Michigan Driver’s License Restoration – What’s in a slick name for a Lawyer? – Part 1

For more than 2 decades, I have helped people win back their Michigan driver’s licenses. In the last several years, I have built a solid web site (currently being revised) and developed this blog, with more than 200 in-depth articles about the whole Michigan license restoration (and clearance) process. In my various articles, I have been diplomatic, helpful, and respectful. This article, divided into 2 installments, will be a bit different. I have a bone to pick…

Recently, a new license restoration client told me that he couldn’t believe how much information I have published about Michigan license appeals, and remarked that I was certainly generous in sharing my knowledge. He then went on to quip that I may have even given away a few “secrets” to help other lawyers compete with me. I thanked him for the compliment, and assured him that while my office does get calls from lawyers seeking help when they get “stuck” in a license appeal, I’m not worried about anybody following in my tracks and stealing my thunder.

salesman 1.2.pngWhat I have noticed is that while plenty of operations have tried to follow in my tracks, or even make tracks of their own, although none of them can come close to stealing my thunder. It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but here, I want to caution the reader that imitation, at its best, is just that; imitation. You need to be careful about who you hire for a Michigan driver’s license restoration case, and certain devious players out there are deliberately trying to make that confusing and more difficult.

What prompted me to write this article was a google search I recently made that resulted in endless websites with some version of “license restoration” and/or “Michigan” and/or “lawyer” in their titles, or URL’s. In particular, one site did not identify any lawyer by name, and seemed like a generic “referral” site that would convince a person to fill out the “contact us” form, and then forward the information to a kind of distribution center where it would be sent to one of the participating member lawyers. The site listed no physical address, no lawyer’s name, and had the telltale “1-800” (nowadays, it can also be a “1-888” or “1-866”) number.

Here’s some free advice: No matter what kind of lawyer you’re looking for, don’t waste your time calling the unknown end of some “1-800” number. To be clear, I am talking about a listing or site where there is no “local” phone number or local address information provided. Lots of lawyers with a real office and a physical address have a regular phone number and/or also provide an “800” number, as well. That’s fine. Here, I very precisely mean the “unknown end” of an “800” number. Who are you calling, and where are they?

Encountering this, I decided to click around a bit. I wondered, who are these various operations using every variation of “license restoration” in their website names? What I discovered left me shaking my head.

First of all, if I am going to be credible here, I must acknowledge that I do have a few real “competitors” out there in the field of driver’s license restoration cases. I’m talking about good lawyers, here. Each of our respective webmasters would go nuts if we mentioned any of the others by name, thereby “strengthening” the others’ website position, or search engine rankings, which is the prime “shelf space” we all fight for. Even so, I know who they are, and they know me. And whatever else, I know that we are a very small, very select group of lawyers. Sure, each of us goes to great lengths to differentiate ourselves from the others, but I can honestly say that in my practice, having “seen” the work of the other attorneys from this small cadre of real “driver’s license restoration lawyers,” I have found nothing short of fine quality. This article is not about those lawyers; even though they are my competition, they are people of integrity and skill. My gripe here is about a new wave of opportunistis pretending to have a level of experience and skill they don’t by using a website name designed to get “hits” on search engines.

Not surprisingly, you can figure out who’s who, if you take the time. The “real deal” license restoration lawyers dedicate most of their practices to license restoration cases. Some, like me, write extensively about the process, and focus on real-world issues and specific situations that people face, rather than using tired platitudes like “tough,” “aggressive” and “experienced.” To be sure, a few of the more veteran license attorneys have launched newer sites with the some reference to “license restoration” in their names, or URL’s but it seem like now everyone is a license restoration lawyer. After all, these appeals are not cheap.

Or are they? Here’s another piece of free advice you can take to the bank: Run away from any operation competing for license restoration cases by offering discount prices. It takes a lot of time to do a first rate job in a license appeal. In my practice, I offer a guaranteed win. To get there, however, we begin with a first appointment in my office that lasts for about 3 hours, and that takes place before you ever meet with a counselor to have your substance abuse evaluation completed. And that’s just for starters. I can only wonder if any of the cut-rate, discount operations spend that much time, in total, on the whole case…

I don’t know exactly what all of my real competitors charge, beyond having heard that at least a few of us are in roughly the same ballpark. For my part, however, I HATE not knowing a price up front. If I’m looking for any product or service where a price can at least be reasonably estimated, I expect to find that information easily. If I don’t see it online, I won’t bother calling the business.

I list my prices all over the place on my site, and in numerous of my articles. I won’t insult someone by “beating around the bush” and being evasive about my fee. As I noted, I won’t call any business that doesn’t at least give me an idea of the price range up front, assuming it can be done. Of course, it you’re talking about fixing a leaky basement, that’s one thing, because the price is going to depend on the amount of repairs that need to be done. Licenses, appeals, by contrast, all pretty much involve the same, or at least a similar enough amount of work. So here’s my deal: My fee in a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case is $3600, beginning with $1200 down at our first 3-hour meeting. That fee comes with a guarantee, and that guarantee comes pretty much without exceptions.

As I write this article, and I look at my schedule the week after next, I have 7 license hearings and 2 new license client intakes. And that’s only so far. I handle more license restoration cases in typical month than most other lawyers will in an entire career. When it comes to experience, I have more than I’ll ever need.

Experience is great, but I think it’s important to continue learning, as well. And given that the recovery from an alcohol problem is the central focus of a Michigan license appeal, I have made understanding the development, diagnosis of and recovery from an alcohol problem the focus of my learning. I do more than just “read books,” however. I am formally involved in addiction studies at the post-graduate, University level. I actually go to campus and sit in a college classroom and take classes. And I’ll be candid here, as well: It costs me MORE than $12,000 per year in books and tuition to do this, but the benefit goes directly to my clients. I don’t guarantee a win in every case I take just because I think I’m lucky…

I am at the Michigan Secretary of State Driver Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD) office in Livonia multiple times every week. I see which lawyers go there. I know who is a “regular,” and I can count them on one hand. One lawyer that I see every once in a while comes in and sits with his clients a few minutes before the hearing as if to “prep” him or her. I wrote an article about that once, because I was shocked that anyone could consider that kind of abbreviated last minute “pep talk” to be some kind of “prep.” I do almost all of my “preps” the night before the actual hearing, as in after hours, when there are no distractions, interruptions or time limitations. My “prep sessions” with my clients usually last at least an hour, sometimes more.

When I walk into the hearing office lobby, my clients have been so thoroughly prepared that they (and I) feel confident and relaxed. Usually, we don’t even talk about the case; we’re beyond ready to go. Instead, we’ll talk about the drive in, or the weather, or something else. No “real” driver’s license restoration lawyer would ever walk into the hearing office a few minutes early in order to “go over a few things.” As I have pointed out in some of my other articles, these cases are won or lost in the preparation, and there are no shortcuts to doing things right.

We’ll stop here for now, because that’s probably enough anger for one installment. But I’m not done, either. In part 2 of this article, I will pick up by examining the role of trust in the lawyer-client relationship, and how, in my case, that culminates with me providing a guarantee that I will win back your Michigan driver’s license. We’ll also talk about passion, and sobriety, and how all those things come together to form the nexus of a winning case, and how those things are distinctly absent from the offerings of those opportunists who try and use a website name as a substitute for anything of real value.