Richard A. Gutstadt, P.C.
Northern California SSI & SSDI Appeals
510-992-6934

Critical Elements of Effective Representation #4

Element 4: Establish and Maintain Credibility Of Our Clients and the Attorney

     A fourth element of effective representation is credibility. This includes not only maintaining the credibility of the attorney, but establishing the credibility of our client.

     The credibility of the attorney who appears regularly in front of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is of utmost importance. Having the respect of the ALJ is a source of pride for our office. We maintain credibility through a number of means, including: 1) always presenting all arguably relevant medical evidence to the ALJ, (2) fully preparing the case ahead of time for the ALJ, including drafting a pre-hearing memorandum, and (3) always being truthful and respectful to the ALJ at the hearing.

     The credibility of our client is more important than that of the Attorney because ultimately the ALJ has to believe you before he/she will approve disability benefits. An ALJ may hold hearings for dozens of Claimants a month, and using the short amount of time in front of the ALJ to make a good impression, represents our client's best chance to convince a judge of their disability.

     Toward that end, our clients testimony must be carefully thought out in advance. It should be supported by the medical and other evidence of record. Exaggeration of symptoms or limitations, and/or dishonesty of any kind, can destroy a Claimant's credibility. We work with our clients ahead of time to explain the importance of credibility in achieving success of their claim. This includes the need to always be truthful and respectful to the ALJ.

     It is important to understand that most disability cases are not "slam dunks", which is why they have made it to the hearing level. Our job is to maximize the favorable aspects and minimize the unfavorable ones. This, helps to ensure that the ALJ gives our client the "benefit of the doubt" for any conflicts in evidence that may arise. Doing so means maintaining the credibility of both the attorney and our client.

Eric J. Patrick, Esq. & Richard A. Gutstadt, Esq.

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