In Part 1 of this article, I began talking about how and why I am “different” as a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer. I noted that there seems to be a flood of Lawyers claiming to “do” License Restorations, but that I am the only Lawyer that I know of who both requires that a person be Sober to accept their case, and then Guarantees that I’ll win it the first time around. I began explaining my background and experience, and how that all comes together to account for my passion for the work I do. Sure, winning about 98% of my cases brings a certain job satisfaction, but it is also the satisfaction with he kind of work I do that help brings about such a high success rate.
I have a keen sense of what’s important in any given License Appeal. There is no way to just “do” these cases, or have any kind of “cookie-cutter” approach to doing them, and this applies equally to the Lawyer, the Counselor doing the Substance Abuse Evaluation, and the Hearing Officer deciding the case. As a result, I have my own “Substance Abuse Evaluation Checklist” that I fill out during my first, 3-hour meeting with a new Client, and I give a copy to my Client to give the Substance Abuse Evaluator in order to make sure that all those pesky little details are covered, any one of which, if overlooked, can derail a License Appeal. This is a special form I’ve developed and refine, and is the product of having handled hundreds upon hundreds of License Restoration Hearings.
To make sure that someone is not only legally eligible to file a License Appeal, but really able and really likely to win, I’ll make sure they’re screened when they call. I will always want to know how long the caller has been Sober, and will figure out if he or she can and should come in to meet with me, or should wait. If there is a problem, and the person cannot or should not move forward yet, we’ll explain why. If they’re ready to move forward and win your License back, they’ll be scheduled to meet with me for a first, 3-hour appointment just to prepare to undergo the Substance Abuse Evaluation. I’ve tried (believe me, I have!) to shorten this meeting, and, once in a while, I can maybe knock a ½ hour off, but I’ve gotten winning my cases the first time around down to a science, and it just takes that long.
Later on, when someone’s Substance Abuse Evaluation comes back, I don’t even see it until my Senior Assistant, Ann, has first reviewed it. She checks for accuracy of names, addresses, dates, spelling, and things like the BAC test results (particularly important if a Client has listed “unknown,” and then, somehow, a number shows up in that box) and the date of last use of alcohol. If she finds no obvious errors, she then puts in on my desk, for a thorough, final inspection. This is another place where the study of substance abuse issues comes into play: I need to make sure that a person’s Diagnosis conforms with the other facts stated within the Evaluation itself, and that their Prognosis is not in any way inconsistent with anything else listed, therein, and that there is nothing implicitly or explicitly “conditional” about that Prognosis. These are not “legal” things; understanding these things means understanding Recovery and Sobriety, both in the “real world” and in the clinical world where people who diagnose and treat alcohol and substance abuse problems do their jobs.
At some point, my Client and I will go in for their Hearing. I do not do, and never will accept a “video Hearing.” They are, to my mind, woefully inferior to a live Hearing. I could have any, or even all of my cases set for a video Hearing about 4 minutes from my Office if I wanted to. Sure, that would be a lot more convenient for me, but, as the sayings go, anything worth doing is worth doing right, and nothing good comes easy. I make the hour drive to Livonia to conduct a live Hearing because I know how crucially important it is to winning that I conduct all my Hearings live, and in-person.
Because I require a person to be truly Sober as a prerequisite to take their case, I always find myself Representing someone who truly deserves to get their License back. I bever find myself sitting next to some scammer who still drinks, trying to feed a line of bull to the Hearing Officer about “not drinking.” I only represent people who can truthfully say that they’re not drinking. And in the big picture, that is huge.
In fact, beyond all of the praise I’ve just spent the last number of paragraphs heaping upon myself, the fact that my Client (and that means you, reader, if you become my Client) and I are telling the truth, and going into the Hearing to tell the truth, tops everything else. This is what makes a live Hearing so special. I will quickly get my Client past the nervous jitters and ask them questions that ease them into the flow of the Hearing so that they can relax. Once I’ve gotten them relaxed and at ease with the situation (and no matter how nervous you tend to be, or think you might be, I know exactly how to do this; I’ve been doing it for over 22 years), I can then draw out of them that certain special “something” about their Sobriety that ONLY exists when a person is telling the truth.
There is something so remarkable about being able to look another human being in the eye and tell the undiluted truth. It’s empowering. And it is noticeably and unavoidably absent when a person is NOT telling the truth. When a person has committed to remaining Sober, there is a depth, and a reality, and a certain indefinable, but very detectable quality to that commitment, that cannot be faked. A person who thinks, even secretly, that they can still drink cannot muster the almost organic belief in the need to remain alcohol free that just comes naturally to a person who has simply “had enough” and has really stopped drinking, is sadly mistaken. I can spot this genuineness, or lack of it in about a heartbeat, and I think the DAAD Hearing Officers can do it even quicker.
