The Difference Between a Disability Attorney and a Non-Attorney Representative

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How a Disability Attorney and a Non-Attorney Representative Are Different

By James Pavisian

Attorney, PLF

There are two types of people that can represent a claimant against the Social Security Administration.  First, any licensed disability attorney in good standing can represent an individual seeking Social Security disability. Second, a non-attorney representative can also represent an individual


A non-attorney representative is not the same thing as a random family member. For example, an individual cannot assign their mother, who is a non-attorney, to represent them. A non-attorney representative is an individual who has been certified by the Social Security Administration as an individual with the knowledge to represent claimants. This certification requires passing a test and meeting other educational and personal criteria, but does not meet the definition of a disability attorney.

Many of the agencies that advertise on television use non-attorney representatives.  For example, Binder and Binder use non-attorney representatives in many of their claims.  You can tell if an agency uses non-attorney representatives if it calls itself an “advocacy group.”  This is because it cannot designate itself a law firm if it is not run by disability attorneys.

Differences Between a Disability Attorney and Non-Attorney Representative

There are two major differences between a disability attorney and a non-attorney representative.  First, and most importantly, a non-attorney representative is only allowed to represent an individual through the Social Security disability process. This would include the administrative hearing and appeals to the Appeals Council. But, claimants have the right to appeal to the federal courts if the Appeals Council denies review. A non-attorney representative cannot appeal a claim to federal court; only a licensed attorney in that jurisdiction can.

Second, non-attorney representatives do not have to practice under the same ethical standard as a disability attorney. The Social Security Administration requires all attorneys and non-attorneys to meet certain ethical standards. But, that standard is much lower than the standards attorneys are held accountable to. Attorneys have to follow the ethical rules that the Social Security Administration has published and the ethical standards adopted by the state bar. This includes the ethical responsibility of handling a client’s money in a certain way, maintaining a client’s file, and communication with a client. This adds a layer of protection for clients that may not exist in a non-attorney representative office.

Contact a Disability Attorney at Parmele Law Firm

There are a lot of good non-attorney representatives. That said, there are benefits to hiring a disability attorney including the ability to appeal to federal court and the higher ethical standard. Contact Parmele Law Firm today for more information.