Articles Posted in Lawyers

This is part 2 of an article examining why asking “how much do you charge?” is the dead-wrong way to go about looking for a lawyer for a criminal, driver’s license restoration or DUI case. In part 1 of this piece, I pointed out that you won’t find the right lawyer by asking the wrong questions, nor will you ever get a high standard of legal services at cut-rate prices. I did caution, however, that plenty of lawyers charge fees way in excess of the level of services they provide, meaning, that it’s also easy to get “taken” by paying premium fees for mediocre skills.

Cheap-2-274x300I also noted that attention to small details is one of the key things that differentiate better lawyers from the rest of the pack, especially those market themselves based on low cost. These little issues are usually not front and center or glaringly obvious in an active case, but are the kinds of things that show up down the road, sometimes years later, and make a person wish he or she would have known or thought about them at the time. The example I used in to make my point in part 1 was having to report a DUI to a current or prospective employer, or to a licensing agency.

Assume that when the hypothetical case was pending, the person may have thought things were great simply because he or she didn’t get any jail (and I made clear that jail is almost never on the menu in a 1st offense DUI case, anyway), and only served a year on probation while having to complete an alcohol counseling program.

I always hesitate to write about legal fees because when doing so, it’s very difficult to avoid creating a perception of self-interest that borders on greed. In this article, I’ll do my best to be diplomatic and provide some general pointers that apply to just about anyone, anywhere, looking to hire a lawyer for something like a DUI, driver’s license restoration, or criminal case, although most of what I’ll cover here is universal enough to apply to legal areas beyond those just listed.

images-2My experience can be helpful in guiding someone who is about to become a consumer of legal services. What finally got me typing this piece occurred after numerous emails and calls to my office where one of the first things a person asks is some variation of “how much do you charge?” This all but guarantees that a person is using the wrong criteria to find a lawyer. Whatever else, you definitely won’t find the right lawyer by asking the wrong questions.

When a person’s first concern is cost, it’s almost always because he or she is looking for a “deal” on a lawyer, and is using price as the primary basis for their hiring decision. In many situations (and in my practice areas), that’s about as wrong a method for picking a lawyer as you could get. I understand not being able to pay for what you simply cannot afford, but there are plenty of legal predicaments where a person would be much better off borrowing money to get the best help possible, rather than looking for some kind of price “deal.”

When you’re facing a criminal or DUI charge, it’s best to have a lawyer who is familiar with the court where your case is pending and the Judge presiding over it. Because the concept of “local” can differ by location, I want to clarify the idea of hiring a “local” lawyer. In the Metro-Detroit region, “local” has a very different meaning than in less populated parts of Michigan, and generally includes lawyers from anywhere within the Tri-County area. In other parts of the state, “local” can mean just the county where the case is pending, or even a specific part of it. In this short article, I want to examine what “local” means when it comes to hiring a lawyer for something like a DUI, suspended or revoked license case, or a criminal charge here, in the Greater-Detroit area.

LocalInsider-hero-300x256For anyone with a case in Oakland, Macomb or Wayne County, a “local” lawyer is not limited merely to one whose office is in the same city or county where the charge has been brought. Although that definition is overly narrow, it’s worse to have no concept of “local” when it comes to hiring a lawyer. I am, often enough, contacted by people from distant counties who want to hire me, and while that’s flattering, I have to explain that I keep it “local” by limiting my criminal and DUI practice to the various district and circuit courts of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne Counties (this is in stark contrast to my driver’s license restoration practice, which is statewide). Because of the geographic limitations on where I travel for court, I have no experience with how things are done elsewhere. As good as some attorney may be, one of the worst thing a person can do is to pay for him or her to make a “special trip” to some court where he or she does not practice regularly.

This isn’t complicated. To be perfectly blunt about it, like most things, it all comes back to money. As the old saying goes, if you want to know why something is the way it is, “follow the money.” In my case, I’m fortunate to be busy enough to not have to travel to courthouses all around the state. Some lawyers don’t have that option, and have to take cases wherever they can. As a client, you’re far better served by a lawyer who knows how the Judge assigned to your case does things. Every Judge is different, and what works with one may not fly at all with another. You should hire a lawyer who already knows all this stuff, and who uses his or her experience for your advantage.

