security disability case.

Understanding Social Security Disability Law

Social Security disability law in the United States provides financial assistance and healthcare coverage to those unable to work due to a physical or mental disability. The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees two main federal disability programs:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) – For individuals who have worked and paid Social Security taxes long enough to qualify.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – A needs-based program for disabled adults and children with limited income and resources.

To receive benefits under either program, applicants must meet the SSA’s strict definition of disability. Specifically, you must be unable to engage in “substantial gainful activity” for at least one year due to a severe impairment.

The disability determination process involves extensive medical evidence, work history details, and comprehensive SSA evaluations. Without expert guidance, it can be incredibly difficult for an applicant to successfully navigate. An experienced disability lawyer knows the ins and outs of this complex system. They can help maximize your chances of getting approved the first time around.

Qualities of an Excellent Social Security Disability Lawyer

So what should you look for when choosing a disability lawyer? The best attorneys have a proven track record of success with Social Security cases similar to yours. Here are the top qualities that matter most:

Specialized Expertise in Disability Law

Look for an attorney whose practice focuses specifically on Social Security and SSI disability cases. They should have in-depth knowledge of disability regulations, medical terminology, and how to build a compelling case. General practitioners or those dabbling in disability law as a side practice typically lack the specialized expertise you need.

Extensive Experience Handling Disability Claims

It takes know-how that only comes from years of experience to successfully navigate the system. Seek out a lawyer with an established history of handling many disability cases—ideally ones similar to yours. For example, if you have a mental health disability, find someone with lots of experience in that realm.

Strong Record of Favorable Outcomes

One of the best indicators of quality is a proven track record of getting applicants approved for benefits. Ask about the lawyer’s past case results, approval rating, and record of appeals if clients were initially denied. High attorney approval rates signal you’ll have an advocate adept at presenting persuasive, winning cases.

Strong Reputation for Ethics and Professionalism

As with any lawyer, you want someone who adheres to the highest ethical standards and treats clients professionally. Verify they are in good standing with the bar association and don’t have any disciplinary issues or malpractice claims against them. Also look for great client reviews and testimonials.

Qualities of an Excellent Social Security Disability Lawyer

How to Find Potential Lawyers

Once you understand the credentials that matter, where do you start searching for lawyers that meet these standards? Here are some tips:

Ask for Referrals From Your Social Network

Word-of-mouth is often the best recommendation. Ask trusted friends, family members, doctors, and other professionals if they know of any disability lawyers they’d recommend. Chances are, someone in your network has worked with one before.

Check Online Directories and Bar Association Lists

Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo, and the National Organization of Social Security Claimant’s Representatives provide national directories you can search by location and practice area. Local bar associations also maintain lists of approved disability attorneys in your state or county.

Search Online and Check Reviews

Google search terms like “your city social security disability lawyer” and browse the top results. Thoroughly research any potential candidates. Read online reviews on Google, Facebook, Avvo, and other sites. These provide insights into a lawyer’s customer service, responsiveness, and case successes from past clients.

Consider Large and Small Firms

Both large disability law firms and solo/small practices have pros and cons. Large firms often have more staff resources, but you may not get as much one-on-one time with your lawyer. Solo practitioners don’t have to divide their time among as many cases.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Lawyer

Once you’ve identified lawyers that, on paper, seem qualified, it’s time for exploratory calls or in-person consultations. These allow you to get a feel for their communication style, personality, and approach to disability claims. Come prepared with questions:

  • How long have you been handling Social Security disability cases? How many have you successfully won?
  • What is your approval rate at initial application and hearing levels?
  • Are you familiar with my specific impairment and how it impacts work ability?
  • What is your strategy and process for building a strong case for my situation?
  • How will you keep me informed on the status of my claim as it progresses?
  • What is your fee structure if I choose you as my disability lawyer?
  • Can you provide 2-3 past client references I could speak to?

By the end, you should fully understand the lawyer’s background, track record with cases like yours, and how they’ll work with you if hired.

Evaluating Communication and Professionalism

Disability claims can drag on for months, so having an attorney who communicates regularly and clearly is paramount. Look for responsiveness to your inquiries, patience explaining legal complexities in everyday terms, and professionalism. Feel free to directly ask their communication style during consultations. The rapport you establish now speaks volumes about your relationship going forward.

Cost and Fee Structures

Most Social Security disability lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This means there is no upfront cost to hire them. Their fee (capped at 25% or $6,000 maximum) comes out of backpay awarded if you win benefits. The SSA deducts and pays this automatically. Understand all fee details in advance so there are no surprises later. Rarely, some lawyers charge small upfront fees for administrative costs—ask about any you may incur.

Contingency fee arrangements incentivize strong case-building because the lawyer only gets paid if you win. Compare fee percentages among potential hires, but don’t let it be the deciding factor. Focus more on their aptitude representing your situation.

The Importance of Location and Local Expertise

In most cases, it makes sense to hire a disability lawyer who is local to your area versus one who’s far away or out-of-state. Why? Because the SSA divides the country into regions and each has unique processes, personnel, and general “unwritten rules.”

A lawyer well-versed in the local Social Security office procedures and administrative law judges who’ll hear your case can better calibrate your approach for success. They also can attend hearings with you in person. Look for someone who regularly interacts with your regional SSA office.

That said, highly-specialized firms that focus exclusively on disability may still be a good fit even if located farther away. Weigh their level of specialty experience against the benefits of local familiarity.

Checking References and Past Client Experiences

A reputable disability lawyer should have no issue providing references upon request—check that they readily do so. Speaking to past clients offers invaluable insights. Ask:

  • Were you satisfied with the attorney’s availability, communication style, and responsiveness?
  • Did they thoroughly explain issues in easy-to-understand language?
  • What was their process like for developing your case evidence and arguments?
  • If your claim was initially denied, how effectively did they handle the appeal?
  • Overall, would you recommend them to someone with a similar disability case?

Candid feedback from others with firsthand experience working with the lawyer can tell you much more than any sales pitch.

Making the Decision

Finding the ideal lawyer to represent your disability claim takes diligence and thorough vetting but is worth the effort. When deciding among top choices, think over factors like their experience in your disabled work category, success rates, responsiveness, and communication style. Consider using a checklist to compare several potential attorneys side-by-side.

Most importantly, your gut instinct matters. Go with the lawyer you feel most comfortable with, confident in their knowledge of Social Security disability law and genuinely interested in getting you the maximum allowable benefits. They should demonstrate a proven ability to aptly convey even complicated aspects of your case to SSA evaluators.


Choosing the wrong lawyer for your Social Security disability claim negatively impacts your chances of getting approved and receiving full entitled benefits. But the right attorney—one with extensive disability expertise, a proven track record, responsive communication skills, and familiarity with your regional SSA office—can make navigating the system seamless. Leverage the guidance above to find the best lawyer for your situation and disability type. Taking time upfront to thoroughly evaluate your options sets you up for success.