Among the things I’ve learned as a Michigan DUI lawyer and author of more than 800 articles is that most of the lawyers handling OWI cases are decent and honest people, but are also virtually indistinguishable from one another. In other words, professionally speaking, they’re almost all just about the same. Slick marketing professionals take advantage of the fact that most people are somewhat impatient, a bit lazy, and don’t want to get caught up in and endless search for a lawyer – all to the client’s disadvantage. Some websites allow potential clients to compare multiple attorneys at once, seemingly streamlining the process. Yet when you do line up a group of lawyers, you’ll find they all say the pretty much the same things: “tough and aggressive,” or “I will fight for you” (like you came looking for a wimp); “20-plus years experience,” (that’s nice, but tons of other lawyers (me, included) have that, as well); “Free consultation” (every lawyer does this, to some extent), or “Call 24/7” (even good room service isn’t available 24/7, so how desperate is that?). Whatever else, the best lawyers respect their time, because it’s important, and don’t even do evening or weekend appointments, much less answer the phone at all hours of the night.
So how do you find the best DUI lawyer without looking forever, or being bombarded with self-serving marketing tactics, endless glowing testimonials, or meaningless slogans like “proven results,” or worse, yet, giving your contact info to someone who won’t leave you alone? To do this right, you ARE going to have to invest at least a little time. This is an important decision and should be treated as such. To be clear, I do have something of a self-interest here – but – because I confine my DUI practice to the Metro-Detroit area (meaning primarily Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties), those interests are limited, and I want this article to be helpful for anyone in Michigan (and perhaps beyond) who is needs to hire a lawyer for a drinking and driving case. Everyone facing a DUI knows it’s serious, and doesn’t need to be reminded of all the potential negative legal consequences and punishments (most of which aren’t going to happen, anyway). You should run away as fast as you can from any operation that resorts to fear-based marketing tactics, or, on the flip side, who tries and make it sound like that they can simply make everything go away. Before you can ever find the “best” lawyer, you must first decide what kind of lawyer you’re looking for.
Price does matter, because not everyone can hire from the top shelf, and that’s okay. Someone on a budget should not waste time considering unaffordable lawyers (not that high fees mean a lawyer is particularly good, anyway). The money issue, however, should be tackled first, because it does help thin out the herd of potential candidates. Not to be outright cold about it, but this does require something of a choice between cost and quality. Paying a lot does NOT necessarily (or even often) add up to getting a good lawyer, much less one who is really great, but it’s also true that financial limitations will prevent you from being able to select from among the very best. That said, most people looking to buy a Porsche could not afford a Bugatti, either, so that’s a kind of choice that almost everyone faces, at least to some extent. Key here is to remember that you will never get the best at a bargain price, but also that high prices don’t translate to superior skills, either. That’s why it’s important to put some effort into this.
Marketing experts always advise a provider of goods or services to differentiate him or herself from everyone else. We also can flip this around use that same tactic here, as well, from the consumer’s side of things. While you look at different lawyers’ websites, ask yourself, “what does this person or firm have that’s different from all the others?” As I noted early on, claims of experience, or being tough and aggressive, or having worked as a police officer or prosecutor or the like are about as distinctive as spots on a Dalmatian. The big trend now is to load up on testimonials, and some operations are very good at soliciting and then posting them by the boatload, but those, along with the various kinds of ratings or “reviews,” while they seem to imply quality, have no more real substance to them than meaningless slogans like “results matter.” This is not Ebay, where you scan for bad reviews of sellers who take money and never send the merchandise. You need to go beyond these simple tricks and look for sites that provided genuine and useful information. Little blurbs about how cases have been settled in the past may seem informative, but they don’t provided any real information. Contrast that with the DUI section of this blog, for example, where I have written and published more than 325 articles, to date
Although anyone can use the phrase “DUI lawyer,” if you want the best kind of help in a DUI case, then look for a lawyer who concentrates in this field. For my part, almost all of my day-to-day work involves DUI and driver’s license restoration cases (and those arise from multiple DUI convictions), meaning that drunk driving cases are at the core of virtually everything I do. I don’t handle rape or murder charges, don’t do home invasion case, or really anything that isn’t driving-related. You’ll see plenty of lawyers who “do” DUI cases – along with every kind of criminal charge they can list. That’s not any kind of “DUI lawyer” anymore than is some attorney who just won a complicated murder case; he or she may be a great trial lawyer, and certainly the person you should hire if you are charged with a homicide, but is also probably the last person with the skill set properly handle a DUI charge. When I’m the consumer, I almost always avoid the “Jack-of-all-trades” types for any service I need. In the context of a DUI charge, I think that’s especially sound advice.
