Articles Posted in Lawyers

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney and DUI lawyer, I sometimes describe myself as being like a “Q-tip,” with one end of my practice being capped by DUI cases, the other end capped with license reinstatement appeals, and alcohol as the stick that connects them both. No matter how you look at it, alcohol plays a central role in everything I do. Because alcohol is so crucial to my day to day work, I completed the coursework in a University, post-graduate program of addiction studies in order to get a clinical understanding of the whole range of issues people have with drinking, from the development, diagnosis and, ultimately, treatment of alcohol problems. Based upon a recent comment, this article will be about what makes me different from 99% of the other lawyers fishing for your Michigan OWI or license restoration case. And although this article is about me, if you take the time to read it, you will learn what things really matter as you look for a lawyer, no matter who you ultimately hire. We can start this discussion with a simple question that has almost universal application, whether you’re looking to hire a lawyer, doctor, dentist, plumber, builder, mechanic, or anyone: Why should I hire you?

tumblr_mx8xxneMPt1qk91wgo1_500.pngWhen you think about it, that question makes so much sense that it’s actually easy to overlook. It may seem impolite to ask it outright (although I wouldn’t mind answering it), but if you’re not at least asking it of yourself as you sift through potential candidates for your own drunk driving or license appeal case (or anything else, for that matter), then you’re going about it all wrong. “Why should I hire you” (as opposed to someone else), or “Why should I buy this product” (instead of another) is precisely the question that should be asked anytime you’re shelling out money. In general, the correct answer is always going to be something to the effect that you believe that you’re getting the best service or product, or are otherwise making the best choice for your particular needs. So what makes me different (or at least makes me think I’m so different) from every other lawyer?

The comment that inspired this article was actually the most recent of several similar comments made over the years to Ann, my senior assistant, by other lawyer colleagues. Recently, one of them was in my office to see me, and when Ann explained that I was in the middle of my usual 3-hour first meeting with a new client for a driver’s license restoration case, the attorney said something like, “He spends too much time in those meetings.” It wasn’t meant in an offensive way, but as Ann later pointed out, that would pretty much be the assessment of 99% of all the other lawyers. As Ann further noted, 99% of those other lawyers DO NOT have 3 support staff employees (if they even have one) for just themselves; none of them handles as many license appeals in their busiest year as I do in a single month; none of them has a blog with anywhere near a fraction of the information and analysis I give out, and absolutely none of them provides a guarantee to win his or her client’s license back, like I do. So yeah, I’m different, way different, but in a good way, and nothing could ever make me want to change that.
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In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I often wind up speaking with people whose cases are pending in courts beyond the geographic area where I practice. I have always believed that a lawyer should be relatively “local” to the court where a case is pending, and that’s why I only handle DUI and criminal cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. In the conversation I just mentioned, the person (whose case was in a distant county) asked me whether she should spend the money for her own lawyer or just go with a court appointed lawyer. I knew that my answer was going to be “hire your own,” but I had to pause for a moment to think about how to say that without sounding “obvious.” This will be a rather short article that addresses the question “Should I spend the money for my own lawyer or just go with court-appointed, instead?”

Line 1.3.jpgThe way for me to put it came quickly; just tell the truth – the unvarnished truth. Sometimes, we try to be diplomatic when we answer a person’s question. If someone asks how you like his or her new car, and even if you didn’t, and you also thought the color was horrible, you wouldn’t just bluntly say so! Can you imagine responding, “I think it’s kind of ugly, and man, that color looks like puke!” Instead, you’d probably just say something like, “Oh, wow, it’s nice and roomy.” My point, skipping all pretensions of diplomacy, is this: If you can, you should always hire your own lawyer. Let me explain why:

When I get back to my office and one of my staff tells me about a caller who is considering hiring me for a drunk driving or criminal case, but already has a lawyer, my gut reaction is 1 of 2 things: If the caller had hired the lawyer, chances are he or she doesn’t like what they’re hearing, and expected a better outcome; in other words, there’s a good chance that person is just someone else’s unhappy customer. Sometimes, of course, the person can be right and the old lawyer may just not be up to the task, or he or she is getting exactly what they paid for by hiring a “cheap” lawyer, but for the most part, in those situations, the problem is the client’s unmet or unrealistic expectations, rather than any supposed under performance of the lawyer. I am rarely enthused or interested in these cases, and most often decline to get involved unless the caller has made an obvious mistake by doing something like hiring the family friend lawyer who isn’t experienced with the kind of case at issue, or employed some kind of bargain, cut-rate lawyer who answers his or her own phone. Court-appointed lawyers, however, are an entirely different matter…
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In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver’s license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about “the law” and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say “call me!” If we’re going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you’re not much of a professional at anything if you’re not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I’m providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

