The difference between an attorney and a non-attorney advocate

They advocate providing disability services usually refers to a non-attorney representative assisting individuals in filing their Social Security disability benefits claims.

They advocate providing disability services usually refers to a non-attorney representative assisting individuals in filing their Social Security disability benefits claims. When speaking of disability advocates and disability attorneys, there is a significant difference between the two, for which many individuals prefer to hire an attorney rather than an advocate.

The difference in qualifications

There is a criterion established by the social security that disability advocates must meet to receive the approval for their fees given by the Social Security Administration. To be eligible, a disability advocate must have the following:

  • The possession of a college degree or training along with the work experience
  • A complete and clear criminal background check
  • Accountability insurance
  • Must pass an exam for the Social Security rules and regulations

Not just that, the training required for attorneys for disability cases is much more rigorous than regular cases. If an individual wants to practice being a disability lawyer, they must graduate from law school, complete a four-year degree program, pass the state bar exam, become a member of a state bar association, and complete the required hours of legal education.

Furthermore, a lawyer, unlike a non-attorney advocate, is bound by rules of ethics and professional conduct. The attorney for a social security case is obligated to provide zealous representation. They must stay alongside the changes in the law as well as keep the client updated on the case's approval status. Not just that, any complaints against the attorney are filed with the state bar association, which can subject the attorney to follow the disciplinary action.

On the contrary, if a non-attorney advocate fails to meet the needs and expectations of the client, they have little to no recourse.

Hiring an attorney such as Defenders for your and more can also guarantee the protection of the communications by the attorney-client privilege. It prohibits the attorney from disclosing any sensitive information of the client to a third party. This, on the other hand, is not liable for the non-attorney advocates.

The limits of a Non-Attorney Advocate 

If you are considering hiring a disability advocacy firm, it is important to understand that a disability advocate cannot do everything a disability attorney can do. An advocate cannot:

  • Properly Cross-Examine Expert Witnesses
  • File an Appeal in Federal District Court if your case is unsuccessful at the hearing level and denied by the Social Security Appeals Council.
  • Cite Appropriate Social Security Administration Regulations at the Hearing Level and Appeals Council

Is hiring a Lawyer More Expensive?

Given the vast differences in the training of both, it may be surprising to know that disability advocates and attorneys may charge the same fees. It is set on by the Social Security regulations state that disability representatives that the lawyers and non-lawyers may not charge more than 25% of the past-due disability benefits owed to the client.

To be sure, most non-attorney advocates perform diligent work and possess some specialized knowledge about Social Security disability. But attorneys, unlike advocates, have received specialized training in performing legal research, spotting legal issues, drafting briefs, presenting oral arguments, and cross-examining witnesses, all of which may be necessary in a Social Security case. 

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