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How did I get into doing Social Security disability law? Here is my story.

Posted Thursday, December 5th by Gil Laden

Disability Lawyer Gil LadenThe summer after my first year of law school, which was in 1975, I did volunteer work at Georgia Legal Services in Macon (I continued with Georgia Legal Services all through law school, and then, upon admission to the bar, as a staff attorney for two years.) The first week I was there, I was handed a file by an attorney and told to represent a client with a disability case in a hearing. I was told she had an SSI case. My first question was, “What is SSI?”

My stomach churned at the thought of what I was about to do, but, butterflies or not, I put my nose to the grindstone and tried to learn and prepare as much as I could. I wish I could say there was a happy ending, but I lost the case. I did become interested in Social Security disability law.

I worked with a variety of cases while I was a legal services attorney, including Social Security cases, some of which involved going to federal court. Then, when I returned to my hometown of Mobile, I went into private practice and handled criminal cases, family law cases, probate matters – and, yes, Social Security disability cases.

It was not until 1988 that I decided to concentrate almost exclusively on Social Security disability cases. I am glad that I handled the other cases, however, because I honed my skills as a lawyer. Even in Social Security disability cases, my knowledge in these other areas of the law has come in handy over the years. I have lawyers contacting me with non-disability clients, but there is a Social Security disability angle to their cases. Working with all the different types of cases taught me how to analyze and prepare cases, how to think on my feet in front of judges, and how to communicate with my clients.

We lawyers are required to attend continuing legal education seminars. I am a firm believer in that. I can never stop improving. As a way to share what I know, I have spoken at a number of seminars and conferences over the years, including recently at The University of Alabama School of Law (see my Cases and Presentations here) In preparing my speaking materials, I am reading and thinking about the topic, which also keeps my skills sharp.

My apologies to that first Social Security disability client. That loss has driven me to continue to learn, to get better at what I do.

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He has been certified as a specialist in Social Security Disability Law by the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy, as acknowledged by the Alabama State Bar.