The Binder And Binder Lawsuit
I have no inside information about Binder and Binder's motivations. However, I have been practicing Social Security law for 31 years so I have some idea of the economics of their type of practice. I think this helps me understand what is going on.
Binder and Binder is representing Social Security claimants nationally. There are very few other entities trying to do this. Certainly, Binder and Binder is audacious. Just about everyone else is trying to get clients only in local areas.
I think there are major disadvantages to trying to operate nationally but Binder and Binder has one thing going for them with a national practice. If you are going to have much of a Social Security practice, you just about have to advertise. Television advertising is the most efficient way to do this, assuming you want a lot of cases. Television advertising is more efficient when it is done nationally rather than locally.
Normally, attorneys and others who represent Social Security claimants meet with their clients at least once or twice well in advance of any hearing. Binder and Binder is big but nowhere near big enough to have offices all over the country. Sending employees out to meet with clients in advance of hearings would be impossibly expensive for Binder and Binder so they dispensed with that a long time ago. This has the effect of reducing client satisfaction but you are not looking for repeat Social Security business anyway. This has to cut down on referrals from satisfied clients, however. Binder and Binder does not have to worry too much about clients firing them. Binder and Binder is notoriously aggressive when clients try to fire them. They always refuse to waive their fee meaning that anyone replacing them must file a fee petition, which is a pain in the neck. Binder and Binder always files a fee petition in these cases. It is amazing just how many hours of work that Binder and Binder shows on these fee petitions. This makes it hard for anyone replacing them to get a decent fee. Most people who represent claimants dislike messing with former Binder and Binder clients.
I am of the strong opinion that eliminating face to face contact before the hearing reduces the effectiveness of representation. There are some things that cannot be done well over the telephone. As an example, gauging the severity of mental illness and persuading a mentally ill individual to get under psychiatric care are much less difficult to do in person. However, I must admit that there are plenty of attorneys who are not trying to operate nationally who meet with their Social Security clients for the first time on the day of the hearing. I think this is wrong on many levels. Even if viewed only in financial terms, this is the wrong decision because it cuts down on referrals from satisfied clients and because it reduces the chances of success.
Whatever disadvantages come from not meeting with clients prior to the day of the hearing pale in comparison to the expense which Binder and Binder must bear when their employees travel, often a considerable distance, to attend ALJ hearings. Many, perhaps most, of Binder and Binder's hearings require them to send someone by air. In most cases, this will take at least a day. Even if Binder and Binder is able to send an employee by car to a hearing, the employee may be traveling hundreds of miles round trip. On the whole, I am pretty sure that this alone completely overwhelms any advantage they have from advertising nationally.
There are reports that Binder and Binder runs a very lean operation. Another way of putting it is that they pay low wages, give few benefits and afford their employees poor working conditions. You can read about it here, here here, here and here. I hesitate to link to such anonymous reports but from conversations I have had with former Binder and Binder employees, I think these anonymous reports are true. This has to make it difficult to give good quality service and has to reduce the firm's chances of success in winning cases.
If Binder and Binder could dispense with the need to have their personnel travel to hearings, they would be better positioned to overcome the disadvantages that flow from operating nationally. They would be better situated to compete in an environment in which the average fee per case is reduced because backlogs have been reduced.