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 do evening or weekend appointments, much less answer the phone at all hours of the night.

How-to-choose-a-4G-LTE-USB-Modem-298x300So 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 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.

As a Michigan, Tri-County (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb) area DUI Lawyer, I speak with all kinds of people about drunk driving cases.  In this piece, I want to talk about some of the regrets I hear from people who hired the wrong DUI lawyer and payed a lot of money only to say they were “taken.”  I want to keep this article short, so in it, I will exchange some of my usual diplomacy for directness and candor.  To begin, you must understand that merely paying a lot of money doesn’t necessarily get you the best, nor even a good lawyer.  It just means you’re out a chunk of cash.  In addition, one of the biggest sucker jobs going gets people to line up and fork over wads of money in the mistaken belief that paying top dollar will somehow make your whole DUI case go away.  Here’s a simple, ironclad fact that no lawyer can dispute, no matter how rosy a picture he or she paints otherwise: any chance to get your case “knocked out” of court is due entirely to the facts exist within it.  No one you hire can change those facts, and by the time you ever even think of calling a lawyer, they have, for the most part, already been cast in stone.  What you need, instead of fear-based or feel-good marketing slogans, is a competent, honest and thorough examination of the facts by an experienced lawyer who can make the very best of them.

Hear-300x270There is a whole industry of lawyers who make a lot of money by peddling the idea that if you just hire them, everything can be made to disappear because they have some kind of secret, or special magnifying glass that will find the things wrong with your case that no one else can.  The truth, however, is that the actual numbers don’t back that up at all.  In a certain way, many DUI lawyers market themselves in the same way as dietary supplements.  There is one radio ad, in particular, that I think is genius marketing, if not total BS.  It’s for some magic weight loss pill, and at one point, it’s advised that if you’re losing too much weight, you should simply cut your dose in half.  Now, if this stuff worked even 2% as good as that all sounded, I’d certainly remember the name, and you’d know it, too.  As cheesy a marketing strategy as that sounds to my ears, though, plenty enough people are paying out lots of money for it, because this ad has been running for quite some time.  The reason is simple; people buy into what they want to hear, and in the world of DUI cases, nothing sounds better than making it all go away.

Except it doesn’t work like that.  Can you guess what the overall success rate is for beating a Michigan DUI at trial?  It was .15% in 2015, down from .21% in 2104.  You read that right: point-one-five percent and point-two-one percent, respectively.  That means less than one-quarter of one percent of all people arrested for an alcohol-related traffic offense were acquitted if they fought the case at trial.  These are the verified, official numbers required by law to be gathered by the Michigan State Police as part of its Annual Drunk Driving Audit that tracks every alcohol-related traffic arrest in the state.  These dim figures go way beyond some kind of “results not typical” disclaimer you see in the fine print of get rich quick ads, but even more worrying, I have never seen this information talked about on any other lawyer’s website.  No one really wants to get into this because it’s not good for business, particularly if that business relies on emotional, rather than well-informed, decisions.  In the real world, those decisions become the the biggest source of regret for the trusting DUI client too focused on buying his or her way into what they want to hear and not enough on the realities of all this.

As a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney and DUI lawyer, I sometimes describe myself as being like a “Q-tip,” with one end of my practice being capped by DUI cases, the other end capped with license reinstatement appeals, and alcohol as the stick that connects them both. No matter how you look at it, alcohol plays a central role in everything I do. Because alcohol is so crucial to my day to day work, I completed the coursework in a University, post-graduate program of addiction studies in order to get a clinical understanding of the whole range of issues people have with drinking, from the development, diagnosis and, ultimately, treatment of alcohol problems. Based upon a recent comment, this article will be about what makes me different from 99% of the other lawyers fishing for your Michigan OWI or license restoration case. And although this article is about me, if you take the time to read it, you will learn what things really matter as you look for a lawyer, no matter who you ultimately hire. We can start this discussion with a simple question that has almost universal application, whether you’re looking to hire a lawyer, doctor, dentist, plumber, builder, mechanic, or anyone: Why should I hire you?

