April 24, 2014

How Do I Fire my Disability Lawyer?

My question is this.  I had a lawyer in NC for my disability hearing which I lost. His representation was horrible, not to mention his communication with me. Anyway, I told him I no longer wanted his services for my appeal. He said he would file a form with SSA stating that he was not my lawyer. I ask him to send me a copy 3 weeks ago. He did not. I emailed him again and ask him if he had even sent the form. he sent me a very rude reply with no answer.
I need to let SSA know that this man is not my lawyer. I called and they still have him listed. How do I get him off as my lawyer? He obviously isn’t going to cooperate. He is horrible. Some advice????
Robin

Jonathan Ginsberg responds: As a disability claimant, you have the right to terminate the representation of your attorney.  The attorney doesn’t need any special form to withdraw from representation – all he needs to do is write a letter to Social Security advising them that his attorney relationship with you has ended.   I do not practice in North Carolina but I suspect that under the Bar rules there, your lawyer has an affirmative obligation to withdraw if you have terminated him.  In order to avoid confusion, you should send your lawyer a letter using certified mail, return receipt requested, asking him to notify Social Security that he is no longer your representative.

I would also suggest that you look carefully at the fee contract you signed with your lawyer.  Often the standard fee agreement used by most disability lawyers also allows the lawyer to ask Social Security to approve a fee based on time expended.  Further, be aware that if “Lawyer 1″ has filed a form 1696 Appointmetn of Representative, any subsequent lawyer you hire – “Lawyer 2″ – will need to file a fee petition setting out exactly what he did and how much time he spent.  The fee petition process is much more time consuming and intrusive than the simple 25% fee agreement system.  I mention this because some lawyers will not take a case if a prior lawyer withdrew and will not waive fees.

Finally, make sure that there is no confusion as to who has the duty to file appeals or respond to communication from the Appeals Council.  You do not want to miss an appeal or file double appeals forms because this issue was not cleared up.

It is unfortunate that your relationship with your lawyer deteriorated.  It is much easier to part ways on a friendly basis.  At this point, however, you may best be served by communicating with your lawyer in writing only and by spending a few extra dollars on certified mail.

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Jonathan Ginsberg represents Social Security disability claimants in Georgia. In practice for over 23 years, Jonathan publishes a widely known disability blog, a podcast and several disability web sites. In 2004, Jonathan published a "how to" book about Social Security disability called the Disability Answer Guide. Jonathan lives with his wife and 2 children in Atlanta.

Comments

  1. Jonathan…

    Much needed clarification thanks for the post, question is
    do you know what percentage of attorney’s actually file a fee petition to claim their compensation for the work they did on the case?

    Brian

  2. Jonathan Ginsberg says:

    Brian, I think that very few lawyers file fee petitions in cases where an unfavorable decision is issued. However, most fee agreements I have seen, in theory, would allow a lawyer to do this. Unless Lawyer 1 “waives” any claim for fees in writing when he withdraws, Lawyer 2 will have to file a fee petition and both lawyers will get notice of their right to do so.
    If a lawyer is fired during a case for a questionable reason (i.e. delays that are inherent in the process) then that lawyer will likely file a fee petition for his hourly work. I certainly would. Accepting a case under a contingency does not mean that one agrees to work for free.

  3. I am in a dilema also about my SSD Attorney. I hired that big firm from New York B&B and It has been almost 3 years and was are still waiting for a hearing. I have heard some horror stories about them and I am desperate to get my case heard and approved so I do not know what to do. If I do fire them will they send all my records etc… to me since I paid for everything??

  4. i had a very terrible lawyer who rep. me he lost me three times the last time he wouldn’t even contact my surgeon and get my medical record or even send anything to my doctor when he was willing to fill the paper work out he wouldn’t do it so he cost me my third hearing and i can appeal the decison but i ask him to remove himself which he did at no cost and he contact the judge that he removed himself and charged no fee now they say i don’t have enough points and no one to represent me now i don’t know what to do

  5. i have an issue regarding the fee that my lawyer took from a positive judgement.i have done all the leg work myself.i received notice of hearing on my own and was told to visit my local s.s.office.at this time i expressed that i would be going there (pro-se) on my own.at this i was told that this would not be a good idea! i was given the phone number of an attorney,spoke to him and handed over all relevent material. i seen him at the hearing which lasted ten minutes tops.for this he took 25% of my judgement.under the fee agreement states (that for a fee to be payable,the social security administration must approve any fee my representative charges or collects from me! I was not inclued in this,its not legal,what can i do?

