Michigan Lawyer fee Schedule in Criminal, DUI and License Restoration Cases

A few days before this article was written, a fellow lawyer approached me as we were leaving a local Macomb County court and asked me about my policy of posting my legal fees on my website and on this blog. I had just been in court handling a High BAC drunk driving case. I understand that this attorney is revising his website, and he pointed out that my practice of listing my prices right on my site is rather unusual. He wondered how that worked out for me. As I spoke with him, I realized, in the back of my mind, that this would be a great subject for an upcoming article, especially because I had just approved a revision to my fee schedule. I’ll cover that in an upcoming article, but I thought this subject should be addressed first.

How-Much-Compensation 1.2.jpgI have always wondered why certain professions in general, and lawyers in particular, are so secretive about pricing. I have always been the very kind of service provider that I look for when I am the client, customer or patient. I have zero tolerance for any operation that cannot tell me, when I ask, what something will cost, or at least give me a good, general idea. Recently, I learned of a pricing method, called “dynamic pricing,” where the merchant adjusts the price according to the customer’s ability (and willingness) to pay. In other words, the price gets adjusted so the merchant can make -or won’t miss – a sale. Legal fees are often “set” the same way by various lawyers, but not by me. I firmly set my prices and let everyone know, up front, what a particular case will cost. I don’t try and “size someone up” to get a little more if I can, or take a little less, rather than lose him or her as a potential client because I don’t think that’s fair.

I do, sometimes, however, make “package deals,” like when a person has multiple cases in different cities, or 2 people are arrested at the same time for something like possession of marijuana, and in those cases I can make a substantial reduction in the overall fee because there is a substantial reduction in the amount of work I’m going to have to do. However, I have never felt in competition with other lawyers in terms of price. I am, in that regard, the original, first name in Michigan driver’s license restoration that guarantees a win in every case he takes the first time around. I was a genuine driver’s license restoration lawyer, guaranteeing to win licenses back, long before any of the “Johnny-come-lately” lawyers began picking cutesy names with “license restoration” in them . My post-graduate training in addiction studies makes me unique amongst driver’s license restoration lawyers and DUI lawyers, because when I walk into a hearing room, or courtroom, I am the foremost expert on the diagnosis and recovery from alcohol problems, which is critical knowledge in both types of cases. This is particularly useful in preventing 1st offense DUI people from being slammed with all kinds of unnecessary counseling, and it helps me protect subsequent offenders from being stuck in expensive and overbearing treatment that they hate (and, consequently, is not likely to work). I charge what I charge because I am worth it in driver’s license, DUI cases and indecent exposure cases. In other kinds of cases, like suspended or revoked license and possession charges, things are a bit different. Let me explain…

In a suspended license charge, there is less “outcome” to affect through the application of strategy or my clinical education. While I can produce results in DUI cases using information that other lawyers may have never even heard of, the disparity in outcomes in something like a suspended or revoked license charge isn’t nearly as great, although I do call upon my extensive knowledge of Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code and my experience as a driver’s license restoration lawyer to produce outcomes that will spare my client licensing complications that another lawyer may not fully grasp. Accordingly, my fees in those matters may seem more “competitive,” but they just reflect my own perception of value. Yet value is important, and it is a mistake to overlook value.

Price is certainly something about which I inquire as a consumer. In that capacity, I almost always quickly rule out the cheapest. Cheap is cheap. I really cannot think of anything where the lowest bidder brings anything other than misery. Michigan roads crumble so quickly because we award the contract to the lowest bidder. I had to learn some of this the hard way, having just built a house. Builders solicit bids from the various trades, and the idea of getting the job means having the lowest bid. After a while, you learn that terms like “builder’s grade,” meaning minimum quality to get the job done. Maybe even barely. Accordingly, you’ll get “builder grade” locksets on your doors. While maybe not the absolute cheapest (we’ve already been through that), they’ll be far from the best. Of course, you can splurge and get 24-karat gold door handles if you’d like, but that’s nothing more than plain old excess. If you want the “best” lockset, meaning one of top-notch quality, that will last for decades and is well made, you’ll pay for it, but your price point will likely be somewhere in the middle, between cheap and extravagant, and certainly well above “builder’s grade.”

One of the old ploys often used by some lawyers to feel out a person’s ability and willingness to pay is to bring him or her in, or otherwise ask to “get a little information” that includes his or her occupation or place of work. I remember my dad telling me to never look too successful when dealing with a service person because the person would size you up as having money. I understand that’s just the way things work in the world, but I hate that, and, as a result, I don’t do it to others; my prices are already set. Want to know what I charge? Look on my site or this blog. And I won’t “bring you in” for a consultation, either. That smacks of high pressure to me. Instead, I do all of the consultation stuff over the phone.

An unintended benefit of this, at least to me, is that I don’t get as many people calling up and asking, “How much do you charge for such and such?” I’ve learned, over the years, that anyone asking how much I charge is likely shopping for the lowest price anyway, and since I am most certainly not that guy, nor do I want to be, I can, just by listing my price, avoid having to deal with that type. I’ve often wondered what kind of lawyer or doctor or dentist or other professional would think the best attribute he or she had, and the best way to describe the services he or she delivers, is being the cheapest. This is similar to those legal operations that feel the best adjectives they can use are things like “tough” and “aggressive.” Sure, your lawyer should have backbone and be tenacious, but those are minimum qualifications. To me, that’s kind of like saying, “not incompetent” and “not afraid.” Yeesh.

I have listed my prices from the moment I had a website. Beyond listing prices, I provide information, as well. Lots of it. In fact, my site, which is being completely redone as of this writing, is more informational than most. This blog, however, is unmatched. This is a resource used by lawyers and people from all over. I have, as of this writing, 300 articles about driver’s license restoration. I have published over 200 articles about DUI. The takeaway is that my approach is very different. Even though the term is not overused, I like to think of myself as transparent. I don’t waste time being mysterious, or trying to scare someone into hiring me. I choose to be an informed consumer, and I cater to that same kind of person. I’m sure some marketing expert would tell me to play it a little closer to the vest to get more business, but that’s never the kind of person I’d want to hire, so that’s absolutely not the kid of person I want to be to anyone who needs to hire a lawyer. I like the way I do things, and an important part of that is listing my prices right up front.