Articles Posted in Lawyers

In part 1 of this article, I began explaining how my office does consultations (over the phone, right when a person calls, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.), and how they provide the opportunity for a person to evaluate whether my office is a good fit for his or her case, and for us to assess the caller. I also noted that I publish my prices, not only in the interests of transparency, but also so that we don’t waste time with anyone shopping for a bargain lawyer. We ended by promising to come back, here in part 2, and talk about how we do our consultations.

downloaderUnderstand this: a consultation is invariably a sales opportunity. If you want some kind of plastic surgery and have consultations with several physicians, it’s not because they’re bored and want to talk about medical procedures with strangers. This goes for just about anything. A free consultation is very much like a “free estimate.” Do you really think that lawyers look forward to bringing people into their offices for a “free consultation” so that they can answer all kinds of legal questions?

It seems pretty obvious that the ideal purpose of a consultation is for each party to size up the other in order to make a hiring decision. In the real world, though, this often becomes a kind of game where the person providing the consultation really “steers” the person toward making that decision before they leave.

My office does consultations differently than just about every other lawyer and law firm. In this article, I want to explain how we do them, and why that’s important. My consultations are specifically intended for those who are looking to hire a lawyer in one of my practice areas and maybe doing some comparison shopping and want to get a little information or see if my office is a good fit for their needs. All of my consultations are done over the phone, right when a person calls into the office.

CULTURETWO_3739_1-300x300That convenience factor of doing it this way is also a benefit for me, also, because as much as a consultation is an opportunity for a potential client to size up a lawyer or law firm, it also provides an opportunity for us to evaluate a person and determine if he or she will be a good fit for the way we do things. I am fortunate enough to have a busy practice, and therefore don’t have to take every case that comes my way, nor do I have to compete on price. In fact, I publish my fees, not only in the interests of transparency, but also, because we offer higher-end services, to weed out bargain hunters or anyone else who is price-shopping.

Beyond all of that, I have no interest in taking on any sort of “difficult” client. Younger lawyers and those who are starving for work have little choice but to sit silently as some angry person goes on about how everyone else is at fault, how the police got it all wrong, or how the court system is unfair, but I don’t. If you’ve dealt with the public, then you know some people seem to always have a chip on their shoulders, or are otherwise just always a pain the a$$. I can afford to pass on them, and I do.

Among the questions anyone looking for a lawyer to help in a criminal case, handle a DUI charge, or win a driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal will have is “how much?” This goes well beyond just being able to afford a particular lawyer. In a recent video for my Youtube channel, I tried to explain why I list my prices on my website and this blog. In this article, I want to expand on that a bit and examine why I am the only lawyer I know of in my field to publish my fees.

2-290x300It may sound corny, but it begins with the simple proposition that, in my professional life I always try to treat others as I would wish to be treated if I was on the other side of the transaction. If there’s one thing I absolutely HATE when I’m the consumer, it’s any kind of BS or evasiveness surrounding cost. When I call a business, I expect to be able to get a price, unless it’s for something like a repair job, where a technician has to first diagnose the problem, but even then, there is no good reason to not be able to at least provide a “ballpark” figure. I won’t accept less.

Unfortunately, most of the lawyers who do list prices are in legal fields where the goal is to be the cheapest. That’s always a race to the bottom, but thankfully, I don’t work in any of those areas. Within my areas of practice, I am not in competition with anyone else based on price. I know full well that my fees are nowhere near the cheapest out there, and for certain things, they are higher than most.

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.

222-298x300Yet 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.

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 needs to hire a lawyer for a drinking and driving case.

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.
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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…
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