This blog article, like many others in the Driver's License Restoration section of this blog, was inspired by a real life occurrence in my Practice as a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer. Responding to my web site, a man recently called about getting his Michigan Driver's License reinstated. I wasn't in at the time, and he spoke for a while with my Assistant, Ann. After screening him, Ann discovered that, for reasons beyond the scope this article, he was not yet "ready," at least by my standards, to begin pursuing his Appeal. Although he was legally eligible to start a License Appeal, the way these cases are decided in the real world meant that there was no chance he could have won his License back without a little more time passing.
Anytime someone calls my Office about a Michigan Driver's License Restoration or Appeal case, we'll will take the time to answer their questions, explain what we can and cannot do, and then, if they are not yet legally (or otherwise) able or ready to proceed, tell them what they need to do, or should do, in order to become ready, or at least how long they should wait. At the end of this recent conversation, the gentleman expressed his gratitude for Ann having spent a while with him on the phone, and having taken the time to explain everything so clearly. He noted that my Office spent far more time with him than anyone else he called. Then he said something that made me stop and think about what makes my Office so different: He said every other Lawyer he talked to pretty much only told him how much money he needed to bring in to get started.
Apparently, no one spent any real time with him, and asked questions to discover his exact situation. No one explained how the Michigan License Restoration process really works. No one bothered to tell him that if he was to file now, he'd surely lose, because there were some things he needed do first, while he waited a few months, in order to put his ducks in a row an line up a winning case. Equally as important, he told Ann, no one bothered to ask him if he was Sober, and when he had stopped drinking.
In fact, he said that everybody else just told him to bring his money and come on in. Sure, my Office didn't get his money, at least right then, but the flip side is that he didn't get bamboozled into a certain loss, both of his case and of his money, only to have to sit on the sidelines and wait for another year to try again. If I accepted his money, knowing what I do (and my Staff does) about License Appeals, it would have been morally wrong. Anyone who knows better, but takes him money anyway, would simply be "fleecing" him. Obviously, anyone who doesn't know License Appeals as well as we do, and who would take his money NOT knowing there was no way he could win his License Appeal at this time, isn't guilty of a moral transgression, but is, instead, dreadfully (if not harmfully) ignorant of what it takes to win a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case.
My take on License Appeals is simple: Winning your case the first time around is the only thing that matters. I Guarantee that I'll win your case the first time we go in. In order to do that, however, I cannot take just any old case that comes along. "Bring your money and come it" may be a good way for a Lawyer to make a lot of money, but it isn't any way to build or maintain a winning record. I consistently win around 98% of my cases the first time around. I do that by, first and foremost, making sure anyone who I represent is Sober, and has quit drinking.
Having quit drinking goes right to the heart of a License Appeal. The real "meat and potatoes" of a Michigan Driver's License Restoration case is the ability to satisfy the legal requirement that the person's "alcohol problem...is likely to remain under control." This means, in a real manner of speaking, proving Sobriety. As a result, asking about Sobriety should be one of the very first things a Lawyer does, right along with determining if a person is legally eligible to begin the Appeal process.
Of course, all this talk about Sobriety will scare some people away, particularly those who are still drinking. From a purely economic point of view, that works against me. In fact, I probably get 2 phone calls from people who aren't yet Sober for every 1 I get from someone who has, in fact, stopped drinking. If I dropped the Sobriety requirement, I could probably triple my income. Yet I could not offer my first-time win Guarantee, and if there's anything that I think sets me apart from the herd, it's that. And I couldn't live with myself, either.
Having a Guarantee is great. It gives a priceless peace of mind to the Client. It may even act as an incentive for someone who is contemplating making a commitment to stop drinking to actually go through with it. Whatever else, having a Guarantee speaks to the standards by which I accept cases. Not having a Guarantee also speaks to the standards by which other Lawyers accept cases. I think this is an important distinction.
It may sound trite, but I always remind my Client that, "I'm in this to win this." While it's a cute saying, it also reiterates the fact that my income is based on winning my License cases the first time around. I often point out that while Sony, for example, has a good product warranty, it makes its money by making TV's that work right out of the box, and not making very many that have to come back for repair. I'm in the same boat.
That "bring me your money" mentality has never been part of my character. As a Michigan Driver's License Restoration Lawyer, I have established a certain standard that I uphold. I never walk into the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) Hearing Office with someone who is still drinking. I have a rock-solid reputation for screening out lesser (as in "still drinking") candidates, and I use my skills to help people who really deserve to win their Licenses back. I feel good about what I do, and I NEVER have any crisis of conscience precisely because I do not help risky drinkers try and scam the system.
I think that the knowledge that my Client is really Sober helps inspire and motivate me to put everything at my disposal into winning their case. When I Represent someone in a Michigan License Appeal, I want them to win. I feel that it is right and just for them to win, and that if they don't, a wrong has been done. I could not feel this way if I just took a case from just anyone who steps up to pay my Fee. I feel this passionately because I Represent Sober people, and Sober people really deserve to win their Licenses back. It's one thing to be a Lawyer and take up a side of a case, but it's an entirely different thing to take up a side you truly believe in.
In the final analysis, the real "standard" I have for accepting a License Appeal case is whether or not a person is really Sober, and therefore really deserves to win. This is a far different, and far higher standard than just requiring a certain amount of money to accept Representation. Because of that, I can back up my efforts with a Guarantee. I can take someone's money with a clear conscience. By the opposite side of the same standard, I can also decline to take their case and feel good about that decision, as well.
"Bring me your money" should always mean, at a minimum, that, "you must be Sober." I think it should also come with a Guarantee. No matter what, if something doesn't come with a Guarantee, then a certain degree of risk involved. I cannot imagine taking someone's money for a License Appeal and ever saying "no guarantees." Then again, I've never had to.