Let's face it, we're in a digital world of ipads, iphones, even Google glasses. With the breakdown of communication barriers, the good old days of hiring a lawyer from an actual referral or in the yellow pages has basically vanished. Nowadays, the successful DUI lawyer needs to be both competent in his or her field AND savvy with the new ways potential clients are finding their DUI attorney.
Over all, the informational age has increased the quality of DUI lawyers accross the board as competition for clients increases year by year. Nevertheless, a recently arrested client with no criminal history and completely naive about the criminal justice system, must be cautious in selecting the right attorney to represent them in this all important DUI matter.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of Yelp and Yelp.com. Finally there's a real forum for the popular masses to express their praise or dissatisfaction with a merchant or company. Like many people, I have a Yelp application on my phone and I use it regularly to find restaurants, merchants and other services. I know people that won't go to a restaurant unless it has at least 4 Yelp stars! I like to make my own decisions, but hey, to each his own.
Lately, I seem to get a lot of "I found you on Yelp" and to that I can't help but think why is this a good thing? I have a grand total of 2 Yelp reviews (both postive though). There are several other DUI Lawyers with MANY positive reviews, shouldn't potential clients want to call them first or even just hire them straight away?
Definately NO. First, bear in mind that most lawyer reviews on Yelp are for postive TRAFFIC OFFENSE CASES, i.e. traffic tickets. These are infractions, not misdemenaors and more often than not dismissals when the officer didn't show. DUI & DMV cases are significantly more complicated and require a lot more skill, charm and chrasima than any speeding ticket, ever. All of these reviews are useless for evalating a DUI attorney.
My clients are generally PROFESSIONAL individuals, i.e., software engineers, registered nurses, lawyers, construction professionals, therapists, enlisted United States Military, etc. These people tend to be new to the criminal justice system and usually do not EVER get arrested again in their lifetimes. These are not the types of individuals who are going to voluntarily leave a review on their Yelp account about their experience being prosecuted and probably convicted of a DUI for all to see. DUI ATTORNEY REVIEWS ON YELP are few and represent such a small portion of actual DUI Clients (if the reviews are actually real, that's a problem too), that the "information" gained on Yelp can actually be HARMFUL.
Case in point. I recently was hired by a client who had an under 21 DUI. This case involves a traffic citation for driving with a BAC in excess of .01% and a seperate DMV APS hearing. Both cases can result in a devistating ONE YEAR LICENSE SUSPENSION. Client hired lawyer from Yelp because of 30+ positive reviews. Lawyer handled only the DMV hearing (and ultimately lost) without any consideration at all to the traffic case. Client ended up hiring me after losing license with prior attorney from Yelp. Unbelievably, the prior attorney never even discussed the contemperaneous traffic case with client. This was a SHOCK, as if the traffic case is won, that's the client's best chance to avoid the license suspension. This is so much the case that I can think of at least 5 former clients off the top of my head that I achieved this result for. In fact, the prior lawyer still hasn't discussed it with client as it's been over a week since client contacted the lawyer and they still haven't responded.
So what to do? First of all, DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. Get a HOTEL, it will be a lot cheaper staying at the Ritz than getting a DUI. But if this does happen to you or someone you know, then get BETTER INFORMATION at the attorney rating website: www.avvo.com. Avvo is better than Yelp for hiring DUI lawyers because they require attorney reviewers to certifiy that they are indeed former clients rather than unscrupulous webmasters. Avvo.com reviews are also confidential. This allows greater honesty and a larger cross section of the opinions of actual people like you. Most importantly, Avvo will allow you to compare different DUI attorneys all on one page.
Do you love Yelp? I do! It's just no good for hiring a professional attorney for a discrete problem like drunk driving the the San Francisco Bay Area. Happy New Year and be safe!