If you’ve taken the time to even glance at any of the DUI articles on this blog, or the DUI section of my website, you’ve no doubt figured out that I concentrate in DUI cases and driver’s license restoration appeals for people who lose their license after multiple DUI’s. It kind of goes without saying that, given the volume of information I put out, I handle a lot of DUI cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. That’s great for me, and for the people who retain me, but often a person facing a DUI doesn’t know who to trust, or how to find the right lawyer. In this article, I want to examine how you can find the right DUI lawyer, or a lawyer for pretty much any kind of charge. And let me be clear up front, while I am in business to make money, I want to connect with clients for whom I’m the right lawyer, and who are the right fit for me. There is no lawyer who is the right lawyer for everyone, so this isn’t just some big sales pitch.
It would make sense to divide our examination into 2 relevant parts: Finding a lawyer, and then deciding on a lawyer. Anyone reading this has undoubtedly been doing some research, and “found” me on the web. A decade ago, you’d find a lawyer by flipping through the yellow pages. Things are very different now, but even so, one can look to see if a prospective lawyer has a phone book mentality by evaluating the information his or her website and blog provides. If a site is mostly slogans and self-attributes of experience and skill, then it’s really not much more than an advertisement. At the level where I operate, lawyers analyze and explain things. For my part, I publish 2 new blog articles every week, and each article links to my site, to the actual rule of law and/or any other outside source relevant to the topic at hand. You can figure out that a site is “better” pretty quickly.
Some people are referred to a lawyer by word of mouth. While that may be a great way to learn about a potential attorney to handle your DUI case, there is no endorsement that should be accepted without comparison. In other words, do your homework. Even when someone is referred to me, I want him or her to log onto my blog and learn a little about me. Check out my articles, see how I write, and explain things. Compare me to a few other lawyers out there. To be embraced blindly because someone said I did such a good job may put money in my pocket, but I’d rather be chosen for who I am, rather than whom I previously represented.
The problem with a word of mouth referral is that you don’t learn a lot about the lawyer from the referral itself. You get a name, a number, and maybe an endorsement that he or she did a good job in a similar case. You have no idea how the lawyer holds up when compared to the broader field of DUI lawyers, and that’s never good. As I noted before, even when I get a referral, I ask the person to read a few of my blog articles and check out my site. How do my articles compare to other lawyer’s? If another lawyer has no body of articles in which he or she examines and explains things, then perhaps you should take that into account…
However you find a lawyer, you pretty much have to call him or her. This brings up an issue that drives me nuts. Although I never need to hire a lawyer myself, I do have to call other lawyers often enough, and the one thing that I simply cannot accept is getting voicemail. My feelings may be a bit strong on this point, but I cannot help feeling that any office that doesn’t have a live person answering the phone and answering questions is a little bit too small-time, at least for me. The person who answers the phone is the director of first impressions. If that person cannot answer some of your questions right when you call, that’s a red flag.
The other day I had to call a local criminal lawyer about a mutual client. It turns out that he wasn’t in, but I asked his assistant a few question regarding the case about which I was calling she answered my questions, without missing a beat, as if I was talking to the lawyer himself. We had a good chat, and I realized that his office is a lot like mine. I firmly believe that’s the way it should be. While I understand that in certain offices there is an established hierarchy, and that some lawyers want their administrative staff to stick to clerical duties and not interact with the clients very much (something that I disagree with entirely) my office is run like a team. I’m the only lawyer there, but you’d be hard-pressed to know that when you call.
My consultations are done right over the phone, when a person calls. If you take the time to read a few of my articles relevant to your inquiry, you will find that many of your questions get answered. You can figure me out just by reading my stuff. I speak like I write (except that my written language is G-rated, and lacks some of the more “colorful” terms I use in face-to-face conversation). I am, by nature, an analyzer and explainer. Your first appointment in a DUI case with me will last about 2 hours. I need to understand you, and the facts of your case, and I have a lot to explain to you. Many people pick this up from my various articles and my site, and just call, ready to make an appointment.
As much as I hate voicemail, I have no patience with any operation that is stingy with information and wants to make an appointment to meet. I just replaced my living room TV, and while I did most of my research online, I had a few quick questions. I called a few local retailers, and the first two I called basically said, “come on in and we’ll talk about it.” Nothing like subtle high pressure, eh? The company that got my business was glad to take my call and explain things right over the phone. I wrote them a check the very next day.
