Michigan Driver’s License Restoration – What you Should pay – and pay For

In almost all of my 340-plus driver’s license restoration articles (whew, that’s a lot!), I explore, often in great detail, the processes involved in winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance case.  Perhaps because I have written so much, I am a very busy license reinstatement lawyer.  And for all the cases I do take on (well over 100 per year) before the Michigan Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS), my office is contacted by lots of people whose cases I cannot accept.  Most of these are people who are not yet genuinely sober.  Given that I guarantee to win every driver’s license appeal that I file, I only take cases for people who have honestly quit drinking because that’s the real crux of a license restoration case, anyway.  In this article, however, I want to talk money.  While I am the only lawyer that I know who posts his fees on his website and on his blog, enough people miss that and eventually ask, “How much do you charge?”  Personally, I despise the whole “secret” thing that surrounds fees and pricing (that’s why I post mine), so let me list mine again, right here:  I charge, as of this writing, $3750 for a license appeal, broken into 3 equal payments of $1250.  In exchange for that, if I do take your case (and your money), I guarantee to win your license back, period.  You will only pay me once to get back on the road, and, as we’ll see, I am every bit as interested in winning your license appeal the first time as you are.  The last thing I want to do is warranty work.  In fact, precisely because of that guarantee, you can say that I am fully invested in your case.

CHEA-convention-costsMy fee, obviously, isn’t cheap.  If it was me looking for a lawyer to win my license back, I’d want to know why I should consider paying it, and the last thing I’d be interested in is any kind of meaningless lawyer double-talk about commitment and service and, well, blah blah blah….  Anyone asking for blue-chip fees better offer something beyond a fancy lobby and a slick website, and that puts me at a great place to begin this article in earnest:  This blog and my website.  I put up more useful, descriptive information about the license appeal process that every other lawyer out there combined.  In fact, many of the lawyers who, in the last few years, have taken up the mantle of “license restoration” attorney have used my articles and site as their primary resource for information.  That’s fine by me; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  If you take the time to look, though, you will find that there is no subject relative to license appeals that I haven’t written about first.  Above and beyond all that, however, is the distinguishing fact that my services come with a guarantee.  In the final analysis, I make my money doing these cases right and winning them the first time around, not by taking my “best shot,’ and, if I don’t win, doing it all over again next year.  The real cost for anyone who loses a license appeal, beyond being stuck bumming rides, is being unable to file another appeal for a whole year; the cost for me is that my income gets cut in half while my workload doubles.  I provide my guarantee because I am so sure that I’m going to win almost every one of my cases the first time around that I want to be clear that I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

I handle and win more license appeals than anyone because I don’t just “do” license appeals; my law practice concentrates in them.  I begin each case with a first meeting that lasts about 3 hours.  I finish things with a thorough prep session for each and every client before the day of his or her hearing.  When I walk into the hearing room with my client, I have his or her case memorized, and I’m not exaggerating.  Prior to my preparing a client for his or her hearing, I will study the file so that I have all of the important information committed to memory.  A license hearing is not like a trial, and if the hearing officer asks a questions, or re-states something that isn’t correct, there is NO time to go flipping through a file to find information.  Having the file memorized also shapes the questions I ask of my client.  When I meet my client in the lobby of the hearing office the day of the hearing, we’ll be relaxed, having already done our preparation beforehand.  We’ll talk about the weather, or the drive in, or whatever, but we won’t need to go over any last-minute details about the case.  I honestly cringe when I see some lawyers walk in, greet the client, and then pull out a file to “go over a few things” before their case is called.  That should never happen, and it never does with me.  Preparation is the key to success, and careful preparation must be observed at every stage, from the first meeting right up to the hearing itself.

My fee buys experience.  A lot of it.  Sometimes, a license appeal case can seem pretty straightforward until just one small detail comes up.  What seems to to be a little thing can wind up derailing a case unless it’s made right.  The way to handle those situations is to either have handled them in the past or have at least handled similar situations.  Experience, whether it means repeating something you’ve done before or having to think on your feet, means just “knowing” what to do in a given situation.  Consider this example:  A few years ago, a hero of a jet pilot landed a troubled plane in the Hudson River, saving the lives of everyone on board.  He certainly hadn’t done that before, but because he was a seasoned, full-time pilot (and not some guy who flew planes a few once in a while), he just “knew” how to respond.  In my most recent blog article, I wrote about what it means to be really eligible to win your license back, noting, as I have in so many other articles, as well as in the relevant section of my website, that you must be off of probation or parole (and have been off for at least a while) to have any chance of success.  In the introduction I penned to another, recent article written by Ann, my senior assistant, I relayed the story of a new client hiring me for a driving while license suspended (DWLS) case who had twice previously tried on his own and lost (the disastrous “do-it-yourself” license appeal) in his attempts to win his license back.  He had paid good money to 2 different evaluators who had completed each of his 2 substance abuse evaluations.  They took all of his relevant information, including the fact that, each time he was trying to appeal, he was on probation.  When Ann pointed out to him that you must be off of probation (being on probation or parole is called “living in a controlled environment”) to win your license back, he expressed frustration that neither evaluator had told him that (perhaps they didn’t know better), and let him go through with the evaluation and then move forward with his legally doomed appeal.

