Avoiding the Wrong kind of Lawyer for a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Appeal

I cannot believe that anyone would think that “hiring a Lawyer” for a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration means just paying some Attorney to show up for the Hearing, and/or maybe meeting with him or her for a little while beforehand, but apparently, some people do. A recent experience while in the waiting room at the Michigan Secretary of State’s Driver Assessment and Appeal Division Hearing Office left me in disbelief about what some people, (including Attorneys), consider the Lawyer’s role in a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration case.

As I was waiting for a couple of my Hearings to be called at the Driver Assessment and Appeal Division Hearing Offices, I saw 2 situations that made me, as a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer, cringe in shock. Both involved Lawyers and Clients who, to my mind, were about to blunder into the Hearing Room a million miles from being anywhere what I’d consider “ready” to pursue a License Appeal.

DevilLaw 1.2.jpgIn the first “shocker,” I watched as a young lady was called in for her Hearing, and went in with her Lawyer. Her mother stayed behind, and began conversing with my Client and I, as we waited. As a general rule, I really don’t get into specific legal discussions with anyone but my own Client for a lot of different reasons. The lady with whom we were speaking mentioned that her daughter had flown in from another state the night before because she was sick of losing every attempt to get a “Clearance” of the Michigan hold on her Driving Record by filing an Administrative Review, which is a mail-in Appeal. I politely responded that coming back to Michigan is a good idea, because 3 out of 4 Administrative Reviews lose.

She next indicated that the family had decided to do it “right” this time, and had hired a Lawyer. While I’d never seen this particular Lawyer before, I reserved judgment. Then, she dropped the shocker: She said her daughter had just gotten in last night, and went from the airport to meet with her Lawyer for the first time. I just smiled, but could not stop thinking about how far short such an arrangement fell from properly doing a License Appeal. This meant that the Lawyer had no input into or control over the evidence submitted when the Appeal had been filed, and was just walking into the Hearing room to deal with whatever had been filed with the state by his Client, having exercised no quality control over it. This Lawyer was, quite literally, just going along for the ride.

I cannot imagine being part of any case in which I have not had complete control over every single detail of the case, and the evidence within it. Putting together a winning case means charting out a plan before the first step is ever taken in a License Appeal case. This is something I take very seriously. In fact, I won’t touch or take over a case that I haven’t built right from the start.

The reader already likely knows that to begin a License Appeal, a person has to file a document called a “Substance Abuse Evaluation.” Before you ever even think about having an Evaluation completed, you’ll meet with me for 3 hours to go over, line by line, everything it asks about. I’ll fill out my own special form, called a “Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist” that I’ll have you give to the Evaluator so that she has every relevant detail needed to properly complete this form. On top of that, I’ll make sure you have your Evaluation done right, by an experienced and skilled Counselor who knows exactly what information the Michigan Secretary of State wants. The Clinic I use to have my Evaluations completed is located just a few blocks from my Office. My purpose in using this Clinic, however, has nothing to do with its convenience or affordability (they charge about $200 for an Evaluation, which is far less than plenty of other places), and everything to do with the top-shelf quality of the Evaluations they produce.

Beyond that, I am constantly involved in the process of editing the “Letters of Support” that will be filed along with the Substance Abuse Evaluation in order to start a License Appeal. I don’t just hand off a bunch of “sample” Letters to someone; I carefully explain what kind of information should be in those letters, and, equally important, what should not. Then, I have draft copies of the letters sent to me so that I can review and edit them. Good letters are generally short letters. Frankly, the relevant information in a Letter of Support can be boiled down to one paragraph, and can usually be contained in 3 to 5 sentences. As important as providing the relevant information is to winning a License Appeal, saying the wrong thing can often do more damage than just not having said the right thing. I make sure that doesn’t happen.

The third major phase of putting together a winning License Restoration Appeal is preparing for the actual Hearing, and we’ll cover that aspect as I go over the second situation I saw that day in the waiting room of the DAAD Hearing Office. Before moving on to that, I want to wrap up with an overview of my concerns about the first situation involving the lady who apparently put together all her own evidence, and then hired some Lawyer to sit next to her while the Hearing Officer questioned her about it.

