Anyone facing a DUI charge needs clear and honest information. As Michigan DUI lawyers, our firm defines itself by the way we communicate and provide knowledge. In this article, we’re going to sketch out what can be thought of as a kind of lawyer’s guide to finding the right representation for a DUI charge. This will not be some kind of thinly disguised “call me” piece, but rather a candid look at how to find a DUI lawyer, even for people who live well outside the geographic area where my team and I practice.
With the exception of personal injury cases, there is probably no other area of law where one can find more lawyers competing for business. Here, in the Greater-Detroit area (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair and Washtenaw Counties), that often leads to attorneys fighting for a piece of the same pie, so to speak, and sometimes gives rise to “fear-based marketing” that characterizes the lawyer or firm as uniquely able to save the reader from all kinds of scary-sounding potential penalties, many (if not most) of which aren’t really likely in the first place. It’s probably very much like that just about everywhere.
To be sure, the simple fact is that success in a DUI case is best measured by what does NOT happen to you. That’s the gold standard by which every law firm should operate, and certainly the one by which ours does. The reason anyone hires a lawyer in the first place is to either avoid as many of legal penalties and negative potential consequences from a DUI charge as possible and to otherwise minimize any that can’t be escaped outright. The attorney’s job, of course, is to use his or her experience, knowledge and skill in order to accomplish this.
That brings me to the first point: Always hire local. By local, I mean in the general area where your case is pending, not necessarily in the same city, or even the same county. Some lawyers offer services statewide, but I have long believed that, when it comes to handling DUI cases in court, it’s better to have a lawyer who isn’t from an entirely different part of Michigan, and who is familiar with the court and the parties who are important there, like the Judge and prosecutor.
I often use terms like “Metro-Detroit” or the “Greater Detroit area,” when explaining our firm’s DUI practice area, and by that, I mean the places that are within the broadcast area of 3 big, local Detroit TV channels (2, 4, and 7). This includes Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St Clair and Washtenaw Counties.
A person charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated, the legal term for what everyone just calls “DUI”) needs a lawyer to actually make things better, and not just talk about making things better. In a very real way, when a lawyer takes money to represent someone, he or she is either selling experience, or is getting his or her tuition paid to gain that experience. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would hire an attorney to appear in some distant court who doesn’t get there regularly, and has to learn “how things are done” there.
That’s not selling experience.
Location is important. Every court, prosecutor, and Judge has idiosyncrasies and unique ways of doing things, and knowing how to navigate around and through them is important to securing the best result in any given case. While our firm handles Michigan driver’s license restoration cases no matter where a person lives (because in those cases, the “where” factor doesn’t matter at all), we concentrate our DUI practice in the areas listed above, and keep it local, because in the context of drunk driving cases, location does matter.
Before we move on, there is another universal recommendation about finding the right lawyer (and really, to finding the right company, firm or person for any job): Look around and take your time. Do not panic and do not rush into a hiring decision. There is absolutely nothing but risk involved in being so impatient that you sign on with the first lawyer to call you back.
This is really important. While it’s understandable that a person can feel vulnerable after a DUI arrest, the fact is that there is nothing that can be done in the hours immediately afterwards that can or will have any impact on the case.
We see this phenomenon play out a lot over weekends. Often enough, someone arrested on Friday or Saturday will email us the next day (Saturday or Sunday). Sometimes, these messages are written out of abject fear, and it’s clear that the person doesn’t know what to do.
While I always reply promptly to these messages, we do all of our consultations by phone during regular business hours. I have to maintain a strict schedule in order to have time to write, edit, and publish 2 articles every week. Sometimes, when I reply to an email, I’ll include a link to a blog article or the website section about the first thing to do following a DUI arrest (which, specifically, is to slow down and take your time), but I always indicate that the person should give us a call on Monday.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that a person NOT check around over the weekend; I’m merely saying that any “search” for the right lawyer should also include speaking with some lawyers or law firms during the regular work-week, as well. Again, while it’s understandable that a person my be freaking out, there is no good reason to be in a hurry and not take the time to look around properly.
