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????
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.