tumblr_mx8xxneMPt1qk91wgo1_500.pngWhen you think about it, that question makes so much sense that it’s actually easy to overlook. It may seem impolite to ask it outright (although I wouldn’t mind answering it), but if you’re not at least asking it of yourself as you sift through potential candidates for your own drunk driving or license appeal case (or anything else, for that matter), then you’re going about it all wrong. “Why should I hire you” (as opposed to someone else), or “Why should I buy this product” (instead of another) is precisely the question that should be asked anytime you’re shelling out money. In general, the correct answer is always going to be something to the effect that you believe that you’re getting the best service or product, or are otherwise making the best choice for your particular needs. So what makes me different (or at least makes me think I’m so different) from every other lawyer?

The comment that inspired this article was actually the most recent of several similar comments made over the years to Ann, my senior assistant, by other lawyer colleagues. Recently, one of them was in my office to see me, and when Ann explained that I was in the middle of my usual 3-hour first meeting with a new client for a driver’s license restoration case, the attorney said something like, “He spends too much time in those meetings.” It wasn’t meant in an offensive way, but as Ann later pointed out, that would pretty much be the assessment of 99% of all the other lawyers. As Ann further noted, 99% of those other lawyers DO NOT have 3 support staff employees (if they even have one) for just themselves; none of them handles as many license appeals in their busiest year as I do in a single month; none of them has a blog with anywhere near a fraction of the information and analysis I give out, and absolutely none of them provides a guarantee to win his or her client’s license back, like I do. So yeah, I’m different, way different, but in a good way, and nothing could ever make me want to change that.
Continue reading

In my role as a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, I often wind up speaking with people whose cases are pending in courts beyond the geographic area where I practice. I have always believed that a lawyer should be relatively “local” to the court where a case is pending, and that’s why I only handle DUI and criminal cases in the Metropolitan Detroit area. In a recent conversation with a caller, the person (whose case was in a distant county) asked me whether she should spend the money for her own lawyer or just go with a court appointed lawyer. I knew that my answer was going to be “hire your own,” but I had to pause for a moment to think about how to say that without sounding “obvious.” This will be a rather short article that addresses the question “Should I spend the money for my own lawyer or just go with court-appointed, instead?”

Line 1.3.jpgThe way for me to put it came quickly; just tell the truth – the unvarnished truth. Sometimes, we try to be diplomatic when we answer a person’s question. If someone asks how you like his or her new car, and even if you didn’t, and you also thought the color was horrible, you wouldn’t just bluntly say so! Can you imagine responding, “I think it’s kind of ugly, and man, that color looks like puke!” Instead, you’d probably just say something like, “Oh, wow, it’s nice and roomy.” My point, skipping all pretensions of diplomacy, is this: If you can, you should always hire your own lawyer. Let me explain why:

When I get back to my office and one of my staff tells me about a caller who is considering hiring me for a drunk driving or criminal case, but already has a lawyer, my gut reaction is 1 of 2 things: If the caller had hired the lawyer, chances are he or she doesn’t like what they’re hearing, and expected a better outcome; in other words, there’s a good chance that person is just someone else’s unhappy customer. Sometimes, of course, the person can be right and the old lawyer may just not be up to the task, or he or she is getting exactly what they paid for by hiring a “cheap” lawyer, but for the most part, in those situations, the problem is the client’s unmet or unrealistic expectations, rather than any supposed under-performance of the lawyer. I am rarely enthused about or interested in these cases, and most often decline to get involved unless the caller has made an obvious mistake by doing something like hiring the family friend lawyer who isn’t experienced with the kind of case at issue, or employed some kind of bargain, cut-rate lawyer who answers his or her own phone. Court-appointed lawyers, however, are an entirely different matter…
Continue reading

