Working with a disability attorney is like any other relationship, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Let’s look at why client-attorney relationships break down and what you can do if you decide you want to change attorneys for your Social Security disability case.
People fire their lawyers for many reasons, but the three most common ones are:
- Too little or no communication. For example: Your attorney doesn’t return your calls or emails within 48 hours.
- Lack of trust. For example: You have problems with your attorney’s billing for financial management reasons, or ethical concerns about your lawyer’s conduct.
- Questionable case strategy and management. For example: Your attorney misses an important filing date or doesn’t appear to have the experience necessary to successfully handle your case.
Do Disability Lawyers Drag Out Cases?
Disability cases can be complex. As a result, it can sometimes feel like your attorney is dragging out the process. But they have no incentive to do that, because attorneys can only receive payment once you do (or you owe $0 if your case doesn’t win).
The longer the case takes, the longer attorneys go without payment. And this is especially true when they’re paying upfront costs for things that support your disability claim, such as:
- Complete medical records
- Lab or imaging tests
- Doctor’s visits
- Court filing fees
- Expert witnesses to testify on your behalf
PRO TIP: Ask your lawyer for regular updates, even if there’s nothing new to report. If they refuse, it’s a good sign it may be time for you to change attorneys.
Yes. But before you fire yours and start the process to change attorneys, follow this advice from the FTC:
“If you think your lawyer didn’t treat you fairly, didn’t handle your case effectively, or overcharged you, talk to them and try to work out an agreement. If you can’t resolve things with your lawyer, or you believe they did something wrong, consider filing a complaint with your state or local bar association.”Federal Trade Commission
If that doesn’t work, try requesting mediation through your local or state bar. If you’re still not satisfied, take the following steps to change attorneys:
- Contact other disability lawyers about taking on your case. A new attorney must split legal fees with your original representative unless your former lawyer agrees to waive their fees. Since that means 50% lower fees for your new lawyer, they may be less likely to take on your case. PRO TIP: Wait to fire your attorney until after you secure new representation.
- Notify your original attorney in writing that you wish to terminate your contract. You can write a letter or use the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Claimant’s Revocation of the Appointment of the Representative (SSA-1696-SUP 1).
- Send the dated and signed revocation letter or the SSA form to your local Social Security office. PRO TIP: Check back with the SSA in a few weeks to make sure they removed your original attorney from your claim.
- Complete the contract with your new representative to change attorneys in your disability case. Then, make sure your original lawyer provides all case files and other documents to your new SSD attorney.
You can change attorneys any time you want, but it’s better to do it as early as possible. The further along your case is, the more work your lawyer puts into securing a successful outcome for your claim.
Attorneys often spend a lot of money they hope to get back once your case wins, so they may not want to waive their legal fees. This can complicate your ability to find new representation when you decide to change attorneys in your disability case.
Changing attorneys usually delays the claim and appeal processes, increasing how long you have to wait for your claim’s approval. That’s because your new lawyer:
- Must wait for your case files to arrive, then take even more time to become familiar with your disability case
- Needs time to speak to your doctors and other caregivers after reviewing your files
- Might ask the judge for an extension to pursue a new strategy if you’re appealing after a disability claim’s denial
Sometimes, your attorney breaks up with you. Many attorneys may withdraw from a case because of:
- A conflict of interest or an aspect of your case that makes some attorneys decide they can’t appropriately represent you
- Disciplinary actions from a state bar association that requires them to withdraw
- Illness or injury
Other times, lawyers may drop your disability case because of something you did, like:
- Lying or leaving out important details
- Refusing to follow legal advice
- Asking them to violate rules of conduct or ethics that could put the attorney’s career at risk
Here’s what to do if you your own disability attorney withdraws from your case:
- Ask why; this information can help you find new representation.
- Get your case files and all supporting documentation.
- Seek new representation immediately.
Changing attorneys can be stressful, but it is possible. Sign up for a free phone call from an experienced disability lawyer who can answer your claim questions today. Since these attorneys work on contingency, you pay $0 if you don’t win benefits. And if you do get benefits, then you only owe one small fee taken out of your back pay.
To talk to an experienced disability attorney for free over the phone, click the button below now:
Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/X: @word_factory LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.