Ing.1.2.jpgIf you are looking for a lawyer for a DUI or driver’s license restoration case, then you already know that the field is crowded, and there is a lot to sort through. The same thing goes for anyone facing a criminal charge and looking for a criminal lawyer. Beyond your own inquiries, you may get recommendations from friends and family. In the strongest way possible, I’d advise against just “jumping” at anyone’s recommendation, even if the lawyer who gets the endorsement is me. You should always check around on your own, read articles, see what kind of information any given lawyer has posted, and then make some phone calls. There simply is NO downside to being a smart consumer and doing your homework.

There’s an old saying to the effect that “information is power.” Actually, it’s not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say “information,” I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being “tough” or “aggressive.” Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. “Value,” in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That’s not something on which you put a price. What’s the value of winning back or keeping your driver’s license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there’s more…
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A few days before this article was written, a fellow lawyer approached me as we were leaving a local Macomb County court and asked me about my policy of posting my legal fees on my website and on this blog. I had just been in court handling a High BAC drunk driving case. I understand that this attorney is revising his website, and he pointed out that my practice of listing my prices right on my site is rather unusual. He wondered how that worked out for me. As I spoke with him, I realized, in the back of my mind, that this would be a great subject for an upcoming article, especially because I had just approved a revision to my fee schedule. I’ll cover that in an upcoming article, but I thought this subject should be addressed first.

How-Much-Compensation 1.2.jpgI have always wondered why certain professions in general, and lawyers in particular, are so secretive about pricing. I have always been the very kind of service provider that I look for when I am the client, customer or patient. I have zero tolerance for any operation that cannot tell me, when I ask, what something will cost, or at least give me a good, general idea. Recently, I learned of a pricing method, called “dynamic pricing,” where the merchant adjusts the price according to the customer’s ability (and willingness) to pay. In other words, the price gets adjusted so the merchant can make -or won’t miss – a sale. Legal fees are often “set” the same way by various lawyers, but not by me. I firmly set my prices and let everyone know, up front, what a particular case will cost. I don’t try and “size someone up” to get a little more if I can, or take a little less, rather than lose him or her as a potential client because I don’t think that’s fair.

I do, sometimes, however, make “package deals,” like when a person has multiple cases in different cities, or 2 people are arrested at the same time for something like possession of marijuana, and in those cases I can make a substantial reduction in the overall fee because there is a substantial reduction in the amount of work I’m going to have to do. However, I have never felt in competition with other lawyers in terms of price. I am, in that regard, the original, first name in Michigan driver’s license restoration that guarantees a win in every case he takes the first time around. I was a genuine driver’s license restoration lawyer, guaranteeing to win licenses back, long before any of the “Johnny-come-lately” lawyers began picking cutesy names with “license restoration” in them . My post-graduate training in addiction studies makes me unique amongst driver’s license restoration lawyers and DUI lawyers, because when I walk into a hearing room, or courtroom, I am the foremost expert on the diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems, which is critical knowledge in both types of cases. This is particularly useful in preventing 1st offense DUI people from being slammed with all kinds of unnecessary counseling, and it helps me protect subsequent offenders from being stuck in expensive and overbearing treatment that they hate (and, consequently, is not likely to work). I charge what I charge because I am worth it in driver’s license, DUI cases and indecent exposure cases. In other kinds of cases, like suspended or revoked license and possession charges, things are a bit different. Let me explain…
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Over the last few years, I have had an increasing number of clients retain me over the phone, before they ever even meet me or come to my office. This article, like the previous, will be another departure from my usual informational installment, because instead of talking about Metro Detroit-area DUI cases or Michigan driver’s license restoration appeals, I will examine things from my side of the desk, and the somewhat new way that I’m being hired. What’s so interesting to me is that I had nothing to do with this. I never “offered” it as an option. Instead, it grew out of this blog, more than anything else, and is really a thing of its own creation.

phoner1.2.jpgMy website and this blog contain a lot of genuinely useful information about DUI, driver’s license restoration and criminal cases. In the criminal setting, I have a rather eclectic concentration in DUI (drunk driving), DWLS/DWLR, embezzlement and indecent exposure cases. I publish 2 articles every week, and I examine my subjects in careful detail. I write about things like the stress a person arrested for a drunk driving goes through, the experience of getting sober, and how that’s a necessary requirement to win back your driver’s license, and how embezzlement cases and indecent exposure cases work in the real world. I don’t write to impress other lawyers; my goal is to speak through the written word with the same conversational voice I have if I’m sitting across a table from someone. Apparently (and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being rather proud of it), a lot of people identify with this.

