How Much Do Lawyers Get For Social Security Disability?

When applying for Social Security Disability benefits, having a disability lawyer represent your case can significantly increase your chances of approval. But how much do these legal representatives get paid? This article will provide an in-depth look at the attorney fees involved in Social Security Disability cases. We’ll cover the standard contingency fee structure, regulations and caps on fees, exceptions for higher payments, additional costs beyond the attorney fee percentage, important legal agreements, and key considerations for disability claimants. After reading, you’ll have a full understanding of lawyer payment in the Social Security Disability process.

Understanding Attorney Fees in Social Security Disability Cases

Lawyers who represent Social Security Disability claimants almost always work on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney only gets paid if you win your case. They receive payment from a portion of your back pay benefits that accumulate from the date of disability onset through the approval date.

The standard contingency fee is 25% of the back pay, up to a maximum of $7,200. For example, if you’re awarded $50,000 in back benefits, the lawyer fee would be $12,500 (25% of $50,000). But because the max fee is $7,200, that’s all the attorney can charge in this scenario.

It’s important to understand this payment comes directly out of your benefits award. The Social Security Administration withholds the lawyer fee from your back pay and sends it directly to your attorney. You won’t have to pay anything upfront or out-of-pocket.

Understanding Attorney Fees in Social Security Disability Cases

Fee Caps and Regulations

The Social Security Administration imposes strict regulations on disability lawyer fees. As mentioned, the maximum an attorney can charge is the lesser of 25% of back benefits or $7,200. This cap applies whether you’re approved on initial application, reconsideration appeal, administrative law judge hearing, or higher appeals council or federal court reviews.

Some key points on the fee regulations:

  • The $7,200 maximum is adjusted annually based on cost of living increases. For 2023, the highest fee is $7,572.
  • Separate lawyer fees apply to both SSDI and SSI benefits. If approved for both, your attorney may charge 25% of each award up to the $7,200 (or current max) limit on each.
  • Fees for representing children are set on a sliding scale based on benefit amount. The maximum is still $7,200.
  • Lawyers cannot charge any fees for Social Security disability cases until you’ve been approved and awarded benefits.

Exceptions and Special Circumstances

In limited circumstances, a disability lawyer may request fees beyond the 25%/$7,200 cap by submitting a fee petition to Social Security. This requires detailed justification for an increased fee above and beyond the work involved in a typical case. Situations where fee petitions may be approved include:

  • Multiple complex issues – Cases involving multiple impairments, extensive medical records, catastrophic injuries, or a long history of treatment may warrant higher fees.
  • Several benefit applications – Separate applications were submitted and approved for SSDI, SSI, CDB, etc. that required extensive work.
  • Federal court appeals – An approval was obtained after lengthy federal court proceedings and complex case development.
  • Significantly large back pay award – In rare cases with very high back benefit amounts, additional fees may be approved.

However, fee petitions are not guaranteed to be approved by Social Security. The standard maximums apply in most disability cases.

Ancillary Costs and Expenses

Beyond the attorney percentage fee, there are some additional costs to be aware of in Social Security Disability cases:

  • Medical records and filing fees – These upfront costs are typically paid by the law firm and reimbursed from your back pay award.
  • Travel expenses – If your hearing is out of town, your lawyer may bill for reimbursement of travel costs.
  • Costs if case is lost – Most firms assume risk, but some may have you pay costs if ultimately denied.

Always review your fee agreement closely so you understand what expenses could be deducted from any benefits awarded. Ask questions upfront to clarify reimbursement policies.

Legal Agreements and Client Considerations

Before retaining a disability lawyer, you’ll sign a fee agreement outlining payment terms and conditions. This is a legally binding contract, so make sure to read it carefully and get answers to any questions before signing. Some tips:

  • Understand the fee percentage and cap – Know exactly what the lawyer will charge if you win benefits.
  • Look for hidden costs – Check for any other expenses that may be deducted.
  • Clarify conditions – Ask if you’re responsible for costs if denied, or if the lawyer can terminate representation.
  • Negotiate requests for higher fees – Don’t feel pressured to agree to amounts above 25% without sufficient justification.
  • Seek help decoding legalese – Ask a friend or family member to review the agreement with you if needed.


While Social Security Disability lawyers can take 25% of back pay up to $7,200 (or a higher amount upon approved petition), their assistance significantly improves claim approval odds. Understanding the fee structure, cost considerations, and legal agreements allows you to maximize this representation while controlling expenses. With the right disability lawyer, you can feel confident you have an experienced advocate fighting for the maximum benefits you deserve.