This article what it means for me, as a Michigan driver’s license restoration lawyer, to really “stand by” my client. Of course, you’d expect that any lawyer who accepts payment from a client would stand by him or her, at least to some extent, but I’m talking about the kind of alliance that goes way beyond money. I want to explain why, when I’ve been hired to win back a Michigan driver’s license or get a clearance of a Michigan hold for an out-of-state case, I take things personally, and how and why that doesn’t happen just because of money…
The thing that perhaps defines me the most as a Michigan driver’s license restoration attorney is that I will only take a case if a person has truly quit drinking. From a purely “money” point of view, this costs me a lot of potential income. Of the large number of people whose licenses have been revoked for multiple DUI convictions, almost all of them “need” a driver’s license, and sooner, rather than later. Unfortunately, amongst this group, fewer than half will have really “put the plug in the jug” and become non-drinkers. By holding fast to the sobriety requirement, I eliminate a lot of potential clients. If all I cared about was that someone could pay my fee to take on a license case, my income would more than double, and that’s no exaggeration. I hold myself to a much higher standard, however…
In order to win a Michigan driver’s license restoration appeal after your license has been revoked for multiple DUI’s, you must prove to the state, by what is defined in the law as “clear and convincing evidence,” that your alcohol problem is both “under control,” and “likely to remain under control.” Translated, that means you have to prove that your no longer drinking (sober), and likely to remain alcohol-free (sober).
In exchange for requiring that a person has really quit drinking before taking his or her case, I guarantee a win in every driver’s license case I take. This is another unique aspect of how I do things that separates me from the rest of the herd. When I take your case I guarantee that I’ll get you back on the road; no matter what, you’ll only pay me once to win your license appeal case before the Michigan Secretary of State DAAD (Driver Assessment and Appeal Division). And while that eliminates risking your money if you hire me, it is also as much a reflection of the kind of client that I represent as it is the quality of the work I do and the confidence I have in it.
This means that I believe in my client. I don’t just “represent” you; I am invested in what happens in your case. If a person calls my office and I learn that he or she is not quite done yet with drinking, I’m going to want to help him or her understand the context within which that means they’re not ready to try a license appeal. We don’t blow off these callers, because that time we spend with them may be the catalyst for change down the road. Perhaps (and this has actually happened), our discussion will be another factor that helps tip the scale in favor of a decision to stop drinking.
The larger point, though, is that I know each and every one of my clients has quit drinking. In my mind, this means that my client not only deserves to win his or her license appeal, but that it is unfair if he or she doesn’t. I think it matters a lot when your lawyer really believes in you, rather than just sees you as another paying client. For me, this is about a lot more than collecting legal fees. Getting sober is a big deal. It involves a whole spectrum of changes in a person’s life. When you think about it, “quitting drinking” involves a lot more than just not consuming alcohol. It typically requires what we might call “global” changes in a person’s life, from who they hang with to what they do for fun and how they deal with stress, as well as changes in his or her goals, outlook on life, physical health, relationships and routines. When a person “quits drinking” for real, he or she will have made a whole panorama of changes to his or her life. If you’ve done it, then you know that any kind of “before” and “after” comparison is quite profound.
Usually, getting your license back is the last piece of this puzzle. By the time you get to this point, you’ve done a lot of good work, and a lot of hard work. Getting and staying sober isn’t usually easy. Often, there are a lot of failed attempts to cut down or control or moderate your drinking, if not outright attempts to quit drinking, that line the road to the point where the decision to stop actually “sticks.” It is not uncommon for such a person to describe him or herself as “not the same person” he or she used to be, when drinking. From my perspective, by the time a person has implemented all the life changes to get to this point, he or she has earned the right to drive again, and honestly deserves to win back his or her license. It just comes naturally for me to completely invest myself in winning for such a client.
If this describes you, then think about how different, and, yes, how much more deserving you are to win your license back than someone who thinks he or she can “scam” the system and slide by and just pretend that they no longer drink. By requiring proof that your alcohol problem is under control, and likely to remain under control, the Secretary of State expects that you have been completely alcohol-free (legally and technically speaking, this almost always means for at least 12 months, although in practice it can mean even longer) and that you have the commitment and tools to never drink again. As complex as all of this can be, knowing which side of the equation that you’re on is astoundingly simple. If you’ve removed alcohol from your life and are committed to living a sober lifestyle, then that choice defines you.
This kind of person is very different from the person who, after losing his or her license for multiple DUI’s, tries to argue that he or she now only has the “occasional” glass of wine, or has a beer here and there while watching something like a football game on TV. If you’ve gotten sober, then you just know how hollow it sounds when someone who is still drinking tries to explain that it’s okay now, that they have it under control, or that they only drink “once in a while.” And even if any of that was true in any particular case (and you know it never is), the whole point of a Michigan DAAD license appeal is to make sure the person is and will remain completely alcohol-free, so such a person is going to have to lie in order to stand any chance of winning his or her license back.
Think about that: the person will have to lie. That’s exactly the person I won’t represent.
For the sake of argument, however, imagine that I decided to accept such a case. Sure, I’d get paid, but when the state does it’s job and this person loses his or her appeal, how much do you think I’d feel personally “cheated” by that decision? In other words, if Sam the Scammer gets denied, do you think I can honestly feel that some injustice has been committed? Do you think I’d really feel hurt for Scammin’ Sam? At best, I could only feel “strategically defeated,” like I lost some kind of game, but there’s no way I could really have any personal feeling of having been wronged. Thankfully, I never experience that…
Because I invest my heart and soul into my cases, working with honest clients that have really and truly quit drinking, I win almost every case I take the first time. For me, taking things personally means that I share the joy of winning, rather than worrying about the frustration of losing. In my world, winning a license appeal isn’t just about strategy, or playing a kind of game, it’s about doing what’s necessary to make sure the right thing happens, and that we win. If you’re my client, then you’re damn well sober, and, in turn, you damn well deserve to win your license back. This goes way beyond just doing the work to earn my fee; this becomes an alliance to make sure you don’t get denied, because, if you’re really sober, then having your license appeal denied is unfair, and wrong.
My job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. And I simply cannot believe that any lawyer can make the commitment and invest his or her heart and soul and reputation to the fullest degree for someone who isn’t truly sober, just because that person pays the fee. I know I couldn’t. That’s why I don’t want to get involved in such cases. I need to believe in my client, and, when I do, then I commit myself to the point where I’ll guarantee my services.
I could try and explain this many different ways, but you either get it, or not. If you’ve really gotten sober, think of the friends and family who have rallied to your support since you quit drinking. Undoubtedly, many of those relationships were strained as a result of your drinking. Maybe family still came to your rescue, especially at the end of your drinking career, because of a sense of obligation, but there is undoubtedly a night and day difference in how those family members support you now, in your sobriety, than before, when your antics pushed those same people to, or even past, their limits.
In my case, standing by my driver’s license restoration client is about a lot more than a mere “obligation.” Instead, it’s about doing the right thing, and, in turn, making sure that the right thing gets done. In the final analysis, it’s about winning your license appeal because you deserve to, and have earned it. I want to be part of that team, and no other.
I know it’s unusual for a lawyer to talk (or write) this way, but I’m just different. Years and years ago, I had to make a decision about what kind of lawyer I was going to be. I decided that the long-term benefits of only taking on clients in whom I believed exceeded the short-term benefits of taking all callers who would pay. I have never regretted that choice. It has grown to allow me to guarantee a win in every case I take, and to feel good about myself, and the people I help. And while I can’t pay any bills with it, it allows me to be able to write an article like this and feel good about that, as well.