So much so, in fact, that some years ago, it became clear that my “voice” was reaching people in a way that when they’d call my office, they were more than content to book appointments without ever talking to me first. That was certainly different, at least back then, because lawyers essentially thrive with the understanding that the way to get clients is to bring them in for the free consultation and have them “sign up.” In other words, the object of getting a new caller on the phone is to get him or her to agree to come in and “discuss” the matter further. That was never the way I operated, anyway, because I always preferred to do all my consultation stuff over the phone. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career to be too busy to have time to bring people in just to “kick the tires.” If you’re looking to hire a lawyer, we’ll answer your questions right when you call; there will be none of this “come on in so we can talk about it” stuff…
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I write extensively about Michigan DUI, driver’s license restoration and criminal cases. Occasionally, one of the topics I take up is how to find a lawyer. Contrary to what you might expect, I don’t bend or twist my articles into some kind a long-winded excuse to just say, “Call me!” Of course, I am in business to make money, and although my driver’s license practice is truly global (I handle Michigan clearance and restoration issues for people all across the country and beyond. One client, a U.S. Army Serviceman, came to see me on leave from Korea, and the week this article was written, I was hired by a former Michigander now living in Hawaii), I limit my DUI and criminal practice to the Greater-Detroit area (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne Counties). Thus, I realize that plenty of people who will never call or hire me still look for some guidance in my articles. In this installment, I want to warn the reader about a huge mistake I see people make all the time: Hiring a lawyer too quickly.

smart-consumer1.1.jpgAs much as I enjoy my work, I have no love for the legal “industry” and its marketing strategies. I have tried very hard to break that mold by writing informative and helpful articles on my blog and by doing all of my initial consultations by phone, rather than making a person come in for an appointment. I am still amazed that any lawyer would ever use completely meaningless and worn-out descriptions like “tough” and “aggressive,” yet they do. I am even more amazed that it seems to work. In every occupation, experience is passed on from the veteran to the newbies. Some of the business “tricks” I learned as a young lawyer have never sat right with me, and, as a result, I have never used them, despite the likely potential lost revenue. Even so, I have done well enough that I am glad to have done it “my way.” Perhaps the biggest things lawyers try to do, and in which I see little benefit to the client, is to hurry up and “sign up” any new potential case.

You can get a taste of this from those operations that advertise that their phones are answered 24 hours. Left out of that, of course, is that an answering service takes the calls during the night. Do you really think any lawyer answering his or her own phone on a Saturday night while out with the family, or at 3 a.m. any day of the week, would be anything less than dangerously desperate? Here is the thing: Even if you have court the next day, you can always get extra time from the Judge to find and hire a lawyer. And because you can, you should, even if you’ve waited beyond the last minute. If there is one thing to take away from this article, it is that you should never – absolutely never – hire a lawyer without having “shopped around” first. And the only lawyers who will tell you differently are those afraid of you checking out your options. Doesn’t’ that tell you something?
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One of the praises that’s often heaped on a good lawyer (or anyone, for that matter) is that he or she is “caring.” No one would argue that caring about your work, no matter what you do for a living, is an important part of doing well. A brilliant musician practices endlessly; a top-level athlete does the same. In the learned occupations, however, we are taught that it is necessary to maintain a certain “professional” distance from the client or patient. It is my belief that it is nearly impossible to get this just right. In my case, I know that the best I can hope for is to at least give the outward appearance of maintaining that distance, even though inside, I often taken matters to heart. This is part of my job for which there is and can be no compensation. In a manner of speaking, having a conscience can be a pain. It means fighting hard, but smart, in every DUI case. In driver’s license restoration cases, it means only accepting clients who are genuinely sober, but providing a guaranteed win in return. In criminal cases, it means never forgetting that your client has essentially trusted you with his or her future.

guilt-heart 1.2.pngLike so many of my other articles, this one was inspired by recent events. I have to remain mum regarding particulars of the case; part of my approach in any case that attracts media attention is to deflect that attention and cause a loss of interest in the matter. As I have noted in other articles, while it may serve a lawyer’s interests to get publicity, it seldom helps the client. In addition, I have just about never heard a lawyer say anything worthwhile when talking to the press. I’m waiting for the one time when a defense lawyer promises to beat a case, and then actually does it. Anything less is really nothing worth talking about, but that won’t stop many lawyers from doing just that when they find a microphone in their face. Accordingly, we’ll omit reference to any identifying information about the case at issue beyond noting that one of my clients is facing criminal charges that have very serious implications for his freedom, career and life.

