I am a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer; that’s my job description, and a kind of title for what I do. While that describes me in a very general way, it leaves out the most important aspect of my chosen occupation – my passion. This article will be about what I truly love about handling (and winning) Michigan driver’s license appeal cases, and why my “passion” for it represents a lot more than just modern marketing hype.
The word “passion” has been creeping into advertising lingo over the last few years, and I want to differentiate the way I use it from it’s current (and nearly meaningless) overuse. Think back to when the term “maximum” suddenly wasn’t enough; products thereafter became “extreme,” “mega,” and then “ultimate.” When having a “gold” card wouldn’t do, they were made “platinum,” and later, “titanium.” “Passion” is being co-opted in the same way. Lawyers are now talking about having a “passion” for winning, as if that’s something special. Everyone likes winning. The passion I’m talking about is for the work I do, every bit as much as the results I achieve.
In my driver’s license appeal practice, it’s the work itself that is my reward. Of course, I expect to win every case I take, and while that’s the “icing on the cake,” it is my concern for the clients whose cases I handle that drives me to make sure every case turns out to be a winner. In fact, I take my work so seriously that I provide a guaranteed win in every license appeal case I file. My guarantee isn’t just the by-product of blind passion, either; it’s the result of unrelenting attention to detail and intelligent case preparation.
It might help to look at things in reverse, kind of like turning the telescope backward. The end product of my work is that I win back your Michigan driver’s license. That’s certainly a reason to celebrate, and, at least the way I see things, a lot more rewarding than much of the other work lawyers do. I’ve never handled a divorce case, but I cannot imagine that there is a lot to celebrate about when a once happy couple breaks up for good. In fact, the parties are likely upset going into the divorce, and not much better when it’s all over. Divorce is an ugly business, and almost the emotional opposite of winning back your driver’s license.
Beyond being legally eligible to file for restoration of your driver’s license (or a clearance of the Michigan hold on your driving record), the absolute key to winning a Michigan restoration of your driver’s license is that you have really quit drinking and become sober. I require sobriety as a condition to accept a license appeal case, and that makes all the difference in the world in the kind of people with whom I interact. If you have made the life-changing transition from drinker to non-drinker, you know how profoundly different you are now as compared to before, when you were still drinking. One of the most prominent characteristics of anyone in recovery is the change (always for the better) in his or her disposition.
The beauty of all this is that my license restoration client base consists of sober people. Think about how different my sober license restoration client base is compared to any other group of people a lawyer could represent. Any person dealing with a criminal charge, a divorce, a DUI, or even a personal injury accident is not, by definition, a “happy camper.” As lawyers tell it, none of those clients come in “on a roll.” But mine do…
My license restoration clients are generally a happy lot. By the time anyone makes it into my office, he or she has made so many positive changes in life and has undergone such an attitude change that winning back their driver’s license is usually the last piece of the puzzle to be put back into the frame of his or her life. Some of this rubs off on me, as well, and that’s what makes what I do so rewarding. When I win a license back for someone who has put in the required effort to get over an alcohol problem, and who has rebuilt his or her life, and all the relationships in it, I genuinely feel good about the result, because I truly believe that my client deserves to win. This is not a game, where “winning” is just about winning, or just not losing. Instead, it’s about helping a person who has helped him or herself get back on their feet, and being part of helping them reclaim the pieces of life they’ve worked so hard to get back.
If we’re going to be honest here, do you think there can be any of the same kind of satisfaction for a lawyer who “wins” a divorce case, or manages, through some technicality, to “beat” a DUI case? Countless times over the years, I’ve seen or heard many of my clients choke up, and plenty of people (including big, burly guys) outright cry tears of joy when they find out they’ve won their license back. You can be sure that, many times, this has put a tear in the corner of my eye, as well. No matter what the story, no lawyer will ever experience that in a divorce or DUI or slip and fall case. Never.
I’m sure it’s easy for the reader to see how the result of a winning license appeal is emotionally satisfying for both the client and me. Yet there’s more….
I’ve made clear that sobriety is really the key component of a winning license appeal. This is where attention to detail and intelligent preparation are so important. The two main legal issues, or things that need to be proven, in a Michigan driver’s license restoration case (and the law requires that these things be proven by what it defines as “clear and convincing evidence) are:
1. That your alcohol problem is “under control,” and 2. That your alcohol problem is “likely to remain under control.”
This means that, as driver’s license restoration attorney, understanding sobriety is literally foundational and fundamental to doing high quality legal work in this field. And let me perfectly clear about one thing; knowing a million people in recovery, or even having personal experience with recovery isn’t the same thing as formally studying the development, diagnosis, and the recovery from alcohol (and drug) problems at the post-graduate, University level. I do that, and I do it in an actual University classroom, albeit part time. As a practicing lawyer by day, I have to attend school at night. Even so, I spend more than $12,000 per year in tuition, and more hours than I’d care to add up to read the extensive course materials and actually travel to and from and attend classes, but what I learn is directly useful in my role as a license restoration lawyer.
