Having represented disabled individuals for more than 38 years, I am often asked why I chose this field of law. Part of the answer, I attribute to pure chance early in my career (when disability law was in its infancy.) I had been asked to attend hearings for two gentlemen who were quite ill, and was quickly able to win benefits for both of them. My employer seemed impressed and told the other partners at the union labor law firm that the “new kid seems to know how to handle disability cases.” Within a year I had several hundred of these cases, which I found to be personally and professionally rewarding. The other part of the answer though, is that I had accidently fallen into a field for which I had been uniquely prepared.
When I was in high school and college, I vacillated between pursuing a medical or legal career. Ultimately, I felt more suited for law, as I felt my strengths were greater in research and writing, as well as political science, speech and advocacy. But I always enjoyed biology and medical issues, and in disability law it’s necessary to understand a client’s medical problems in order to convince the judge of his/her disability.
But more personally, I feel that I had been primed virtually all of my life for this work. My father had been employed as an electrician at the Philadelphia Navy Yard for 30 years, and at night and during the weekends he worked privately. From the age of about eight, I was the “electrician’s assistant”, the guy who fetched the tools from the car, helped “fish” the wires through the walls, and did the clean-up. We worked indoors and out, in every neighborhood, early and late, and in all weather conditions.
The work was often quite arduous, climbing ladders to install power lines twenty feet in the air, or five feet underground, or air conditioners through brick walls. It was clear to me, even as a young boy, that without his health and the full use of his body, my father wouldn’t be able to put food on our table. Dad taught me the lessons of life as a hard working laborer.
My mother’s lessons were even more pertinent to my future career. When she was in her 40′s, something terrible would happen to her that for a long time the doctors couldn’t explain. Without warning, she would seem to slow her activities and almost come to stop, not seeming to know what was going on around her, and unable to move very much. Years later, when CT scans became available, it was discovered that she had suffered countless TIAs, or small strokes. Later she had two major strokes, became diabetic, and suffered from depression, probably as a result of all her medical problems. Mom taught me, up close and personal, what it meant to be disabled.
Looking back now on my profession of nearly 40 years, and having been able to have helped thousands of individuals obtain the disability benefits they deserved, I feel fortunate that I could find a way to turn the hardships my parents and family suffered, into a career that could benefit so many. Fortunate as well, that my wife and I have been able to attract a loyal group of lawyers, paralegals and support staff who all share the common goal of effectively advocating on behalf of those who, through no fault of their own, are incapable of working on a full-time basis, as a result of physical or emotional problems. Over the years, we have also expanded our practice to include accident, workers’ compensation, employment and private disability matters.