Finding a Texas Social Security Disability Attorney: Some Tips for a Better Decision

I have never been a Donald Rumsfeld fan, but his odd yet compelling-decision making ideas about “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” has always intrigued me.  And I believe they are applicable to the unpleasant task of finding a good Texas social security disability attorney.


Most Texans in need of a social security disability attorney have had no experience with lawyers and naturally have little understanding of the unique social security disability assessment system. In searching for a social security disability lawyer Texans can easily create a long list of “known unknowns”: will he work hard to win my case, is she considerate and kind, will he keep me informed, will she try to get my case paid as soon as possible? Getting satisfactory answers to these “known unknowns” can, however, be the hard part.

Rumsfeld perceptively said, however, that it was the “unknown unknowns” that concerned him the most. How many of us have made a deliberate and well thought out decision only to encounterd numerous “unknown unknowns” after the decision is made: “I hadn’t even thought about that!’ or “if I had only known that..”are familiar refrains.

I would like to share what I consider to be the major “unknown unknowns” in hiring a Texas social security disability attorney, as well as offer some tips for getting better answers to the “known unknowns”.

1. Junk Yard Dog vs. Persuader. The hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is usually the most important event in a social security disability case.  Many do not understand the nature of this proceeding and the different views many social security disability attorneys have to handling this event. Unlike a typical court room hearing, the ALJ in the social security disability hearing does not have 2 advocates sin combat over the issues. Yet many social security disability attorneys, particularly those with personal injury backgrounds, assume it is their duty to badge and blundeon the ALJ and any experts in the hearing into submission. One major national firm in Massachusetts has adopted an aggressive and confrontational style of examining the vocational experts in ALJ hearings. Their motivation is laudable, but the ire they are raising in the ALJ corp, I am convinced, is hurting their clients. I believe the ALJ hearing is a time for persuasion. Assuming that the ALJ and experts are not fair-minded and irresponsive will only bring bad results. So the style and approach your prospective disability attorney takes to the ALJ hearing is a usually “unknown unknown” for disabled Texans. In shopping for an attorney ask about how she or he would handle the hearing. What is the approach he would take with vocational or medical experts in the hearing?

2. Who will represent me in the ALJ hearing?  Most Texas social security disability applicants seeking a disability attorney/representation often don’t even think about this. Most national social security disability firms either have staff attorneys/representatives or local contract attorney/representatives assigned, usually at the last minute, to handle your ALJ hearing. I have heard from countless Texas disability claimants looking for help after an unsuccessful ALJ hearing with one of these national firms say they had never met the attorney/representative until the day of the hearing. So handle this “unknown unknown” in your Texas disability attorney search: who will be in the hearing with me? How often will we have contact?

So how about handling the “known unknowns” such as will the attorney do a good job, do they work hard to win as quickly as possible.  Here are some tips:

1. What kinds of online reviews does the attorney or firm have?  A couple of cautions here> There need to be a fair number of reviews. 1 or 2 negative reviews mean nothing. Everyone sho deals with the public an a large scale as do social secuirty disability attorneys is going to have clients who were not happy. Read the negative review carefully: is it vague or petty, or does it set out specific reasonable grievances? Some reviewer give their name and you are able to send them an e-mail. How about doing that, asking for some feedback about the experience and why they gave the review they gave?

2. Is there a history of Texas State Bar Discipline?  Consult the Texas State Bar website for this information:  A history of discipline is a concern, but I don’t like the idea that an attorney can make a mistake in his career and be blackmarked for life. Attorneys often get into trouble with the Texas State Bar during a period of personal or financial stress, or alcohol/drug abuse that is well behind them. At the minimum the attorney needs to explain the discpline to a perspective client.

3. Will the attorney meet with you personally at his office?  Choosing a social security disability attorney in Texas is a big, important decision. If the attorney will not met with you personally before you fire her what does that say?

4. Does the attorney specialize in social security disability and for how long?

5. Does the attorney have a good reputation with the social security administration and the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODARS)?   This one could be a long shot: social security is a bureaucracy after all. If you unrepresented and waiting for hearing in the 2 Dallas ODARS or the Fort Worth ODARS offices you may get some feedback on your prospective attorney.  Don’t expect a recommendation. Questions like “does he have a good reputation with the judges” or “Is his office responsive and pleasant to work with” are questions more likely to be answered than questions like “should I hire this lawyer?”

Like most things in life, the more effort you put into your search for a Dallas Fort Worth social security disability attorney, the more likely you are to get a good result. Don’t fall victim to “paralysis by analysis”, but neither should you be shocked by a plethera of adverse “known unknowns” and “known unknowns” when you hire disability representive solely based upon aly on a TV advertisement.



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