In my roles as a Michigan criminal, driver’s license restoration and DUI lawyer, I have always tried to keep my fees reasonable. That said, I have never sought to compete with the bargain lawyers, as the level of service that I provide (and which should and does translate into tangible results) is much different from theirs. For example, I guarantee to win every driver’s license restoration case I take. Recently, however, health insurance costs have gone way up, essentially becoming the straw that broke the camel’s back in my office, because over the last few years, everything else has gone up, as well. I’ve held the line on costs until now, but since mine have gone up again, so too, will my fees, although only modestly. I’m out to cover my increased costs, not build a new vacation home. While most lawyers don’t go anywhere near publishing their fees or writing anything about them, I do. That I list my fees in the first place makes me very different from every other lawyer I know; that I’d put up an article announcing and explaining a price increase is yet another way that I’m different, but I wouldn’t do things any other way. Personally, I won’t do business with any operation that hides its prices or is secretive about costs, and given that one of the current, in-vogue buzzwords is transparency, I think an article about prices is necessary and, well, transparent.
You know the old saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Well, it’s not only true, it is an axiom of commerce. Nobody gives anything away for free. There is always a motive. Even if you stop into a furniture store to fill out a card to enter a raffle for a free couch with a “no purchase necessary” disclaimer, the store figures that the cost of one (and you can count on this, it’s not a top-of-the-line model) couch is more than worth bringing hundreds of people into the showroom and have them walk all the way to the back, past all the other furniture, to enter the contest. Over time, they will clean up on impulse buys that make the cost of the couch well worth it. I’m no different. I’m a nice guy, as honest as can be, and have my own motivation for being transparent, but I’m also perfectly glad to share it. I figure that, by listing my prices, I can save my staff and I lots of time not having to deal with time-wasters and bargain hunters looking for a cheap lawyer. In fact, just about anyone who emails and inquires “How much do you charge,” beyond having missed the fees I list on both my blog and website, almost certainly can’t afford the services I provide, either. Hiring a lawyer, at least for the kinds of work I do, is kind of like hiring a laser eye surgeon to fix your vision, or a plastic surgeon to do some cosmetic work: You can find bargains, and you can find cheap, but you will NEVER find the best in class using those criteria. That goes for everything.
Of course, you can overpay for a lawyer, as well. Anything near a $10,000 DUI, for example (regardless of whether it’s a 1st, 2nd or 3rd offense) is, in my opinion, grossly excessive – unless it results in all charges being dropped. Given that only about .17 percent of all DUI and DUI-related arrests result in an acquittal after trial, good luck with that (this, in part, accounts for why I attract a disproportionately high number of 2nd offense DUI cases; those clients are experienced, educated consumers and they identify with my candid and direct approach). Always remember that when you hire a lawyer, you are paying for someone to go make your situation better. Anybody can promise the world, make everything sound like it will all get dismissed, assure a great outcome, and then do all kinds of work. The question becomes what work is actually helpful and/or necessary, and the answer involves making sure your lawyer charges enough to thoroughly examine the evidence first (that’s not going to happen with a cut-rate lawyer), and then challenges it when doing so is appropriate, and likely to improve your case, rather than just doing so in a shotgun approach that is really just “busy work” to justify the fee you’ve paid. These tactics, while making a person feel like they’ve gotten a lot of work for their money, do tend to backfire with the court and cost a lot goodwill. Judges know who is out to take people for a ride. Yet for all of that, however, what am I doing with my prices?