This is the 6th part (we’re nearing the end!) of a 7-part series examining the 11 things (all beginning with the letter “R”) you should follow to find and hire the right lawyer for your Michigan DUI case. Here, we’re going to sharpen our focus and look at finding what really stands out about any particular lawyer and makes him or her different from the rest of the pack. This is important, because unless you can point to a clear difference, you’re probably shopping for a lawyer like you’d shop for shoes. A person should be able to tell a friend or family member, “I’m considering this lawyer because ——“ in a way that differentiates him or her beyond just being another lawyer who “does” DUI cases. In fact, it’s quit fair to ask any lawyer, “What’s so different about you?” If a lawyer can’t explain that satisfactorily to you, as a potential customer, then how could you ever explain it to anyone else?
Realize what’s really different. Although most lawyers fail miserably at this, every last one wants to appear unique. The result is that DUI lawyers, for example, look like one big herd of attorneys who all say the same things in an almost unanimous chorus of “me too.” Yep, they all graduated from law school, all passed the bar, and every last one of them tells the world that they have experience. They all say that they’re aggressive and/or tough, too, like Rocky getting ready for the big fight. Some of them will add in that they’re affordable, or that their phones are answered 24 hours (really, they personally take calls at 3:00 a.m.?) and that’s pretty much how each of them has tried (and failed) to distinguish themselves from the others. Look, if any of that stuff matters to you as a consumer, then by all means, make a note of it. Chances are, however, that it all goes right past you, like a sign that says “cold beer” (as opposed to warm beer?) or “hot pizza” (as opposed to a store selling cold pizza?).
As you check around for a lawyer (and shame on you if you don’t), you’ll find, for example, that some offices are really nice – (this is one of the things I’m most proud of – my friendly and helpful staff. In my office, whoever answers the phone should be able to answer most, if not all of your questions right when you call) – and some aren’t. The point I’m trying to make here is that you should be checking out enough different lawyers to be able to figure out who really is different and why. If the only thing you can say is that one lawyer’s office is closer, or open later than another, or that this one called you back the fastest, then you’re not doing this right.
As you look through the seemingly endless supply of DUI lawyers hoping for your business, ask yourself what sets this one, or that one, apart from the rest. You should look for helpful and useful information. I have lots of DUI articles on my blog, and the overwhelming majority of them examine and explain things. One marketing trick that drives me nuts, though – and that you should run away from – is asking questions without providing answers. Teasers like “Do you know the top 5 things that can cause a DUI case to be dismissed?” are meaningless unless there is a responsive follow-up with real answers. Same with gimmicks like give us your email (or call) for the answers, or for more information.
In my case, I have a formal, post-graduate clinical education in addiction studies. I use this specialized training to help my clients who don’t have a drinking problem make sure they don’t get treated like they do, especially given the court systems’ built-in “alcohol bias.” We’ll carefully prepare for the mandatory alcohol assessment test and probation interview to avoid getting hammered with unnecessary classes and counseling. However, if someone comes to me and expresses that he or she has been “thinking” about their drinking, I’m in a unique position to help them (this is where the “counselor” part of “attorney and counselor at law” really matters) explore that. When I meet with someone who has concluded that his or her relationship to alcohol has become troublesome, my skill set enables me to look at the spectrum of counseling and treatment options with them, rather than just saying, “get help,” or giving them a card and saying, “Here, call this number.”
Those lawyers who are breathalyzer experts are the ones you should be hiring if the outcome of your case turns on questionable breath test results. If the only thing you care about is getting the lowest price, then don’t waste your time looking beyond the bottom line; there are plenty of lawyers whose main marketing strategy is being affordable. If you want to fight everything, every step of the way, then look to the lawyers who do that. The point I’m making is that you need to look past the main pack of lawyers who all sound alike, and then sort out those who at least have a unique approach and a clearly defined message. As much as I’d like to say I stand alone in that regard, the truth is that there are plenty of lawyers who are not part of that “me too” crowd.