  6. I need to fire my SS disability lawyer. I signed a contract, but never got a copy and requestred a copy. Now, I’m being told that the lawyer not ONLY gets either %25 or $6K, whatever is least (when/if won) AND fees and expenses. When I told the lawyer I wanted out (they are completely rude to me and I have mental disabilities), and told me I could never cry or get emotional again. They are bullying me into staying w/ them. I’M A PARALEGAL OF 2O YEARS. They told me to terminate my contract that they will bill me for every hour they have worked on my case. I initiated my own case on 6/7/11, they did not pick up my file for 7 weeks when the completed the application on 7/28. My lawyer told me when I called for a dire need case b/c of foreclosure on my home that “she was not my financial advisor”. Her paralegal told me today he will not deal w/ any emotions from me from here on out. THE ONLY THING THEY HAVE DONE IS COMPLETE THE ALREADY STARTED APPLICATION, ORDER SOME, BUT NOT ALL, MEDICAL RECORDS, I’VE TALKED TO THE LAWYER 2 TIMES ON THE PHONE FOR LESS THAN 5 MINUTES, AND SENT 5 EMAILS. They are saying for me to get out of the contract that they are going to charge me for the initial consultation of $150, plus all phone calls, emails, ect. Can they do this? They did not furnish me w/ a contract and I have asked for one, and haven’t gotten one. Doesn’t SSI govern what they can/can’t charge for? THIS FIRM IS A NIGHTMERE, HAVE TOLD ME I HAVE ZERO PERCENTAGE CHANCE OF WINNING NOW (INITIAL STAGE), 20% CHANCE AT 2ND STAGE AND ONLY 70% AT HEARING. THEY ARE SAYING IT COULD COST ME $400 TO GET OUT OF THE CONTRACT!

  7. hi jonathan my question is i hired a lawyer at my reconsideration than four months later i filied for ssi on my own no help from him later i recieved a letter from a judge i was fully awaded both ssdi and ssi now i know he is intiled to 25 percent of back pay for my ssdi thats fine ssa is giving him also apart of my ssi back pay why ssi i did on my own why is he entilted to that also its not fair can you help me a little thank you sir ill be watching for your answer thanks again mr jerry

  8. Jerry, SSA is paying the lawyer based on the contract you signed. You may want to schedule an appointment with the lawyer to discuss the fee issues. I believe that in the approval paperwork you are given the option of challenging the fee if you don’t think it is just (i.e., a lawyer should not charge $5,000 for 2 hours work). At the same time, your lawyer may have done a lot of work behind the scenes that you are not aware of that would fully justify his fee. Again, the best step to take is to talk to your lawyer and see if you can come to an understanding.

  9. My disability hearing date is tomorrow and my attorney called me today to tell me that my doctors would not release my medical records and that the Judge will not let him do a video conference.  He dropped my case and said that he will fax over a letter to the Judge stating what he have done. This was the second time I heard anything from him since April 2012.  What am I suppose to do at my hearing tomorrow?  The only thing I have is all of my medications that I am currently taking.  Please Help Me!

  10. I spoke with a disability attorney over the phone and he agreed that I had a good case. He walked me through their process step-by-step was very nice ask me again and again I had any questions and also said he would send me papers to start the process and that I was to sign them and send them back. I received the papers and on the check list it said that there was a medical record form enclosed. There was not a medical form in the packet so I called the firm back. Someone different answer the phone and when I ask for the attorney he said have you spoke to him before? I said yes and he said is there something I can help you with? I told him about the missing form and he said that’s no big deal we decided to quit sending those out this early in the process. He said just sign but do not date those papers and return them as soon as possible. I told him I had already signed and dated them because I was never told not to date them. He said I should’ve been told not to date him and the reason is because they have ran into problems in the past with having those forms dated. He also said since I had already dated them that they would have to try to work with that and to get them returned to him as soon as possible. That whole conversation just sent red flags up for me am I correct or is this normal?

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