Recently, the firm representing itself as the nation’s most successful Social Security disability advocate firms filed for bankruptcy. Several legal scholars have questioned how this could have happened given the increase of Social Security disability applications and denials over the past three years. However, the firm’s bankruptcy filing may speak to a greater issue unfolding within large Social Security disability firms.
Among the national Social Security disability advocacy and law firms, volume means everything to their business. More clients mean increased profit margins and longevity of the business. For a local New York Social Security disability law firm where the focus is on the clients and not on constantly increasing the caseload, these issues are not common. But there are things to be learned from those large firms’ shortcomings.
Importance of Staffing
In order to efficiently and effectively represent a large number of clients, large disability firms must employ enough personnel to handle all the clients being retained. Each employee must, by necessity, manage huge caseloads and, with frequent turnover and minimal training, these employees are simply not equipped to properly service their clients. Caseworkers manage caseloads of 400 to 600 disability cases in a year which naturally diminishes the ability for each client’s needs to be met. By the nature of the practice, the large disability firms end up treating their clients as just a number.
In addition to caseworkers, many of these firms employ non-attorneys representatives to appear at the Social Security Hearings. Those representatives, presumably with some training in disability proceedings, simply do not possess the experience and qualifications to provide a client with legal advice about the implications of issues within a client’s Social Security disability case. Furthermore, these representatives cannot file or represent a client a Federal Court appeal and thus many clients with viable Federal Court appeals are simply dropped from representation.
Impacts on Clients
How do these practices impact the way a client is represented? With the number of cases that have to be retained to remain viable, the large national disability firms often do not have time to truly assess the real needs of each client that contacts their intake department. Cases are taken based on generalized standards and are rarely seen by an attorney, let alone reviewed prior to the point where a hearing is requested. Sometimes, the first review of a file is done just weeks before the scheduled hearing date, resulting in challenges to develop the medical case, frequent requests for additional time post-hearing to submit critical evidence and frequent applications to withdraw a claim that would not have been taken if a competent attorney had screened the case at the onset.
Attorneys should review a disability case before being retained. This is the best strategy to effectively meet the needs of the client. When cases are reviewed late in the representation process, it is more difficult to collect all the necessary medical records to win at a disability hearing. Deadlines, hearing notices, complex medical record, and important issues that impact the outcome of the case can easily be missed when untrained employees are herding a claim through the disability process. More important, at the national firms, a client rarely has the opportunity to speak to his or her attorney prior to a hearing and thus cannot provide information that can be critical to the successful outcome of a claim.
Clients who want to be represented by experienced New York Social Security disability lawyers in their area who have appeared frequently before local Administrative Law Judges and thus are familiar with their individual practices and perspectives should contact us for a free case evaluation. Call Hermann Law Group, PLLC, at 1-877-773-3030.