It’s one thing to “know” recovery, but it’s another altogether to be able to take what you “know” and put it in terms that have been empirically validated, and hold up to both clinical and legal analysis. For example, and contrary to what some people believe (or are led to believe), attending AA is absolutely NOT necessary to win your license back. More than half of my clients for whom I win license appeals are not involved in AA. Some clients have actually told me that there are lawyers who think (or at least say) that attending AA is necessary to win. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Studies clearly show that while AA is a great program, and helps a lot of people, about 2 out of 3 people that manage long-term sobriety do so without attending meetings.
From the outside, getting sober can look as simple as going for counseling or treatment and maybe attending AA. Research shows, however, that most people try and quit drinking ) or smoking or drugs or gambling, or whatever you can name) at least several times before it ever works. Research has also shown that what differentiates failed quit attempts from those that actually do work is the presence of a motivation to change (i.e., quit drinking) and the tipping of what’s called the “decisional balance” in favor of change and away from the status quo. Leading researchers have identified 5 “stages of change.” Many of those same researchers now believe that “change,” meaning getting sober, is primarily self-directed. In other words, some people get sober without any formal counseling or treatment, and even those that have such help essentially come to the table “ready” to do what’s necessary to stop drinking.
I love this stuff. I am interested in all the aspects of recovery processes simply because I am fascinated by this area of human behavior, not only because this knowledge makes me a better license restoration lawyer. This is, I’ll admit, a kind of “niche” passion, but it certainly separates me from the herd of other lawyers taking on license appeal cases. Before law school, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Another part of what keeps my interest is that there is a “story” in every license appeal case. In the cases I take, it is a recovery story, to be sure, but every one is still different and unique. And while are common elements (lots of people talk about getting sober after having gotten “sick and tired of being sick and tired”) to recovery, everyone arrives at sobriety by a different path. First, of course a person must recognize the problem, then decide to do something about it, and thereafter actually take action and make it last. Many of my clients talk about having tried countless times to cut down or manage or control or even stop drinking (if even for a while), all to no avail, until finally, something becomes different, and it just “works.”
When these kinds of changes take place in a person’s life, things get better. While it’s strange to meet a nice, sober person and then hear them talk about what a mean drunk they had been in the past, the beautiful thing for me is that I get to deal with the nice sober person they are now, and don’t have to deal with the mean drunk they used to be. I’ve had people shake their heads and laugh about how sorry they feel for their last DUI lawyer, who was at the receiving end of their anger and frustration. “Better to be me,” I think, “than that poor sap…”
And that’s really the point here. Being a Michigan driver’s license lawyer means I deal with people on the upswing in their lives. I get them on the happy rebound, not the angry crash. I get to be part of the process someone rebuilding his or her life, when they’ve done good things, and good things are coming back to them. If doesn’t fuel your passion, then nothing ever could.
Sadly, statistics very clearly indicate that only a small minority of people ever really gets over a drinking problem. In other words, the overwhelming majority of people who have a problem with alcohol never beat it. I get to spend my days with the elite minority of people who do get better, and have the exceptional and rare characteristics to beat the odds.
Beyond all of this, there is the legal side of things, as well. I have often described license appeals as being governed by a “million little rules.” Anyone who has tried this on his or her own knows that only too well. It takes a long time to learn, then understand, and ultimately master all these rules. You have to add personality to the mix, as well, because license appeals, and all the rules they involve, are still decided by hearing officers. They are human beings, and have idiosyncrasies, like everyone else. Some hearing officers are better with science, while others look more for the “essence” of recovery. Some hearing officers understand, and perhaps even favor AA as a recovery support; knowing how to work around this is critical to winning a license appeal, especially for the client that doesn’t go to meetings.
Thus, the recipe that is my “passion” includes a clinical interest in the human behavior in general, and the various processes of recovery, in particular. Add to that the joy (even relief) of working with people in recovery, on the upswing in life, and stir in the legal twists and turns and confusion of the million little rules we call “the law,” and you’ve got the raw ingredients for what I love about being a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney. Season things even further with a cornucopia of personality traits, both from the client and the hearing officer deciding the case, and we’re ready to start cooking. Now, all we need is my careful attention to detail, and the end result is that you’ll soon be slipping a valid driver’s license back into your wallet. In the final analysis, that’s better than any dish you could imagine.