This kind of situation isn’t really anything unusual for me, or for any lawyer that does criminal or DUI work. In many cases, like a driver’s license restoration, for example, the upshot of a win versus a lost can have a monumental impact in a person’s life. The client in the case at hand is really an extraordinarily nice person, and I’ve gotten to know him well, along with his family. I have seen, firsthand, how his case has become a crisis for his entire family. Maybe in part because of the tears I’ve seen fall, I’ve worked extra hard on it. The reality is that people make mistakes. Sometimes, good people can find themselves in really bad situations. In certain cases, the potential legal penalties are harsh, even for someone who has otherwise been a model citizen. This is especially true when a person’s position in life will be severely compromised by a particular conviction. A self-employed contractor may not endure many adverse consequences even for a serious felony record, whereas another person may lose a lot, perhaps even his or her job, over a simple 1st offense misdemeanor DUI conviction. Everything is relative…
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On this blog, and on my website, I put up as much explanatory information as I can about criminal, DUI and driver’s license restoration cases. I have tried, within the body of my writings, to pull back the curtain on and explain how Michigan driver’s license restoration and DUI cases are (or should be) handled, as well as the various considerations important to handling a criminal charge in my capacity as a Michigan criminal lawyer. I can say with confidence that if you are looking around for a lawyer for to handle a criminal, driver’s license restoration or DUI case, it is likely that some of those with whom you’ve had contact with have read and learned something from this blog. One lawyer I know admitted to me that when he needs something to write about, he comes here, to my blog, and “cannibalizes” something I’ve put up. I consoled myself with the old adage that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I’ve even been asked why I am so “generous” with the information I put out.

secrets 1.2.jpgIn this article, I want to point out that for as much information I publish, there are certain essential strategies that, while not “secret,” really defy clear explanation. In addition, there are just certain things I do that are “secret” enough for me to have to hold back and not write about. KFC became famous for its fried chicken with 21 secret ingredients. When curious minds tried to figure out the recipe, some claimed that they couldn’t find 21 ingredients, no matter how hard they looked. KFC was amused by the attempt and essentially said, “Well, that’s part of the secret.” I may be generous with the information I publish, but I don’t give away enough for anyone to copy my recipe, nor do I give away the secrets of the magic trick, either.

Certain legal abilities are simply instinctive. How do I explain this? When I walk into a conference room and find the prosecutor to already be agitated, usually by some other lawyer, I just “know” that it’s probably not the best time to try and negotiate a really sweet deal for my client. Sensing that is instinctive, but I don’t just blurt out something like, “Hey, you look all frazzled, so I think I might do better with you if I come back later.” A graceful exit with a plan to return later requires a keen and rather spontaneous sense of diplomacy.

Other legal skills may spring from within, but they are honed by years of experience. A younger lawyer may make the mistake of defending a client to the point of arguing with the Judge. While the lawyer may not think he or she is arguing with the court, all that matters is that the Judge does. Instead of arguing, I have to persuade. In many cases, I have to educate the Judge, and be able to back up what I say. This is why, for example, as a seasoned lawyer with (at that time), over 20 years of experience, I began the formal study of addiction issues at the post-graduate, University level. Whatever else, a lawyer may succeed in persuading the court about something, but he or she is unlikely to ever win an argument with the Judge (as opposed to an argument with the lawyer on the other side).
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Talk about turning the tables; I recently had switch roles from being a Michigan criminal defense lawyer to searching for a criminal lawyer in another state for a relative who lives there. One of the “perks” of being the lawyer in a family is that I get the call, day or night – weekday or weekend, if someone gets into trouble. In the case at hand, all I could do was explain how the charge would be handled if was pending here, in Michigan. Eventually, I was asked to help find a lawyer for the relative. There I sat, a lawyer pretty good at marketing himself, now having to wade through a sea of websites to find a good lawyer – the right lawyer – for someone else, clear across the country.