In some of my criminal law, DUI and driver’s license restoration articles, I have gone beyond a mere discussion about “the law” and have tried to pull back the curtain a bit, so to speak, in order to help the reader understand the real working role of the lawyer, and not just in the sense in some way that amounts to nothing more than an excuse to say “call me!” If we’re going to be brutally honest, all doctors, dentists, lawyers and even funeral directors are in business. At the end of the day, every professional offers his or her services to make a living. Sure, most of us really want to help people, but you’re not much of a professional at anything if you’re not success driven. For my part, I want to receive a rewarding fee for what I do, and in exchange feel like I’m providing a top-notch service to my client. I want to be the best at what I do. And while this all sounds great, what does it mean, and why should any of this matter to you?

Ing.1.2.jpgIf you are looking for a lawyer for a DUI or driver’s license restoration case, then you already know that the field is crowded, and there is a lot to sort through. The same thing goes for anyone facing a criminal charge and looking for a criminal lawyer. Beyond your own inquiries, you may get recommendations from friends and family. In the strongest way possible, I’d advise against just “jumping” at anyone’s recommendation, even if the lawyer who gets the endorsement is me. You should always check around on your own, read articles, see what kind of information any given lawyer has posted, and then make some phone calls. There simply is NO downside to being a smart consumer and doing your homework.

There’s an old saying to the effect that “information is power.” Actually, it’s not. At best, information is only potential power. Any real power comes from using that information to your advantage. If you go back through my blog articles, for example, especially many of those written earlier, I examine just about every legal situation a person could possibly face. Therefore, when I say “information,” I mean a lot more than meaningless prattle about being “tough” or “aggressive.” Labels, especially those we use for ourselves, fall far short of any kind of useful information. One of first things you should look for in the search for a lawyer is genuine value, and not just in terms of cost, or price. “Value,” in this sense, means importance to your life. What is the value of being able to breathe? That’s not something on which you put a price. What’s the value of winning back or keeping your driver’s license, or keeping a criminal conviction (perhaps for something like possession of marijuana) off of your record? And there’s more…
Continue reading

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…
Continue reading

Over the last few years, I have had an increasing number of clients retain me over the phone, before they ever even meet me or come to my office. This article, like the previous, will be another departure from my usual informational installment, because instead of talking about Metro Detroit-area DUI cases or Michigan driver’s license restoration appeals, I will examine things from my side of the desk, and the somewhat new way that I’m being hired. What’s so interesting to me is that I had nothing to do with this. I never “offered” it as an option. Instead, it grew out of this blog, more than anything else, and is really a thing of its own creation.

phoner1.2.jpgMy website and this blog contain a lot of genuinely useful information about DUI, driver’s license restoration and criminal cases. In the criminal setting, I have a rather eclectic concentration in DUI (drunk driving), DWLS/DWLR, embezzlement and indecent exposure cases. I publish 2 articles every week, and I examine my subjects in careful detail. I write about things like the stress a person arrested for a drunk driving goes through, the experience of getting sober, and how that’s a necessary requirement to win back your driver’s license, and how embezzlement cases and indecent exposure cases work in the real world. I don’t write to impress other lawyers; my goal is to speak through the written word with the same conversational voice I have if I’m sitting across a table from someone. Apparently (and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being rather proud of it), a lot of people identify with this.

So much so, in fact, that some years ago, it became clear that my “voice” was reaching people in a way that when they’d call my office, they were more than content to book appointments without ever talking to me first. That was certainly different, at least back then, because lawyers essentially thrive with the understanding that the way to get clients is to bring them in for the free consultation and have them “sign up.” In other words, the object of getting a new caller on the phone is to get him or her to agree to come in and “discuss” the matter further. That was never the way I operated, anyway, because I always preferred to do all my consultation stuff over the phone. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my career to be too busy to have time to bring people in just to “kick the tires.” If you’re looking to hire a lawyer, we’ll answer your questions right when you call; there will be none of this “come on in so we can talk about it” stuff…
Continue reading