Precisely because I, as the Lawyer, piece together the evidence to be presented in a License Appeal case, and then check and re-check it before submitting it to the state, I Guarantee that I’ll win your case the first time around. While my Guarantee is rather unique, it really should not be, when you think about it. Doesn’t it make sense that a Lawyer taking money to do a License Appeal should know the Law and have enough experience to know exactly what to do in order to win? Part of the reason I offer a Guarantee is because I require that a person must really have stopped drinking before I’ll do their Appeal. This is really the “meat and potatoes” of a License Appeal. Why wouldn’t a Lawyer make that an upfront requirement before undertaking Representation? And shouldn’t every Lawyer know that, under the very best of all possible circumstances, if he or she did not control and direct every aspect of the completion of the Substance Abuse Evaluation and the Letters of Support, it is completely and entirely a matter of luck if those things turn out right?

Sadly, most of the time, they do not.

Fortunately, I can change that, and Guarantee that I’ll win your License back. I do this by making sure I control every single facet of the case and the evidence, right from the start. It means you’ll come meet with me for 3 hours before you ever take the first step in the process. Sure, it means that, beyond money, you’re going to have to invest time and effort into this process, but when you get serious about winning your License back, you’ll gladly make the commitment. Nothing good comes easy, and, as the saying goes, anything worth doing is worth doing right.

In the second situation I saw that day, another lady was sitting by herself in the waiting room when her Lawyer came in. I was waiting with my Client for my next Hearing, and we were just engaging in some small talk. I didn’t start out paying attention to the lady and her Lawyer, but I kept noticing his body language, and how she seemed to pay very close attention to him. This was in stark contrast to how my Client and I were getting on; as usual, I had done my 1-hour “prep session” with my Client the night before, so we were all ready and relaxed as we sat in the lobby. The lady and her Lawyer seemed to be in serious conversation.

After about 10 minutes, the Lawyer seemed to conclude his “spiel,” and turned to his Client and asked her “Any questions?” I was dumbstruck: That was his “prep” session with the Client. From my point of view, that was no “prep” at all…

In a recent article, I noted that all of my prep sessions take about an hour, and are almost always done the night before the actual Hearing. By “night” before, I mean just that – after hours, when there are no distractions, and both you and I are home and have clear, uninterrupted time to review everything. Above and beyond going over the more important parts of the Substance Abuse Evaluation and the Letters of Support, I’ll direct the Client to review the relevant parts of those documents that are important to their Appeal. We’ll go over the questions that I will be asking, and then we’ll cover those questions the Hearing Officer will be asking, bearing in mind that each of the Hearing Officers will ask a number of the same questions, but a lot more unique to their own areas of interest and what they feel is important to a License Appeal.

I cannot be any clearer about it: The prep session is critically important to preparing for and winning a License Appeal Hearing. Trust me, I could do a lot with an hour, at home, in the evening, rather than spend it the phone with my Client, if I didn’t know that doing so was very important. I don’t give up chunks of my evenings because I’m bored; I do it because it’s part of a system of winning my cases.

I have no idea what kind of Legal Fees these Lawyers charged for just showing up to their Client’s Hearings, but from what I saw it sure looked like too much for too little. The plain fact is, however, that the only thing any Fee should buy is a winning result. A discount Lawyer who loses turns out to not have been any kind of bargain at all.

License Appeals are won by knowing exactly what to do, and that becomes important from the moment a person even begins to seriously think about planning out their strategy. For my part, with a first time win rate of around 98%, and a Guarantee to back that up, I know that my methods work. Whatever else, if the reader is considering a License Appeal, and looking around for a Lawyer to help them get back on the road, they should be skeptical of anyone who does not begin the process by preparing them for the Substance Abuse Evaluation before they ever contact an Evaluator, and who does not a Guarantee to win. After all, a Guarantee is just that; a Guarantee. It’s a warranty against losing. Anything less is just a gamble, and when it comes to either winning back your License, or having to wait another year “bumming” rides before you can try again, why would anyone gamble?