Disability Lawyer Careers
Choosing a career as a disability lawyer introduces a long supply of potential clients as representing the elderly is something that will always be in demand. This area of practice is an important one as it provides clients with a means of survival. There is also never a shortage of work as disability lawyers typically have full schedules all year around. That can make for a lucrative career that does not come with the same stress in other areas of practice. It can also be very rewarding as disability lawyers can be true difference makers after a claim is initially denied.
Disability Lawyer Education
To start your career as a disability lawyer, be prepared to spend some time in the classroom. The first step on that journey begins with undergraduate studies. Those interested in becoming a disability lawyer type must first earn a bachelor’s degree. There is no specific major required for aspiring disability lawyers at the undergraduate level. However, it is quite common for students in this situation to choose a major that will prepare them for the future. That future includes an extensive amount of reading, which is why a good portion of lawyers also have undergraduate degrees in English. Other student choices of majors include Political Science, History, Business, or variant forms of Pre-Law programs.
The completion of these undergraduate courses will lead into a transitional phase in which graduates will need to take a Law School Entrance Test which is commonly known as the LSAT. This is a four-part exam, which includes the following sections:
- Reading comprehension
- Logical reasoning
- Analytical reasoning
- Writing sample
The LSAT score plays a major role in the admissions process for law school. No law school application is complete without a valid LSAT score. Many of the decisions regarding acceptance consider LSAT scores. There are seven different test dates in which students can take the LSAT over the course of a year.
After admission is granted to an accredited Law School, a three-year educational program will follow. Students should be prepared for quite a bit of reading. Each law school features its own curriculum, but most are geared towards teaching students everything they need in order to pass the bar exam.
Some students will work in various law clinics or community law centers to gain experience while in law school. Others may choose to clerk at a law firm during this time or even after they have graduated from law school. These experiences can prove to be extremely valuable before taking the bar exam and when applying for apposition as a disability lawyer.
A law degree can only take a student so far. After earning what is called a Juris Doctor Law Degree, the next step involves passing a State Bar Examination. Each state offers its own Bar Examination to prospective lawyers. This is considered one of the most arduous parts of becoming a lawyer and is administered in one of the following formats:
- MBE (Multistate Bar Examination)
- MPT (Multistate Performance Test)
- MEE (Multistate Essay Examination)
- UBE (Uniform Bar Examination)
Before taking the Bar Exam, the MPRE must also be completed. This is known as the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination. It is necessary to complete this 60-question examination before taking the Bar Exam. The only states that do not require the completion of the MRPE are Wisconsin and Maryland. This examination is a test of ethics that is offered only three times per year.
The steps to becoming a disability lawyer usually span 7 to 8 years when students attend on a full-time basis. There are traditional colleges and universities offering all degrees as well as online options to explore. A checklist for that journey is as follows
- Complete Requirements for Bachelor’s Degree
- Take and Pass the LSAT exam
- Be admitted to an accredited Law School
- Earn a Juris Doctor Law Degree
- Pass the MRPE
- Achieve a passing score on the Bar Examination
Job Description and Skills
A disability lawyer helps facilitate the Social Security disability application process. Most people who filed claims for disability are not well-versed in the way the Social Security Administration (SSA) operates. This leads to a high number of denials. More than half of the Social Security disability claims are initially denied, although there is the option of filing an appeal. This is the time when many people hire the services of a disability lawyer. However, hiring a disability lawyer from the outset will minimize the chances of an initial claim being denied. Either way, most people will hire a disability lawyer at some point in the process. Disability lawyers handle the following procedures that are vital to winning a claim.
- Finish initial case review
- Ensure application is completed
- Gather necessary medical
- Maintain communication with the SSA
- File Appeals
- Represent clients during a disability hearing
In order to win a social security disability claim, there are certain medical examinations that need to take place. A disability lawyer is privy to what type of medical exams are needed in order to be successful with a claim. It is up to an attorney to prove a client’s condition satisfactorily classifies as a disability listing. It must also be proven that a disability will prohibit an individual from working. There may even be the need to prove that the lifestyle caused by condition is less than sedentary. Understanding all these facets of disability law is what will allow a claim to be approved. Without these specifics, most individuals should expect to be denied their initial claim. They are essentially attempting to navigate through a process which they do not fully understand. That is where a disability lawyer steps in and helps.
A disability lawyer will also prep clients for a hearing if it goes that far. Based upon client interaction, a disability lawyer puts together a claim that meets all the specifications set by the SSA. Disability attorneys can also help clients decide on who to bring as a witness on their behalf. In some instances, a simple letter from a caregiver will prove should be sufficient enough. Not all witnesses will be good ones and identifying those details is what makes having a disability lawyer so valuable.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary of a lawyer at $135,740 annually. The statistics do not break down lawyer salaries according to practice areas, although there are factors that can determine annual income amounts. The size of a firm also dictates pay rates while the experience factor is another component to consider when calculating expected annual earnings. Geographic location also plays a prominent role and here is a look at the top five average annual salaries for lawyers in the United States:
- District of Columbia – $226,510
- California – $201,530
- Massachusetts – $196,230
- New York – $188,900
- Connecticut – $174,520
Disability lawyers work a little differently when it comes to payments. Mostly all disability lawyers work on contingency. In the process of hiring a disability lawyer, clients will sign a fee agreement. This is a fee, which is usually limited to 25%, to be disbursed to the lawyer when the claim is approved. Disability lawyers do not rely upon retainers or initial fees, similar to the way other lawyers operate.
Approximately one out of every five attorneys are self-employed while the other portion is employed in various types of law firms, as well as federal and state organizations that are affiliated with the United States court system. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the number of lawyers at 707,160 in 2022. That number is expected to increase by more than ten percent by the year 2031. These projections are particularly promising for disability lawyers.
People are living longer and that means more people will be looking to get disability benefits. With such a vast number of potential clients, the demand for disability lawyers has continued to grow. There are also plenty of individuals looking to collect disability, even if the proof is marginal at best.
It should also be noted that 70% of Americans’ first disability applications are rejected. That means the appeals process will be followed up with legal representation in most instances. As long as initial applications continue to be rejected, the system creates an exceptional demand for disability lawyers.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.