Having said all that, I’d be remiss for not pointing out at least 3 things that do make me and my office different:
First, I list my prices ($3200 for 1st offense, $3600 for High BAC, $4000 for 2nd offense, and starting at $6900 for a 3rd offense (felony) DUI) on my site and on my blog. When I’m the consumer looking for goods or services, I have no interest in and am prohibitively suspicious of any company that is secretive about price. I won’t deal with operations like that. If I’m looking to buy something or hire someone, I will never call someplace that isn’t clear about cost, upfront. I understand that in some settings, the cost is going to depend on the job, but even so, everyone can at least give a ballpark figure, up front. In this respect, I believe I absolutely DO stand alone, because I really don’t know of any other lawyer who lists prices like I do. By publishing my fees, I distinguish myself from everyone else, especially the bargain lawyers. That probably saves me from having to waste time with people who are looking for low-cost legal services. In addition, anyone who sees that I list my fees knows that being upfront about stuff like that is important to me.
Second, all of my consultations are done over the phone, right when you call. I have no time or interest in dragging every potential client in for a “free consultation.” That’s BS, anyway. If we’re going to call it what it really is, it would be more accurate to say that this is an age-old trick; the appointment for a consultation is really a chance for the lawyer to sign up a new client by getting him or her into the “client chair” and then closing the deal. I can answer any questions you have over the phone, as can any lawyer of reasonable competence. Honestly, I wonder how NOT busy an office must to be to have time to stack up a few appointment slots for this kind of stuff, just to try and land a “sale.” I’ve never worked that way, and would rather deliver pizzas than have to resort to that.
Have you ever heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” There isn’t. If you’re looking for a DUI lawyer, feel free to go to as many office appointments as you want, but then call me. I’ll give you as much time, and probably way more real information, right over the phone. My consultations are like my articles; no one comes within a million miles of the stuff I write, so I’m not worried that any other lawyer will be a better resource for information than me. That’s probably sounds cocky, but it’s simply the truth. Look around. In fact, from a business point of view, the thing that concerns me most about losing out to some other lawyer is that some people, no matter how much they’re warned, will fall sucker and hire a smooth talker who tells them the things they want to hear. It’s not like that kind of person would have ever been a good fit as my client anyway, but people are more vulnerable when they’re stressed and worried about something, so I point this out, at least as a fair warning. Remember, maintain a health skepticism about any and everyone.
Third, I am a talker and a writer, and my office and staff is a reflection of that. Do you really think I’d suggest that you call around or even go to “free consultation” appointments if I wasn’t confident that if and when you do, as long as you call us, we’ll stand out? Seriously, and as I’ve mentioned, I’m in business to make money. I don’t have to, nor would I ever want to get hired for DUI cases because I have an all-night answering service and can race to be the first lawyer who calls you back, or because I’m the cheapest lawyer you can find. Ultimately, my marketing tactic is to urge potential clients to be the best consumer possible. As I have noted before, one of the best lines I’ve ever heard, and the one that I think DEFINES me, comes from the late clothing retailer Sy Symms, who said that, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” I don’t just say that – my livelihood is based upon it. This stands in rather stark contrast to those lawyers who think the best thing they can do is get to a new potential client before anyone else does.
As you look for a lawyer, make sure you really know why any one of them is different from the next, and why that’s important to you. Even when you buy a loaf of bread, differences matter. You may like rye, I might like wheat. I might like sesame seed bread, you might like plain white. I might want to slice my own, you may want sliced. My point is that you wouldn’t be caught walking out of a store with a loaf of bread you couldn’t explain selecting, so why would you do any less when it comes to hiring a lawyer for something as important as your DUI case?
Differences are all well and fine, but they must have some value to you. If some lawyer is “different” because he or she dresses funny, or does meetings in a bar, or something equally unhelpful, that’s not good. We’re all different in certain ways: some lawyers have to do evening and weekend appointments. I don’t. Some lawyers won’t discuss price until you come in. As noted, I publish my fees. “Different,” then, means distinguishable in a way that is ultimately helpful to you, as the potential client.
We’ll stop here and return in our 7th and final installment to examine the last 2 of the “R’s” that you have to do to find the right lawyer for your DUI case: rank the lawyers by what you need, and then reach out to those who really “speak” to you.