A consultation provides an opportunity for a person looking to hire a lawyer to ask some questions a get some information. It also provides the lawyer (or his staff) and opportunity to assess a person. Someone can call my office and have endless money, but if he or she has a bad attitude, or is the kind of person who wants to “play” co-lawyer and second-guess everything, I’ll take a pass. In a sense, a consultation is kind of like one of those “speed date” things where you get to assess whether a person is right for you, or, at the very least, not obviously wrong for you.
Here is where I part company with some in my field. I am unfailingly honest. I take this seriously, but a friend of mine (another honest lawyer) once joked that being honest has cost him a ton of money over the course of his career. There is a lot of truth to this. It would be so easy for me to tell someone what he or she wants to hear: “Yes Mrs. Jones, I agree that the police officer probably didn’t have any reason to pull you over, and you’re probably right that you did okay on the field sobriety tests; I think we’ll get the whole case against you dismissed quite easily.” That may be what you’d like to hear, but that’s not how things work in the real world. No lawyer can tell you anything definitive until he or she has carefully evaluated the evidence in your case.
That’s a great way to lure in business, but I cannot even begin to imagine having to deal with a frustrated client who looks at you with pure disappointment in his or her eyes and says, “But you told me…” No thanks. I produce the best results possible, but I do it honestly.
Personality is an important consideration when hiring a lawyer, or any professional, for that matter. I’m a talker and an explainer. I dress very professionally when I go to court, but on office days, you’ll almost always find me in jeans. I like to get to know my clients; what kinds of things are you into? What is your life all about? Obviously, I match well with clients who are questioners and discussers. This is where my blog helps, because through a blog, you can see how a lawyer operates. I analyze and examine things, and explain how they work. Many of my clients have read more than a few of my articles and realize that they already “know” me, and have a handle on my approach. Beyond explaining how I do things, I also list my fees on my site. As a general rule, I won’t do business with any entity that treats pricing like a secret, or expects me to call without at least some idea of cost, and I certainly wouldn’t try and pull that stunt on a potential client. Do you want to know how much I’ll charge for your case? You can find out by looking on my site.
In terms of personality, some clients prefer the “strong, silent type,” and that’s definitely not me. On the continuum of personality types, there are lawyers on one end who take charge and lead the way, telling the client what he or she will be doing. At the other end, you’ll find the “court-appointed” mentality who is less decisive and will present “options” to the client, meaning that he or she will provide little guidance and leave the client to flounder in confusion. Toward the middle, a lawyer will explain to the client what his or her option are in any given case, the implications of any course of action, and then direct the client to the best choice. I’m that middle guy, and I think that’s the best way to be, but some people like to be dominated, and others like to control everything themselves.
Whatever else, you have to like your lawyer. You can’t try and convince yourself that someone who’s an a$$hole really isn’t, nor should you accept someone who isn’t clear spoken. If I was in the client seat, I’d want to know that my lawyer knows about me, understands my real life concerns (will this affect my job or any kind of licensure that I hold?) and really cares about me. Yet for all of that, there are people who don’t want to have any real involvement in the case, or interaction with the lawyer beyond just throwing money at the case. If that’s you, then you need to find the right lawyer for that.
As you do your homework, you need to bear in mind that money is a powerful thing. I don’t compete in the ranks of the bargain lawyer, and that at least allows me not to try and “hook” everyone who calls (remember, “come on in and we’ll talk about it…”). I guess there’s no way to say this politely, but you should be wary of any lawyer who needs your business more than you need his or her help. Whatever else, you won’t find that (or at least nearly not as much) at the higher end of the spectrum.
Finding the right DUI lawyer is really about finding the right lawyer. I cannot emphasize this enough: Do your homework. Read. Read a lawyer’s site and articles. Call the office. Ask questions. Would you ever think of buying a refrigerator or a TV without doing some comparison-shopping? Why would you ever do anything less when you’re looking for a lawyer for something as important as a DUI case? Ultimately, I hope you check me out as part of your “homework,” and, if you decide we may be a fit, that you call my office. Whatever else, if you’re taking the time to really look at all of your options, then you’re headed in the right direction.