In The News

In The News

Monday, March 21, 2022

Sometimes a Surprise in a Client's Feedback Gives Me Lots to Think About - Even if I Get Disappointed

By Michael Nichols
Categories: Michael J. Nichols

We like to get client reviews – at least when they say good things. That feedback is always helpful and we as lawyers should thrive on getting that praise; that gratitude when a client says things like “you saved my life.” That is a big deal. It feeds our ego and gives our purpose something that we can feel.

Sometimes though a client/former client surprises me. Not long ago, I went to trial on a charge called “Moving Violation Causing Death.” The charge is basically this: the driver of a car commits a moving violation. As a result of that moving violation, the result is a death and there are no “intervening” events that serve to break the chain of causation. It is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine BUT it also carries with it a mandatory 1 year suspension of your driving privileges.
These cases will often wind up in trial because of that 1 year suspension of driving privileges AND the fact that every now and then: an accident is just that – even when a person dies or his hurt seriously.

The trials are usually awful though. Loved ones who recently lost in an instant a person who meant the world to them are frequently in the courtroom – sometimes just to get answers. You feel the glower. Even if it is directed at the client it still imbues a response: “you’re going through me if you want to get to him so stop f-----g glaring at my guy.”

In this case upon which I am reflecting, our team put in probably a top 10 – heck not even that – a top 5 performance in my 23 years. I mean we rocked it at trial. We were prepared ahead of time; we were prepared during trial and we not only got a good verdict (he was not guilty) but we won the week. The cross examinations were on-point and disciplined, the courtroom presence was almost exactly what we needed to be (except for when I came back from lunch on day 1 with food on my slacks - this is one of the reasons I just don't eat lunch) and the closing argument was one of the better closings that we've done - it just felt good.

We needed courthouse security to walk us to our cars that evening because there was concern that maybe, just maybe, 1 or more of this poor decedents’ 2 dozen or so survivors were about to get physical with the client. The client is a semi-truck driver. He knew nothing at age 64 but driving truck and this outcome meant the difference between keeping his career or maybe moving back in with his 84-year-old mother.

So yeah – my palms were kind of sweaty all week; as in I should not touch the counsel table because I’ll leave a big perspiration stain (and just like my friend, Larry David – I respect wood too much for that).

So, after I get home I check in on the client following that emotional drama-filled week. We were in such a hurry and trying so hard to keep our heads down and show respect to the victims’ family members by expressions of quiet humility – all I do is give the client a quick hug and tell him I will call him. However, I do not call him during the 2 hour drive home because I was introducing my 22-year-old clerk Julian to 80’s metal, the Black Crowes and the Foo Fighters (“All My Life” by the Foos is gonna’ blare in my car within minutes of entry after something really good happens in my life). He got a little Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin for good measure and "Born in the U.S.A." by the boss is an anthem for the 50+ set to annoy the crap out of your generation - which doesn't know diddly about music.

I get home and check in on the client - who had been emotional and sad all week. I will not reveal what we talked about but I asked him if he would be kind enough to write a review for us. A week or so later, the review was posted. It was so telling to me:

"Mike Nichols was referred to me & represented me in a nasty accident case that drug out almost a yr and half. The whole time he made me feel at ease and comfortable from the very first phone call. Keeping me updated on progress, court dates etc. His legal assistants are also very sharp, just as friendly also. If I need a lawyer in Michigan again, he’ll be the first call I make. A 5 Star experience. Thank You Mike"

After all the hours of trial preparation – literally making our friends along with Wendy act as mock jurors while I rehearsed closing on a Saturday Night (a SATURDAY night – I know you are all jelly of Wendy’s glamorous life as a co-founder of the Nichols Law Firm). We had to enlist P.J. at age 14 to spend an hour trying to help me get my i-Pad to display on the living room TV.

After the week of no sleep. Spending money on hotel rooms and meals for not 1 but 2 clerks (needed it on this one) and non-stop thinking, researching, writing and yeah – credit where credit is due – Aaron Martinez found the cases that made our requested jury instruction a no-brainer for the judge. I mean we rocked it! What was his focus?

Putting him at ease
Friendly team
This ordeal took a very long time

As lawyers, we cannot control the result. We do not win or lose cases – the facts do. I have never ever won a motion to change the facts (don’t think I haven’t tried). What we can do is help our clients feel the warmth of human compassion when the client is experiencing life’s darkest moments when the nights never seem to end, the mind does not seem to stop and fear replaces hope.

It is 23 years in this honorable profession as a servant in the American Criminal Justice system. I know I am far from perfect as a communicator, an analyst, a strategist, a partner, a boss, a husband or a friend. Despite that, there is nothing wrong with trying every day “to find a way to try to be better than the day before” (thanks Jackee Moss for putting that Kobe tribute on your wall because I love that thought). I especially want to thank that client for writing a thoughtful review that helped me reflect on what was really important for him during this awful stretch in his life. The result was important – but the process was even more important.

Need a Lawyer?

Get an online consultation or call 517-432-9000

Online Consultation »

Do the Medicines You Take Criminalize Your Driving?

Family Law encompasses a broad range of issues that occur between family members. Our team can help you in all of these areas...

More »

Personal Injury / Traumatic Brain Injury Experts

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is one of the most frightening and serious forms of injury...

More »

Criminal Defense

We are skilled, experienced and committed to resuts in both the serious and misdemenor criminal case

Personal Injury

We have successfully represented clients with serious and traumatic injuries

What our clients are saying

more testimonials »

Peer Recognition

Mike Nichols is a national leader in drunk driving defense. He is a member of the Forensic Committee and Michigan delegate to the National College for DUI Defense. He is also a Sustaining Member of the College. Nichols is also a founding member of the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys; a member of the American Chemical Society; an associate member of he American Academy of Forensic Science, Adjunct Professor of Forensic Evidence in Criminal Law and OWI Law and Practice at Cooley Law School. He is also author of the West OWI Practice book and several chapters in other books on science and the law.

Mike Nichols is recognized by his peers in Michigan as a “SuperLawyer” in DUI/Criminal Defense. Nichols has also been asked to speak at conferences by groups such as the NCDD; Various Bar Associations in other states.