I’ve seen the same thing happen countless times with lawyers who either file while a person is on probation or parole, or who don’t wait long enough until after a person’s discharge to begin the process.  When they’re in my office, these client’s sometimes get a bit mad as I explain why the case filed by their prior lawyer was denied, and ask me, “Shouldn’t he (or she) have known that?”  What can I say?  It wouldn’t have happened with me.  When someone loses a case because of a problem with the substance abuse evaluation or the letters of support, the lawyer who filed the case is responsible for filing those defective documents in the first place.  In my office, we fly-speck every document in every case before we file it, and that means that sometimes, things aren’t good enough to go and need to be redone.  That may not be convenient, but the bottom line is that you pay my fee to actually win your license back, not merely “take a shot” at doing so.  If you bought a plane ticket and the head mechanic thought it best that everyone de-board the plane because of a possible problem, would you complain about the inconvenience and say, “I’ll just take my chances and fly anyway”?  No, you’d be grateful for the protective eye of an expert who potentially saved your life.  Of course, the stakes in a license appeal aren’t quite as high, but losing your case and unable to drive for the next year is still a pretty steep price to pay for someone’s oversight, especially if you paid him or her for the expertise to avoid such problems.

That doesn’t happen with me or my office.  Ever.  Ann, my senior assistant, knows more about the license appeal process than most lawyers ever will.  On numerous occasions I’ve been approached by some lawyer who thanked me for the help Ann provided over the phone one day, and I knew nothing about it.  While I don’t mind helping, I can’t help but raise my eyebrows at the idea that someone hired a lawyer who found out what to do about a particular situation after speaking with my legal assistant.  Yet as much as I can brag about what we know, I must also be humble and admit that some things just need to be learned the hard way.  I learned by trial and error just like everyone else, and I’ve learned how to do everything better by sheer repetition.  I have almost certainly handled more driver’s license restoration cases in the last 12 months than all but a very few lawyers have in their whole careers, so for me, the trial and error period is (thankfully) long past.

On top of that, things change.  Today, hearings are held before the Secretary of State’s Administrative Hearing Section (AHS).  A few years ago, that bureau was called the Driver’s Assessment and Appeal Division (DAAD), and not too many years before that (and for a long time) it was knows as the Driver’s License Appeal Division (DLAD).  Beyond name changes, there are rule changes, as well.  Recently, the AHS has modified its hearing notices to instruct anyone coming for a hearing for change or removal of restrictions (meaning anyone filing for a full license after having driven for at least a year with the interlock and a restricted license) to bring an updated interlock report that is not more than 30 days old from the hearing date.  It’s easy to isn’t focused on license appeals, it’s not the same.  I eat, sleep and drink license appeals, so I pay attention to everything about them.

At the end of the day, you can find lawyer who are less expensive than me, and you can find some who charge more, but you can’t find anyone who handles and wins anywhere near as many Michigan driver’s license restoration and clearance appeals as I do.  Experience is great, and it matters, but only as much as I’m willing to put myself on the line, and put my money where my mouth is, and I do that by guaranteeing to win every license appeal case I take.  You can pay more, and you can pay less, but you can’t do better, and on thing you will never find is anyone who is as “into” this area of the law as me.

I love what I do.  I almost feel guilty saying this, but my job as a license restoration lawyer is like being a rock star; I get paid to do something I love.  For the most part, being a lawyer means toiling in misery.  In the real world, no one hires a lawyer because things are going swell.  People hire lawyers when they’re in trouble.  License appeals are different.  I get people on the upswing of their lives, people who have figured it out, and for whom winning back the ability to drive is usually the last piece of the puzzle in rebuilding everything.  Sobriety is contagious!  I love my license practice.  I have passion for my work.  I enjoy every aspect of it so much that I went back to graduate school and competed a post-graduate program of addiction studies just to make me better at what I do.  I know it sounds geeky, but I really get excited about this stuff.  You’ll never find me or any of my staff to be grumpy.  Instead, you’ll find us to be genuinely thrilled to do what we do.  Want proof?  Call around, and then call my office.  We do all the consultation stuff right over the phone, so you can ask anything you want.  We NEVER pressure anyone to come in.  As much as I’m the only lawyer I know to list prices, I’m also the only lawyer I know who strongly urges anyone looking to retain legal services to be a good consumer, read what lawyers have written, and then call around.  Ask questions.  Compare everything, and then make your choice.  When you’re ready to hear our take on your situation, you can reach us, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., at 586-465-1980.  We’re here to help.

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