Most of us have been fortunate enough to not have needed to hire an attorney for a legal matter. So hiring a social security disability attorney can be a challenge. Typical Americans may have hired a lawyer for a will, estate planning, or the probate of a will. Some perhaps have hired lawyers to deal with family law matters such as an adoption or divorce, bankruptcy or a personal injury suit.
We have a vague sense from these limited experiences that law is “local”. Our courts are organized at a state of county level. Attorneys are licensed to practice law on a state level.
Yet there are large national social security representation groups that seem to have no trouble attracting social security disability clients in Texas. These groups do not have lawyers licensed to practice law in the state of Texas.
Social Security law is unique area of legal representation
One would think – with our instinctive “bias” toward “local” legal services – that these national disability firms would be unable to attract clients. Or even that there was something illegal or unethical about Boston-based Citizens Disability representing Texas disability claimants.
Social Security law is a national, federal law, not state or county based
There is nothing unethical or illegal about a lawyer not licensed in the state of Texas representing a social security disability claimant in the state of Texas. The law and regulations governing social security disability are the same in Texas as they are in any other state. In terms of the letter of the law, a New York based social security disability specialist is allowed and is competent to handle a Texas based social security disability claim.
Local representation in a Texas social security disability case by a Texas licensed lawyer is not required, but it still matters
Since legal framework in a social security disability case is the same in the state of Texas as it is in the state of Vermont, why does it matter that you hire a Dallas Texas based disability attorney if you live in Dallas? Here are the reasons:
The vitally important institutions and offices in your Texas disability case are locally based.
All the social security offices in Texas disability case are local. Social security decides Texas based disability claims at the initial and reconsideration level via a contract with the Disability Determination Services for the state of Texas in Austin Texas.
Social security district offices are organized on a regional level and handle claims in their immediate geographic region.
Your medical treatment is local. If you live in Dallas Fort Worth, for example, you are unlikely to be receiving regular medical care from a doctor in Boston.
The hearing office in which you will have your administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is in your immediate geographic region. While it is true that presently – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – ALJ hearings are now conducted phone and can be conducted by an ALJ in another part of the country – it is anticipated that live, local ALJ hearings will resume as the pandemic eases.
Sometimes being “on the ground” is key to solving a social security disability problem
My fellow social security attorney Geri Khan points out how she helped solve one of her client’s problem “the old fashioned way” – by visiting the local security office and meeting with personnel she has grown to know over the years in her San Francisco California social security disability practice. (http://californiasocialsecuritylawyerblog.com/2009/09/14/it-helps-to-be-local/) . I can personally attest to similar experiences. Since I have been handling social security disability cases in Dallas Fort Worth since 1991, it is fair to say that local social security district office personnel know me. I believe they have a favorable opinion of me, and I am able to reach the right person to solve a problem if needed.
My colleague and fellow social security disability practitioner Gordon Gates like me limits his representation to his immediate area and state, and does a nice job on his blog in explaining why local representation matters. Read it at http://www.socialsecuritydisabilitylawyer.us/blog/2009/08/home-field-advantage.html. Gordon analogizes local social security representation to a “home field advantage” in sports – in particular, as Gordon is a New Englander after all, Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox.
You are unlikely to meet face-to-face with a disability lawyer who is not local
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local social security disability attorneys may be limiting their clients meeting, but Texas, like most states, is opening up fast. Even if you have to don a mask or show proof of vaccination, in person contact with the attorney that is handling your disability claim is vital. You are unlikely to have any chance to meet your out of state disability attorney if you hire one.
I limit my social security disability representation to Dallas Fort Worth, and North and East Texas – the areas handled by the two Dallas Hearing Offices and the one in Fort Worth. Knowing the particular style and expectations of the administrative law judges is very important. Now does this mean that Binder and Binder can’t do a good job on your Dallas social security disability case? Absolutely not. But I do believe, like attorney Gates, that the “home field advantage” does matter.