You should be looking out for what this lawyer or that firm brings to the table that’s different from, or better than all the rest. That may be something conspicuous, or it may be something subtle. A lawyer who restricts his or her practice either geographically or to a certain area or areas of law is already differentiating him or herself. My DUI practice, as I noted before, is limited to the Greater-Detroit, Tri-County area, whereas it’s counterpart – my driver’s license restoration practice, is open to people no matter where in the world they live, as long as it’s a Michigan license revocation at issue (all of my license appeal hearings take place in Livonia, however). Thus, I hit both the marks: geographical limitation and specific area of practice. In my case, however, that’s not done very subtlety, because I do make it a conspicuous part of my marketing strategy.
Even cut-rate lawyers want to differentiate themselves from their competition, although, I’d argue, for all the wrong reasons. Within my DUI practice, for example, I focus on the outcome, not in the general way that lawyers mean when they say things like “results matter,” but specifically in terms of what does NOT happen to the client. Because I have completed a post-graduate program of addiction studies and understand the development, diagnosis, treatment of and recovery from alcohol problems, I direct my efforts toward helping those of my clients who don’t have a drinking problem avoid any kind of unnecessary alcohol counseling or treatment programs. For any client that does have some kind of troubled relationship to drinking, those same skills enable me to help the client find the right kind of assistance, and still avoid getting run over by the rather anonymous, “one-size-fits-all” court system.
Some DUI lawyers promote their knowledge of the breathalzyer machine at the police station (usually called a “DataMaster”), and a few are even certified to operate it. Others beat the drum about their trial skills and how they challenge evidence. Whatever the value of those things in any particular case, the bottom line is that amongst those lawyers who “do” DUI cases, you can (and should) narrow things down by looking to those who are (or at least call themselves) DUI lawyers, and distill that group even further by looking for what some use to differentiate themselves from the rest.
In my case, I focus on a few things, like protecting my client’s ability to drive and the outcome of the case. In particular, I thoroughly prepare my clients (indeed, we have a separate office appointment just for that purpose) to complete the legally required written alcohol assessment test and to meet with the probation officer as part of that screening in order to avoid any unnecessary (as well as expensive and difficult) treatment or counseling. I concentrate on my client getting as few consequences as possible. Other lawyers, as I just mentioned, zero in on different, but specific things. The larger point I’m making is that if you started looking for a lawyer for a DUI case in Rochester, you’d have endless lawyers to pick from. From there, you could (and should) sharpen your quest for just “DUI lawyers,” and then look to those lawyers who are local, meaning located in the Tri-County area (what good, really do you think it would be to bring in some lawyer from Grand Rapids, or Lansing, or Traverse City?).
Even doing that, you’d be left with a lot of lawyers, all claiming to be the one you need for your DUI case. How should you pick from there? Do you look to reviews, the “pop” of a website, or do you look for real information? Of course, you look for information. Even though my approach is different than everyone else’s, there are a few other lawyers whose approaches, although different from mine, are also different from everyone else’s, as well. If I couldn’t hire me, I’d look to lawyers like them, rather than the endless number of indistinguishable attorneys who simply handle DUI cases, or otherwise think their best quality is being affordable, or always available, or things like that. Do you see what I’m driving at here?
Although just about every lawyer or law firm has a website, you can eliminate most of them pretty quickly. Skip past the multi-tool operations that advertise for divorce, personal injury, wills, criminal and DUI cases. Likewise, look for a lawyer that regularly practices in the court where your case is pending. This won’t be some lawyer from the other side of the state, wherever that is for you. If you look for a bargain, you’ll get nothing better than bargain services. I post my fees and have always been skeptical of dealing with anyone, in any capacity, who treats cost like some kind of big secret (no, I don’t want to come in (or have you come out) before we talk about money). A website should explain things; I have this blog as a supplement to my site in order to do just that. There is no value in any site that asks you questions and doesn’t provide answers. Look for articles, not slogans. If you can’t tell someone why you’re interested in a particular lawyer or law firm (even if it’s just because so-and-so is the cheapest!), then you haven’t done you homework.
If you are looking to hire a lawyer for a DUI charge anywhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County, take the time and read around. Then check around. All of my consultations are done over the phone, right when you call. If you have questions, we have answers. You can reach my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 1-855-DUI-MICH (855-384-6424). We’re here to help.