Website Review: Lawyers.com

Have you or a loved one been injured on the job? Are you unable to work because the pain of your injury makes your life a living hell? Would you like to be?

If you want to spend the rest of your life sitting on your couch and watching the disability checks roll in, then call the attorneys at the law firm you just saw talking earnestly on late-night TV. Or now, you can even contact them on-line. You can rest assured that they have only your interests, plus a 25% settlement fee of any award you might receive, in mind.

For this week’s Website Review, I thought I’d take on one of those self-advertising law firms that will show you how wealth, justice and a permanent indentation on your couch are just an 800-number away. A cowboy-hatted lawyer from the firm of Binder & Binder, which bills itself as America’s most successful social security disability advocates, suggested these might be the folks I could study.

I went to their site, binderandbinder.com, and started to learn more about the legal services they offer and their long history – exemplified by their motto “do what you do, better and nicer” – of helping people get the respect they deserve (and, oh yeah, the cash). I started milling around their pulldowns and making notes about all the features I could make fun of. Soon, however, I realized that these were well-intentioned professionals who were only in business to bring fairness to wronged and injured individuals. Also, I realized they’d probably be in a great position to sue the bejesus out of anybody who slandered them.

So I’ll be taking a rather gentle look at Messrs. Harry J. and Charles E. Binder and the nationwide network of offices they’ve built since starting in the business over 30 years ago. Binder & Binder helps you and your broken, pathetic body take advantage of the Social Security Disability program, what they call “one of our government’s best-kept secrets,” second to the nuclear launch codes, I’d guess, but not by much.

The firm’s history actually dates from 1975 when an injured, almost-penniless New York firefighter walked into Harry Binder’s tiny office with a challenge: his application for disability benefits had been turned down by the Social Security Administration and he needed a “genuine expert” to help in his fight. According to the company’s history page, Harry has always liked challenges, and fire-fighters. “They do stuff I’d be scared to do,” Harry said, so he sidestepped that nasty expertise question and hit the law books to teach himself how to help.

I never saw how that particular case turned out, though I’d assume it went well because Harry’s brother Charles showed up, and together they formed Binder & Binder, since “Harry & Charlie” sounded a little too much like a good-time ice cream emporium. By then it was 1979, described in the company newsletter Disability Digest (subscriptions available through the website – check out the back-breaking sudokus) as tumultuous times.

“President Jimmy Carter was attacked by a swamp rabbit while fishing. Ayatollah Khomeini seized power in Iran. The Three Mile Island nuclear plant had a partial meltdown. The Soviet Union seized control of Afghanistan. The population of China hit one billion people. Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are’ won the Grammy for best song.” It’s not clear how the Binders were able to help with any of these calamities. I think they’re just trying to give us a little historical perspective.

From that small beginning, the firm grew to the point where it now has offices in major cities from coast to coast and tens of thousands of new clients added each year. They have a sophisticated website that includes a number of helpful features. There’s a social security application form where you can leave a detailed description regarding your disability – “I have carpal tunnel syndrome. Why must my description be so detailed?” is one suggestion – and a representative will contact you within two business days. There are some disability tax tips told in folksy but perplexing similes: “A tax return is like a blood test. Your bad cholesterol should be low and your good cholesterol should be high.” There’s even a fun multiple-choice quiz to see how well you comprehended the newsletter. Some answers: their national department serves “all over America,” not “steak for breakfast,” and President Carter was attacked by “a rabbit,” not by the “Democratic caucus.”

There’s a frequently-asked-questions section that’s so thorough you may wonder why you even need a flesh-and-blood lawyer. “Do I have to be completely incapacitated to get disability?” My predicted answer: You just need to able to reach your wallet. “I have informally adopted a child. Will she be able to receive benefits?” If what you really mean is that you’re living with your teenage girlfriend, no. “You must receive a lot of compliments. What’s the highest compliment you’ve received?” That I seem too human to be an attorney. “I understand there are special rules for the blind.” That’s not a question.

There are also profiles of each individual Binder. Charles believes in a goal-oriented office atmosphere, he’s a big fan of the Lone Ranger and says “just put together some people who are really interested in hearing about social security disability, don’t forget the donuts, and I’ll be there.” He enjoys the improbable trio of Yankee baseball, keeping promises, and teaching his nephews about playing fair. Harry’s hobbies include reforming corrupt nursing homes, New York Rangers hockey and “never looking back,” so be careful if you’re ever driving behind him. He and his wife have five children and he was at Madison Square Garden on June 14, 1994 at 10:58 p.m. (I guess the legal mind tends to remember such details). Both Charles and Harry are pictured in their trademark cowboy hats but Charles, as the managing partner, gets to sling his suit jacket over his shoulder while Harry, the more sober senior partner, is fully dressed.

Finally, I’ll mention a few quotes from testimonials that Binder & Binder has received. “I’m sorry I’m so late getting back to you,” writes one, “but I’ve been busy spending the money you guys helped me get.” Another notes darkly that “people act like they’re jealous but they don’t want my disease.” A third offers a somewhat less-stirring endorsement: “just waiting for the benefits and back pay to get here.”

Before I sign off, I wanted to come back to the company slogan. Actually, there appears to be two of these. The one that appears at the top of the home page is the slightly menacing “we’ll deal with the government; you have enough to worry about.” But the one I like best, the one that personifies to me all that’s beautiful and compelling and humane about the fabulous Binders, is the one I mentioned earlier: “do what you do, better and nicer.” It’s marvelously non-judgmental, it references two traits not normally associated with the legal profession and is just vague enough to cover anything this side of the commission of war crimes. If only all of us – I’m looking at you, Social Security Administration – would try harder to do what we do, the world would be a better place. And nicer too.

 

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6 Responses to “Website Review: Lawyers.com”

  1. tom1950 Says:

    Oh, that is so spot on. I get apprehensive just thinking about going to, or associating with, a lawyer. The one time I really needed one, he managed to negotiate a settlement on my motorcycle injury that was LOWER than what was originally offered by the other guy’s insurance company. It managed to boggle my mine – but, then, that’s easily done.

    T.O.M.

  2. InActionMan IAM Says:

    I’ve thus far managed to avoid lawyers, worried by the fact that my English language students repeatedly pronounce the profession to be ‘liars’. On the other hand, this does allow me to drill ‘All lawyers are liars but not all liars are lawyers.”
    Oh the fun I have!

  3. Lori Becker Says:

    Thanks for the details information.
    I really appreciate the hard work you had done here!!Cheers and i will keep an close look for all the updates of your blogs

  4. Moon Township Attorney Says:

    Thank for the info! Lawyers are just doing there job. I think!

  5. Minnesota Mankato Lawyer Says:

    CNN reported on this. You present a less publicized aspect. I find interesting your perspective on this. Brilliant post!

  6. Jane Doe Says:

    I just found this and thank goodness I did before I hired these people! THEY AREN’T EVEN REAL LAWYERS! If you are considering hiring them please check this link out first:

    Binder-and-Binder.com

    Binder-and-Binder.com

    Binder-and-Binder.com

    I just saw that the Senate is wanting Social Security to look at all of the cases that have been represented by Binder and Binder. Some people may even have to pay their won benefits back. If I were you, I would NOT trust these guys. Just look what they did to the guy on the website linked above.

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