It takes a lot of time and effort to win a Michigan driver's license restoration or clearance appeal case. Even the most eligible, deserving and qualified candidate has to carefully navigate the legal terrain of what I call "a million little rules." Anyone who is genuinely sober and previously tried a license appeal only to lose now understands that merely being alcohol-free is far from enough to win your license back. One of the reasons I guarantee that I'll win any Michigan license appeal case I take is that I dedicate the necessary time to put together a winning case, and that starts right at the first meeting with a new client, before he or she has a substance abuse evaluation completed. This first meeting typically lasts about 3 and ½ hours. I've had clients who have lost a prior case tell me that whatever lawyer previously handled their case didn't spend as much time on the whole thing as we did at the first meeting alone. As with anything, come from thorough preparation, and with something as important as a driver's license appeal, there are no shortcuts to doing it right.
In some of my other driver's license restoration articles, I have talked about a person's journey from drinker to non-drinker as a "recovery story." For many (but certainly not all) people, there is a kind of "light bulb moment" when they hit bottom and decide enough is enough. For others, the decision to stop drinking is the end result of a process that usually involves a lot of thought. In the clinical world, we call that "tipping the decisional balance," meaning that the scales tip away from continuing to drink in favor of quitting. Whoever you are, and however your decision to stop came about, there is certainly a lot of background to it. This is the main plot of your recovery story, and I need to explore that with you in order to sort things into the proper context. As a driver's license restoration lawyer, I cannot imagine getting anywhere near in-depth enough in an hour or an hour and a half to do that.
Almost all of my clients will fall into 1 of 2 groups: Those who are active in AA, and those who are not. As it turns out, most of my clients do NOT go to AA. For those who attend meetings, however, the whole concept of "telling your story" comes a little easier. Although most of my clients are not active in AA by the time they come to me, most of them do have at least some AA in their past. Some people, of course, have never gone to a meeting, so the whole "tell your story" concept is strange to them. That's okay, because an important part of my job is to help go back and review things so that we can arrange the events that led from your drinking days to the decision to quit, and the positive changes that followed, into a kind of story; this is your "recovery story." And while this is certainly important, there is a lot more to this than just drafting a narrative.
When I meet with a new client, one of the things we'll do in that first, 3-hour meeting is go over the substance abuse evaluation form line-by-line. To be clear, my legal assistant will generally spend the first ½ hour with a client to gather general information, and then I come in and we'll spend the next 3 hours going over the things I need to cover. If I had to define the real point of the time I spend with a new client, it's to prepare him or her to have the evaluation completed. The way l do it stands in contrast to the way most other lawyers do it. I don't merely give my client the names of a few evaluators and then tell them to go and have an evaluation completed; instead, I begin by explaining the role of the substance abuse evaluation in a license restoration case, how the DAAD (the Michigan Secretary of State's Driver Assessment and Appeal Division) interprets it, and how we can make sure ours is rock solid. Doing this right requires nothing less than a line-by-line, point-by point explanation.