Believe it or not, one of our strongest selling points, as a Michigan DUI law firm, is telling people to check around and compare lawyers. A recent phone call, though, made clear that while the idea of exploring your options for representation is important, a person should also have some kind of idea what he or she is looking for before starting that process. This article is not going to be some platform used to tell the reader what he or she should be seeking, but rather a way to help him or her define those things. This quest for representation really becomes the question: What are you looking for in a lawyer?
The simple truth is that almost every business and practice, and especially those online, are trying to sell themselves in some way or other. Could you imagine coming across a lawyer’s website that basically said, “We’re really busy, and don’t need any more clients, but if you insist on calling, maybe we can fit you in?” Most DUI lawyers have some kind of marketing message(s), and often one that’s primary, and a few others that are secondary. Thus, the reader may find websites touting various combinations of the owner’s experience, fee structures, reviews, results, and/or testimonials.
To get this out of the way early on, our firm is no different; we are in business to attract new clients. Our main marketing message in DUI cases is about results, and our secondary messages focus on the fact that we provide a ton of real information, are the only firm to publish its prices online, and that we encourage everyone looking for a lawyer to do some comparison shopping (although we’re clear that we are not interested in competing with anyone else on price). The whole point of “comparing” is for a person to find a lawyer who can provide what he or she is looking for.
Accordingly, that should be the first goal for anyone as they check out different legal websites – to know what you’re looking for. Only then will you be equipped to find it. However, in the real world, it’s probably fair to say that most people don’t really have a firm idea of what they want as they undertake their search for a Michigan DUI lawyer. It’s actually normal for someone to NOT have a real idea of the scope of what’s involved when he or she needs to look for help with something outside their field of expertise. Here’s a real-life example:
A while ago, I began looking into portable humidifiers for our home. My wife and I have had a few in the past, and I recall them being something of a hassle, as they always required regular cleaning and descaling. When I went online recently, I learned there had been some improvements over the years, and that while cleaning the unit had been made easier, it had not been completely eliminated yet, and was still very much a requirement to using one. Ultimately, I decided to skip the purchase, as I didn’t want to commit myself to a weekly cleaning routine.
Anyone who didn’t know about the need to clean a humidifier might just go online and look for one that is the “best,” or the “cheapest,” or the “most powerful,” or the “most reliable,” only to find out there’s a lot more to it than just that.
It’s kind of similar when someone sets out looking for a DUI lawyer; some may try to find the “best,” or the “cheapest,” or one who seems really successful, but that’s about as specific as they understand things, at least at first.
In that recent phone call mentioned at the outset, the caller literally began the conversation, as if to protect herself, by telling us that she was calling around and “shopping lawyers.” That statement revealed 2 things, right out of the gate:
First, that she had not read much, if any, of my site or blog articles. Quite literally, the second entry in the DUI section of our website is entitled “The First Thing you Should do After a DUI Arrest,” and it makes clear that everyone should look around and compare lawyers. Beyond that, I end EVERY blog article (and there are more than 1200 published, to-date) by telling the reader to read around, and then check around, and
Second, that she had likely already spoken to some lawyer(s) who tried to “hook” her in. Our firm operates very differently, and never uses any gimmicks or high pressure tactics. Instead, we not only tell people to call around, but we also invite them to call us back and make clear that we’re perfectly willing to compare notes with anything they’ve heard from another lawyer.
Once a person goes online, he or she will inevitably be influenced by what they read. Thus, a search for the “best” Michigan DUI lawyer may turn into a search for the most positive reviews, or the biggest posting of case results, or the most badges and icons, or something else entirely.
One of the biggest risks of any internet search is developing a kind of tunnel vision that causes a person to focus too much on what they want to hear. This is more of an issue for those who’ve never been through the process before and are facing a 1st offense DUI charge, because they have no basis to compare what they read with what they’ve actually experienced in the court system.
Some will fall for the idea that getting their whole case thrown out of court is just a matter of clicking on the right website. Accordingly, they’ll start reading marketing messages about challenging evidence and fighting the charge. Unfortunately, rather than learn what’s legally involved in all of that (a lot, as it turns out), they’ll simply be treated to the sales pitch of some lawyer who makes it seem like he or she has some kind of special knowledge about how to make DUI cases just “go away.”
Good luck with that…
Instead of rushing into any kind of hiring decision, it will undoubtedly be more helpful for someone to start out the lawyer search by first going online just to get a sense of who and what is out there. By just acquainting one’s self with with the various legal marketing messages, a person can take away a few impressions, and then think things through.
Within the DUI section of this blog, on in the DUI section of our website, our firm tries to communicate in a very conversational way. If a person at least has a good idea of what he or she is looking for in a DUI lawyer, then he or she can identify the sites that essentially “talk to” him or her.
Let me use an example of how this wouldn’t work, to make the point:
Assume that Frugal Freddie has just gotten a DUI, so he goes online. Most of the legal websites he finds aren’t going to mention anything about price, but he will come across some that at least use terms like “affordable,” “reasonable,” and even “payment plans available.”
In addition, Freddie is going to find a few that boast about NOT being affordable (yes, that’s a real thing).
