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Fee Agreement - Social Security Disability Lawyer Withdrawals From Representation

Austin, TX |

Here is the scenario: I presented myself to a disability lawyer who reluctantly accepts my claim. He is a one man operation. By the time I obtained his services, I had current copies of ALL my medical records plus any related reports, labs, x-rays, etc. There was nothing left for him to do other than review the reasons I was originally denied and apply the law where appropriate. My denials were based off of clerical errors resulting in an incorrect onset date that was attached to my application and was never corrected (even almost 4 years later I am STILL dealing with an incorrect AOD). Several emails of mine were ignored as I submitted RFC's and new medical records. My multiple requests to view my CD of evidence were also ignored. I later found out he received this CD 8 months prior.

I also found out that he didn’t even submit a fully favorable RFC from my Rheumatologist (key evidence). When the hearing date was set, I again requested to view my CD of evidence; ignored. My promised “pre-hearing meeting” resulted in a 5 minute phone call 2 days before the hearing, but not by the lawyer I hired for representation - it was a newly hired lawyer of his that he passed my claim off onto. The original Fee Agreement and Appointment of Representative contract was somehow photoshopped to include the name of this new lawyer while using my original signature from a year prior. I was not given a choice for this last minute switch of representation. After I was denied, he withdrew his representation. My concern is the legality of him trying to collect any fees in the event I am approved now that I have a new rep. It’s been over 2 years since contact with the original rep. Are these situations favorably appealed?

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

The appointed representative should not be allowed to collect a fee if he was not successful in securing you benefits. I would recommend requesting a letter in wiring from him withdrawing from your claim and waiving all fees and costs related to your representation. If he refuses, send a letter to the current judge advising that you have requested the attorney to withdraw and that you do not feel he has earned his contingency fee for securing benefits.

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Posted

Thanks for replying. I will keep this in mind about requesting him to sign a waiver. I reread his contracts, and he states that he would only expect a collection of fees if he was successful up until the first ALJ hearing. Well, he quit AFTER the first ALJ hearing, and in the end if my claim is approved, it would have been because I made it through to a third ALJ hearing (unless the AC makes their own decision and remands for benefits). My current lawyer made a comment about how he was weary to take my claim considering the circumstances, but I think he's had several other claimants come to him because of this original lawyer, that he felt sorry for me. I'm sure the current lawyer will get "some" money approved on an hourly rate through a fee petition, but I certainly can't imagine he would be approved the full 25%/$6,000 amount just for stepping into this at the last minute and only spending a few hours himself on this.

Posted

Attorney Bruni has given you good advice. I'll just add that IF the prior rep were approved by SSA for any fee then you will get a notice and you will have the opportunity to object to the payment of a fee. You'll want to carefully look at all documents you might receive from SSA.

It is impossible to give specific answers to questions without meeting and fully discussing all of the potential issues that may not be addressed by your question. The answer(s) provided should be considered general information and are not legal advice. Only after a thorough personal consultation could specific legal advice be given. Viewing this information is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. To enter such a relationship you and I would need to consult in person and form a mutually agreeable written contract of engagement. The answer(s) provided in this forum is intended to educate you and point to issues for you to raise in a consultation with a lawyer of your choosing who is appropriately competent in the field of law that your question concerns and who is duly licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where you live and/or where the events giving rise to your question occurred. You should not take any action that might affect your claim(s) without first seeking the professional opinion of a licensed attorney. There are often strict deadlines for filing suit, responding to a suit or making an appeal and you need to personally consult with an attorney to make sure that you understand and meet those deadlines.

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Posted

Thanks for replying. Your answer was similar to Mr. Bruni's answer, so I will copy/paste my response to him (I don't know if you are able to read my responses to everyone involved)... I will keep this in mind about requesting him to sign a waiver. I reread his contracts, and he states that he would only expect a collection of fees if he was successful up until the first ALJ hearing. Well, he quit AFTER the first ALJ hearing, and in the end if my claim is approved, it would have been because I made it through to a third ALJ hearing (unless the AC makes their own decision and remands for benefits). My current lawyer made a comment about how he was weary to take my claim considering the circumstances, but I think he's had several other claimants come to him because of this original lawyer, that he felt sorry for me. I'm sure the current lawyer will get "some" money approved on an hourly rate through a fee petition, but I certainly can't imagine he would be approved the full 25%/$6,000 amount just for stepping into this at the last minute and only spending a few hours himself on this.

Posted

If you ultimately prevail, this lawyer may nevertheless file a fee petition in your case. The fee agreement will no longer be valid. You should ask him to withdraw and "waive" any fee. If he refuses, then file a Bar Complaint with the State Bar in your state. If as you assert he did nothing, he should do the ethical thing. He should withdraw and waive any fee. Of course, if you prevail, you can also object to his fee petition.

Remember to designate a best answer.

This response is meant to be information only and should not be considered to be legal advice. This information is not meant and should not be construed to be the formation of an attorney client relationship. I practice Virginia Workers compensation law and Social Security Disability law.

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Thanks for replying. I tend to report him to the state bar when all this is over with (knowing I have a 4 year deadline). I would have reported him long before now, but I wanted to wait and see if he had the nerve to try and collect fees after all of his behavior (and I would have added that to the complaint list). I would think the Photoshopping of contracts would be enough for him to get into trouble and make our contracts void. He took my originally signed contracts (dated back in 2010) and then he took a blank contract with the new lawyer's name and signature, folded it in half, lined up the old and new contract and then made a photocopy as if to try and pass it off as a single contract with my date and signature and her signature as if I made this agreement back in 2010. For the date I had signed that contract, this new lawyer was working on her very first day of internship, so she probably had just passed the bar with absolutely no hearing experience. So, the fact he basically denied me access to my own evidence on file (CD), he re-created signed contracts, switched representation without my approval, and literally handed my claim to an inexperienced newcomer are the signs of an unethical mind. I just think it's ridiculous he withdrew the way he did in my frantic time of need, and I've lately read other reviews of him where I'm not the only one he left hanging. I think people like this should be reprimanded and quite hard. Do these kinds of actions reach the unethical boundaries?