I attended a seminar session last year in Austin, Texas on the topic of helping those applying for Social Security disability benefits with their initial applications. The lawyer making the presentation said that, like a rancher, a lawyer should “make money on the herd, not on the cattle.” Translation: Don’t look at the potential return for each individual case, but consider you caseload overall. And he is correct.
Sometimes lawyers shy away from helping with initial applications because the person applying for benefits has not been out of work for long, and no disability benefits are paid for the first 5 full months of disability. Since a Representative’s contingency fee is based upon the claimant’s past-due benefits, that often means no fee or a very small fee. Likewise, disability claimants that have just received an initial denial often do not have even a year of past due benefits, given the 5-month waiting period.
I have won claims at Reconsideration at an strong pace this year, by actively managing the claims at the Reconsideration level and writing a short brief for disability examiners. Because these claims get granted so quickly without the need to wait for a hearing, the fees are usually quite low. But so what? You have a happy client, you did not have to prepare for, travel to, and attend a hearing, and the low fees add up over the course of the year. And it is always nice to win your case.
That lawyer in Austin was right. Focus on the herd, not the individual cattle.