In that regard, it is worth noting that, while it’s true that a person will never get quality legal services he or she doesn’t pay for, it’s also true that way too many lawyers charge top dollar for nothing more than mediocre services.
Anyway, Frugal Freddie knows his budget, and is determined to stick within it.
If he clicks around our site, he’ll find the “Fees” section, and discover that, whatever else, we certainly won’t make it onto any list of lower priced law firms, so he’ll move on from us, and that’s fine; he won’t waste his time with us, and we won’t waste our time with him.
Although I’d argue all day long that looking for a cut-rate lawyer is the wrong way to go about finding a DUI attorney, I’m not Freddie, and no matter what I or anyone else might want to say to him, the simple fact is that he is better off looking for what he wants, rather than just wasting time bouncing all over the place and talking to lawyers he can’t afford.
Of course, I could (and, in other articles, I have) listed the things a person should look for in a DUI lawyer, but here, in this piece, the point I really wanted to make is that any such suggestions are just that – suggestions, and a person will be far better served by establishing what he or she wants up front, and then looking for it, rather than just “looking around” and taking in any and every lawyer’s message without any kind of goal in mind.
This isn’t to say a person can’t change his or her mind as they read and learn.
Imagine, for example, that Careful Carla, just arrested for her 1st offense, starts out reading the DUI testimonials on lawyer’s websites, and that becomes an important measure for her as she looks around. She is nervous, and wants to make sure things turn out as best they can.
As she continues her search, though, she notices that some sites have far more information and go on to explain how the DUI process works, whereas others have a lot less of that, and seem to be more interested in putting up one glowing review after another.
This makes Carla wary of relying too much on testimonials as a measure of who to hire, so she begins feeling more comfortable with those sites that explain and break things down to help her understand what to expect in her case.
Some lawyers are big into posting case results. By the time this article is posted, our firm may have already removed the “Case Results” section from our website (if not, it will be going soon thereafter). This was always a labor-intensive process, but by the time the Covid pandemic hit, we were already getting behind.
At one point, I had to choose between writing and publishing 2 new articles every week that actually explained things people wanted to know about, or culling through the dozens of cases we wrap up each month, and then summarizing them and sending all that off to the website people to post.
I chose the articles. After all, I thought, there is no way to really capture the essence of a DUI case in a few sentences, anyway.
In many case result postings, months of hard work would have to be glossed over and condensed into a few lines.
Here’s a real life example of that, and just so it won’t look like I’m bragging, I’m going to use the experience of another lawyer I know:
His client is a professional who was charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated, the actual term for what we all just call “DUI”) in a local court.
A conviction for any DUI offense would have to be reported to that client’s licensing body through LARA (Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs), although a single drunk driving wouldn’t affect his/her (I’m being neutral here to prevent even a hint of identification) occupational license.
The person’s BAC result, while below .17, and therefore not high enough to result in a “High BAC” charge, was still beyond what the prosecutor in that jurisdiction would consider for a plea deal from OWI down to the reduced charge of OWVI (Operating While Visibly Impaired).
A conviction for a 1st offense OWI carries a mandatory 6 month suspension of a person’s driving privileges. The way that works is that no driving whatsoever is allowed for the first 30 days, and then restricted driving privileges are granted for the remaining 5 months.
By contrast, a conviction for the less serious OWVI (Impaired) offense does NOT carry any “hard” suspension that would prohibit a person from driving, and provides, instead for an immediate restricted license for a mere 90 days.
This client’s job is partially “on call,” and he/she must be ready to travel at a moment’s notice. This person moved to Michigan from quite a distance, and has no relatives here to help with transportation.
The inability to drive for 30 days would be a killer for him/her, and if this person got caught driving while under the 30 day “hard suspension,” it would have to be reported to his/her licensing body, as well. That, on top of a recent DUI, would certainly have created some real problems for him/her….
This person NEEDED a plea bargain that the prosecutor simply refused to grant.
The defense lawyer worked this case for the better part of a whole year, and finally, on the eve of trial and after more effort than one could ever imagine, got the plea-bargain, essentially saving his client’s job and allowing him/her to put the whole mess in the past.
All of that would get lost in a case result summary that merely read something like: “Client charged with OWI, and after a lot of effort, charge reduces to OWVI.”
If the reader is seeking legal representation, then follow my advice: look around a bit, get a “feel” for how lawyers market themselves, and then think about those things that matter to you. If you simply jump in looking for the attorney or firm that “seems” the best, you’re going to be carried away by the current, so to speak. Have at least a rough idea of what you want, and then look around and be open to refining that as you learn more.
Ultimately, you have to know what you’re looking for before you can actually find it.
Now, here’s that standard closing, referenced earlier, that ends every one of my blog articles:
If you’re facing a DUI and looking for a lawyer, be a savvy consumer and read around. This blog is a great place to start, and with over 560 fully searchable articles to date in the DUI section, it has more useful information than can be found anywhere else. Pay attention to how different lawyers explain the DUI process, and how they explain their various approaches to it.
When you’ve done enough of that, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person.
If your case is pending in the Greater-Detroit area (meaning anywhere in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, or the surrounding counties), give us a ring, as well. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call.
My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions, explain things, and even compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you.
We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at either 248-986-9700, or 586-465-1980.