HOW DO YOU PICK A REPRESENTATIVE?

It is not easy to pick someone to represent you in your social security claim. Like picking a doctor, sometimes you have to rely on referrals and sometimes you have to do your own research. Let me suggest some ideas as to whom to pick.

The first question is whether you want an attorney or nonattorney representative. An attorney, or lawyer, is someone who has gone to undergraduate college and then law school. Undergraduate college is typically four years. Law school is typically three years. In order to practice law in a particular state, that person needs to take and pass a state bar examination. They do not have to pass an examination to practice Social Security law. After that point, any additional learning is typically done at their choice. Lawyers in the state of Florida are required to have 30 hours of continuing education, but they do not have to have it in their area of practice.

While there are excellent nonattorney representatives, there are distinct advantages in hiring an attorney. Typically, an attorney is used to litigation in general. They are used to performing discovery, which means finding out about the case through formal procedures. They may be used to ordering medical records and reviewing them if they practice in the area that concerns medical issues. Usually, lawyers who practice in the areas of personal injury and workers compensation are familiar with medical issues. You will want to ask your lawyer whether he practiced in other areas and what those areas are.

Lawyers are familiar with making legal and factual arguments to a judge. They typically are familiar with preparing individuals for hearings and conducting hearings. They are familiar with conducting legal research. You want to ask your attorney his experience not only with Social Security, but any other areas and whether those other areas included making legal arguments, making factual arguments, conducting hearings and performing legal research.

Further, while a nonattorney representative can represent you from the beginning through several layers of appeal, there are two final layers of appeal that they cannot represent you in. If you have lost at a hearing, you can file an appeal to the Appeals Council. If you lose at the Appeals Council, only an attorney can file an action in federal court. This is at the federal trial level. If you lose at the federal trial level, only a lawyer can file an appeal with the Circuit Court of Appeals.

So, it is never an easy decision as to who to hire to represent you. Do your research. You can interview more than one person in deciding who to to hire. Ask questions. Ask them about their education. Ask them about their experience both in Social Security law and any other areas. Ask them why they will be the best person to represent you. Ask them whether you will be dealing with the representative or one of their assistants. Find out how easy it is to call the office and get answers to questions. Find out how they will be able to help you complete forms. Ask them what their policy is in regard to ordering medical records and will kind of preparation they have for the hearing.

Good luck.