If you’re a lawyer or a law student, you might think — Disability insurance? Why would I need that? There’s a pretty common misconception out there that long-term disability insurance is only for physical accidents, like getting injured by workplace machinery. But disability insurance will cover any injury or illness that prevents you from earning an income. Disability insurance also covers temporary illnesses that only last for a few years, like some forms of cancer.
While long-term disability insurance is a good idea for pretty much everyone, there are a few details that make it especially important for lawyers.
1. Lawyers get the cheapest rates
A big part of determining your long-term disability rates is your occupation. Good news for lawyers — your job is in the most favorably priced occupation class. That means that assuming you’re healthy, you’ll get some of the lowest long-term disability rates out there.
2. You don't get a salary
Attorneys are typically paid by the hour, which means you don’t get a salary. And if you don’t get a salary, you stop earning money pretty much at the exact moment that you get sick and have to stop working. Without a solid backup plan in this situation, you’re pretty much left out in the cold.
3. You can collect benefits and still work
You may be able to work a little bit during your disability period, but because you’re paid by the hour, it might not be enough to live on. That’s where a disability policy’s Residual Disability Benefit Rider can come in handy. The Residual Disability Benefit Rider will let you collect your disability benefits even if you can work some hours. Basically, as long as you’re not fully back to work, you’ll still be able to collect benefits.
4. You can collect benefits and do a different job
Lawyers have a lot of skills, which means they’re good at doing other jobs. Common example: teaching a few college courses. If you get a long-term disability policy with an "own occupation" rider, you can collect benefits even if you’re working another job. What does "own occupation" mean? Simple — you get to define what your occupation is, and if your disability stops you from working in that occupation, you can collect benefits.
It’s super important for lawyers to get an own occupation rider, but many association plans — the long-term disability policies you can get from your local bar association, for example — use a kind of hybrid policy where you get own occupation for a few years, but then it turns into an any occupation plan. Read more about own occupation riders here and make sure you get a policy that’s most favorable to you as a lawyer.
5. If you plan on opening your own practice, it makes sense to have your own disability policy
Lots of lawyers start their own practice, because a) you make more money that way and b) you’re your own boss. The only downside? You’re completely reliant on your own ability to work. A long-term disability policy that you pay for out of your own pocket makes a lot of sense in this situation.
While buying a long-term disability plan from your local bar association will get you portability — the ability to bring your policy with you from job to job — they have limits that can make them less attractive than buying a policy from an independent agent. Besides the own occupation rider stuff we talked about above, association plans often limit the amount of coverage you can buy. They also typically get more expensive every year.
6. Law students can get it now and use their health to their advantage
This is a little known trick that could save you a ton of money on premiums in the long run. If you’re still a law student, you can get a long-term disability policy right now, even though you’re not making an income! This helps you lock in low rates due to your youth and good health, while also giving you the option to buy more coverage in the future.
Why do long-term disability companies do this? It’s actually pretty simple math. Becoming a lawyer requires additional schooling, which translates into additional costs. These additional costs usually translate into a higher income and lucrative career. And because lawyers have higher amounts of student loan debt, they’re more likely to look into a long-term disability policy to protect their ability to pay off those loans. Lawyers aren’t the only ones who get special treatment — doctors in residence programs typically get the same deal.
For more details on long-term disability insurance, check out our primer here. If you’re ready to start shopping, head over to our online quoting engine and get your quotes in just five minutes.