My wife began the search, asking me what, in general, she should be looking for. Here, I am proud to say that we were looking for someone who would essentially be my out-of-state equivalent. I explained to my wife that while I have some expertise in being found as a lawyer, I have no experience in finding one. I suggested that she search the name of the charge and the city, sort of like someone in Michigan may search both “Clinton Township” and “indecent exposure,” or “Sterling Heights” and “embezzlement,” or “Rochester” and “DUI.”

seo-searching 1.2.jpgWe certainly got results, just way too many of them. Now we had to narrow things down, so we started slogging our way through some websites. It was strange being on the “other side,” because I wasn’t just looking to look; I needed to find a lawyer. Whatever critical eye I had developed in evaluating another lawyer’s website shifted from my interest in his or her marketing, or potential to compete with me, to the need to find someone for my family member. I was exactly the target market to whom these sites were catering, and I had to quickly pick my way through them to find a real lawyer or I’d be buried alive in lawyer websites.

I quickly began to develop a kind of dislike for lawyers. I felt like I was being attacked by a mob of car salespeople and real estate agents. Every site promised that its lawyer was tougher and more aggressive than anyone else. The real kicker came when I tried to find some information about the charge. I had told my wife that I wanted to find a lawyer, like me, who put up some explanatory information and perhaps had a blog that afforded him or her the opportunity to go into more detail. I learned real quickly that I more or less stand alone by way of the writing I do. Nobody here, meaning in Michigan, and nobody in the state in which I was looking, writes anywhere near the amount of stuff that I do. I have always assumed that most people would look for a lawyer the way I would. I want information and the ability to get a good feel for the person whose name is on the site. Accordingly, that’s how I’ve structured both my site and this blog.

As I continued my search, it became apparent that I was wrong about that. Most sites, it turns out, are long on marketing and short on information. This troubled me, because writing my twice-weekly blog articles allows me to share my approach to cases and my personality with the reader. I’m an explainer, which, in person, translates to being a talker. I’m not quiet. By communicating the way I do, I have probably saved myself countless hours since prospective clients can read my stuff and decide that I’m either on the short list, because they like the way I present things, or that I’m off that list completely, because they don’t. I try to explain things in a way that answers some of the more common questions people have. This has the added benefit of saving me from having to explain the same, basic things over and over, day after day, week after week. This also helps narrow my prospective client base down, for the most part, to people who are looking for an explainer. If someone wants to hire a lawyer who’s the “strong, silent type,” it won’t take long to figure out that I’m not that guy.
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After nearly 22 years of Practicing Criminal Law, handling DUI cases, and helping people whose Licenses have been Revoked for multiple DUI cases get their Driver’s Licenses Restored, I have seen pretty much everything once or twice, and a few things countless times. One “constant” that impacts each of the 3 kinds of cases I handle traces back to a breath or urine test that is positive for alcohol or drugs. In this article, we’ll examine that phenomenon in the context of Probation, and how it gives rise to the dreaded “Probation Violation.”

Another “constant” mixed up with the whole concept of Probation Violations is that a somewhat significant number of people wind up testing positive for alcohol or drugs during the course of their term of Probation. If, in the larger picture, the number or such positive tests were incredibly small, there wouldn’t be any need for continued testing. But it’s not. The number of Probationers who get caught testing positive is surprisingly high. This reinforces the perceived “need” for testing to ensure compliance with Court-Ordered abstinence.

PeeTest1.2.jpgProbation Officers learn, early on, that a positive test can come from anyone. Whether the Probationer is the nicest soccer mom, or the most educated corporate vice-president, just an average Jane or Joe, or the most hardened, ex-con, turning up positive on an alcohol or drug test, whether it be as the result of a breath test, urine test, or even while on some kind of alcohol monitoring device, like a “scram” tether, is a daily occurrence.

Anyone who tests positive knows if the result is correct or not. In reality, most positive tests are actually the result of someone drinking or using, and nothing else. Once in a blue moon, a person might work in a chemical factory and be exposed to fumes that trigger a “false positive” on a “scram” tether, or might walk into some testing facility with such chemicals soaked into their clothing, but this kind of exception is rare. Most of the time, however, what really happens is that a person has tried to time a test, and simply gets popped.

These simple facts make for hard cases. Anyone reading this is likely doing so because either they, or someone they care about, is in this situation, and has tested positive. Not many people are that interested in this topic unless it applies to them, and has immediate relevance, and a positive test result is as relevant as it can get. Positive tests happen every day. It’s frightening when that happens, but I’m here to help. To do that however, we have to start off being candid and honest, and not sugar-coat anything. Most positive tests are positive because a person drank or used, and not because the test is screwed up, or the person took cold medicine, or Aunt Bertha put too much vanilla extract in Uncle Bob’s birthday cake, or whatever other story you can dream up.

What do you do if you’re facing a Probation Violation, or know you’re going to be facing one, for a positive test? You probably already know you need a Lawyer, but what kind of Lawyer? How much should you pay? Who do you turn to at this critical moment?
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