In representing someone In a claim for Social Security Disability Benefits, oftentimes an attorney representative will find themselves in a hearing, representing their clients in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
When appearing before an ALJ, preparation, detail, and precison is vital to a case’s success. Balancing these three areas is also just as important.
Almost every ALJ at hearing will be expecting an attorney to present their theory of the case, how and why their claimant is disabled, based on evidence and regulations. This is where the balancing act becomes even more critical.
This is because an ALJ offers a limited amount of time for you as an attorney to make an opening statement. A client’s file can be several thousand pages long at times, and you may only have minutes to get your point across as an attorney representative.
I listed Preparation as the first topic because everything else that follows comes from this. If an attorney prepares the case thoroughly before the hearing, they will hopefully have many pages of notes that point out the most important facts of the case. They will hopefully have waded through thousands of pages of information, being ready for questioning by the ALJ about the factual record.
From proper preparation comes great Detail. This does not mean attempting to recite an encyclopedia’s worth of information to an ALJ. What it does mean is to know your record forwards and backwards, being able to refer to the exhibits, pages numbers, imaging studies, doctor opinions, and other facts of importance in your conversation with the ALJ why your claimant is disabled.
At this moment, Precision becomes all the more important. You can get lost in thousands of pages if you don’t know how to proceed in your argument. Your preparation, before the hearing, has given you the confidence to know what present, to know what to highlight, what facts and regulations are really going to make the difference in your client’s case – good or bad. A prepared attorney should be a precise attorney because the ALJ is a busy person with many hearings to handle each day, and will only allow you so much time to present your argument. However, with the confidence of a detailed preparation, a Social Security Disability attorney will be ready to give specific and precise analysis and commentary to an ALJ – thus setting a positive tone for the rest of the hearing.
Harry Brenner, Attorney at Law
Affleck and Gordon, P.C.