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Specializing in Social Security disability can help you and your clients

By Robertson Wendt, Special to SC Lawyers Weekly, published Jan 21, 2011

Many clients and even attorneys are unaware that there is now a national certification process approved by the state of South Carolina for attorneys specializing in Social Security disability law.

The specialization, accredited by the American Bar Association, was established in 2005 by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification (NBLSC) on accreditation. The S.C. Commission on CLE and Legal Specialization has recognized the specialty since June of 2009.

Attorneys pursuing this designation must provide and demonstrate extensive involvement in and knowledge of the Social Security disability area to qualify for certification, with requirements that include the following:

  • Good standing in the state of admission, and a minimum of five years in the practice of Social Security disability (SSD) law immediately prior to the application.
  • Substantial involvement relevant to Social Security disability law, with a requirement that at least 30 percent of the applicant’s practice must be spent on SSD law in the three years prior to the application.
  • Appearance in no fewer than 100 Administrative Law Judge hearings; filed no fewer than 20 Appeals Council briefs; and filed no fewer than 10 briefs in the U.S. District Court or Court of Appeals.
  • Substantial participation in Social Security disability CLE, not less than 36 hours or equivalent participation.
  • A minimum of six satisfactory references, including at least three from Adminstrative Law Judges before whom the applicant has appeared.
  • Successful completion of a written exam.
  • Six examples of legal writing, with representation of work submitted to Administrative Law Judges, the appeals council, and the U.S. District Court or Court of Appeals.

A complete listing of qualifying criteria may be found at www.nblsc.us.

Applicants are reviewed by an advisory board of seven attorneys and the process may take six to 12 months for approval.

Although it was not listed under specializations in the most recent S.C. Bar Lawyer Deskbook, there are currently two attorneys in South Carolina who have earned this designation. Besides my practice based in Charleston, Paul McChesney practices in Spartanburg.

The Social Security disability certification brings the total of specialties recognized in South Carolina to five – four under state guidelines (bankruptcy/debtor/creditor law; employment and labor law; estate planning and probate law; and taxation law), and this Social Security disability specialty, now fully certified by the national accrediting organization.

Since rates are capped for Social Security disability cases, there’s no reason for a client to get less than the most experienced representation. On that I feel fairly certain we all would agree.

Editor’s note: Wendt practices law in Charleston and serves disability clients throughout South Carolina. He is one of only two board certified Social Security disability specialists in the state, and one of only 59 board certified Social Security disability specialists in the U.S. Wendt has been in practice for nearly 30 years, and has handled thousands of Social Security disability claims.

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