While it has nothing to do with me, there is a reason this whole License Restoration process is so hard in the first place. Remember that lesson you learned in your high school Government class about how our judicial system is predicated on the ideal that it is better to let 10 guilty people go free rather than wrongfully convict even 1 innocent person? Well, the same idea holds sway here, in the License Appeal arena. The Secretary of State would rather Deny the License Restoration Appeals of a few Sober people, and have then come back next year to try again, than it would ever want to let some risky drinker get back behind the wheel.
And there is a reason for this approach. The statistics are frightening. I didn’t make these up; they’re general knowledge to those who work in the field of alcohol and substance abuse problems: 95% of all alcoholics die of their disease, an average of 26 years earlier than they otherwise would have, and 3 out of 4 alcoholics never seek treatment for their problem.
Those who beat an alcohol problem are in the minority. That’s just a fact. And the Secretary of State knows that. The SOS also knows that, given enough time, almost everyone who has lost their License for multiple DUI’s (which, under Michigan Law, means that they are legally categorized as a “habitual offender” and presumed to have an alcohol problem) will pop up at some time or other, in essence saying “Hi. It’s me. I’m all better now. Can I have my License back?” And the SOS also knows that most of those people won’t be better, or “better” enough for them to conclude that the person’s alcohol problem “is under control, and likely to remain under control.” This is why so many License Appeals are Denied, and why I can Guarantee that if I Represent you, we’ll win.
As a result, the “system,” meaning the DAAD, operates under a million little rules that must be carefully observed in the process of filing and arguing a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Appeal or Clearance case. The DAAD operates under the directive that its job is to look for and find a reason to Deny a License Appeal. In many cases, they don’t have to look very far. My cases, however, are always an exception to that.
Imagine if the DAAD was in charge of inspecting submarines, instead of deciding License Appeals. Would you think it acceptable that they signed off on a submersible vessel that was just “good enough?” Would it make sense that they concluded a submarine was safe for the public if it was 99% watertight? Of course not!
The same analysis holds true for License Appeals. “Good enough” means safe, and safe means not likely to drink again. A person is “not likely” to drink again when they are really and truly Sober, and understand the need to remain Sober, and are committed to Sobriety. My job is to help these people frame the story of their Recovery, and put the words to it, and thread it through the million little rules that govern (and can kill) a Michigan License Appeal.
I’d be the first to admit that my passion for License Restoration cases is a bit odd. Yet I sure hope that my Dentist has the same passion for gums and enamel and adhesives and bonding materials that I do for alcohol problems and diagnostic tools and modalities of treatment and relapse prevention and the like. However, I think it’s exactly this kind of “oddness” about me that makes me the type of License Restoration Lawyer that loves what he does so much, and has gotten so good at it, that he provides a first time win Guarantee.
In terms of my Guarantee, it must be kept in mind that I make my money winning my cases the first time, not having to come back the next year to do it again. My income is predicated on doing just that. If Panasonic were to make crappy TV sets, and too many came back for warranty repair or replacement, they’d lose money. I’m in the same boat. As much as anyone who hires me wants to win the first time, so do I.
I also find it easy to advocate and fight for someone who does deserve to win. I want to win for them. I simply could never defend rape cases, or anything like that. In fact, I’d rather just not be a Lawyer than do stuff like that. I only feel comfortable when my Client is a person I feel good about, and is someone I have no reservations about sitting next to. In the context of Michigan Driver’s License Restoration and Clearance cases, I have the best Clients a Lawyer could wish for. No matter how you cut it, the people that I Represent are people on the upswing in life. They are people who have turned things around. They are strong, and intelligent, and self-aware. They are that elite minority who were able to rise up and pound down a problem, and move on from it. There is no one with whom I meet who doesn’t tell me how much better their life is now compared to what it was like when they were still drinking. Anyone who has gone through that instinctively knows this. I don’t have to explain.
This is what I meant earlier about how my requiring Sobriety separates me from the herd of other Lawyers who say they “do” License Appeals, and leaves me standing alone, holding a red flag of sorts. This “passion” for and deeper understanding of what it means to be Sober, and how life-changing it can be is something, I think, unique to me, at least as a Lawyer. Yet it is, to my view, absolutely essential in order to love and want to do License Appeals, and to enjoy the work and be so good at it that you can Guarantee winning results.
In the final analysis, I think I am a different kind of Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Lawyer, but in this case, it feels good to be different.