This is particularly true since, as I noted, there is nothing that can be done that quickly that will have any impact on a DUI case, especially since the first court date won’t take place for at least a few weeks – if not longer.
No matter what (and here’s where I’ll keep my word to not make this some thinly disguised “call me” piece), it is always in a person’s best interest to be an informed consumer and comparison shop for a lawyer. There is simply no downside to exploring your options.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t point out that ours is the ONLY firm to openly suggest doing that.
Thus, if the reader should find him or her self speaking with any lawyer or law firm that tries to “close the deal” and set an appointment or otherwise get you to commit right then and there, remember that it’s only in their interest, and not yours, for you to stop checking around.
Information – real information – is important. A website that’s long on self-praise and testimonials, but short on actual explanations about how DUI cases work in the real world, should be viewed cautiously. While our website is compact by comparison, it is directly linked to this blog, which, as of this writing, has well over 525 articles in the DUI section.
With 2 new articles added each week and its included search feature, the reader can probably find a direct answer to any Michigan DUI-related question he or she could ever have.
To be sure, a lawyer doesn’t need to have an archive as deep as ours to be worthy of consideration, but DUI cases are complex, and even a summary overview of the process requires at least 20 or more web pages (we have over 50 in the DUI section of our site, and those 525-plus blog articles translate to well over 2000 pages). Knowing that, I would pass over any site that tries to “cover” DUI law in a mere handful of pages, but that’s just me.
Perhaps the most important part of this equation is that communication I referenced earlier.
Whatever else, whoever answers the phone at any place of business is, by default, the “Director of First Impressions.” That’s not just some cutesy saying, either: the person with whom you first speak in any organization will almost certainly be a good example of what you can expect from everyone else who works there.
If not, then that place is very disorganized, and a functioning example of the old saying “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”
That’s not good.
In our firm, we strongly believe that whoever answers the phone should be able to answer your questions and explain things, right when you call.
By saying that here, I must admit to a bit of marketing strategy on my part, because, from our side of the line, I am confident enough in our practice to genuinely want any potential client to call around and compare us to everyone else.
That said, anyone on the client side of things should always do this, no matter what.
Remember, though, shopping for a lawyer isn’t about just finding someone who will tell you what you want to hear.
Instead, it’s about finding someone who will tell you what you need to hear, and having a conversation that allows you to know that a particular law office is a good fit for your needs. Even within the geographic area where we handle DUI cases, I recognize that no firm is right for everyone. However, and on the flip side, everyone should find, or should at least try to find, the firm that is the best match for his or her own individual needs.
Price is, of course, important. Here again, I have to boast: Our firm is the ONLY one I know to actually list our prices online. If you’re on a desktop, look up; if you’re on a mobile, hit the “More” button – see the “Fees” section?
We are a premium practice, and do not compete with anyone else on cost. Any person looking for the best “deal” won’t find it with us, but neither do we charge the exorbitant fees like some other firms, either.
What matters more, though, is that we’re upfront about price. By publishing our prices, nobody has to guess what our services will cost. For the life of me, I simply cannot understand why so many lawyers and law firms are secretive about money, other than it’s in their interest, and not yours, to do it that way.
Beyond that, there’s one truism about lawyers and money that always applies: You’ll never get what you don’t pay for.
However it’s equally true that too many lawyers charge way more than they’re worth, and want top dollar for nothing more than average legal services.
This is exactly why you should invest a little time and call around.
So what’s our grand takeaway here? What are the key points of the “lawyer’s guide to finding a Michigan DUI lawyer?” At its most basic, we can boil it down to these 7 things:
1. Don’t rush into anything.
2. Use your head, not your heart (“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”).
3. Don’t let fear guide you into a quick decision.
4. Read around, then call around.
5. Resist any kind of pressure tactics to commit to anything quickly.
6. Never accept any secretiveness or vagueness about fees.
7. When you call around, ask questions, and look for honest information.
If you are looking for a lawyer, be that wise consumer, and do read around. 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 actually speaking with a live person.
If your case is pending in the Greater-Detroit area, meaning anywhere in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston, St. Clair or Washtenaw County, give our office a ring, as well.
All of our consultations are free, confidential, and, best of all, 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.