HOW I BECAME A DWI LAWYER
No, I have never been convicted of DWI. In fact, I have never been arrested for any type of offense.
My own professional involvement in DWI came in 1983 when I started my practice by joining a famous old-time lawyer named Joe Goodwin. Mr. Goodwin thought he made a good deal with me by promising me that I could have 'all the DWI's that came in the door.' After a couple of weeks, I had a grand total of about 5 cases to my name, all of them DWI's. At that time, DWI had just become 'criminalized' in Texas.
In 1983 DWI also was considered at the bottom-rung of the legal profession. Most lawyers, such as Mr. Goodwin, were only interested in the more 'glamorous' offenses. After about two weeks with Mr. Goodwin I was feeling kind of sorry for myself thinking I would never get the 'glamorous cases.' Then I happened to speak with an old law school classmate of mine named Robert Hirshhorn who was doing quite well for himself. Robert made a comment to me that I will never forget. I was lamenting to him my pitiful DWI practice fate: 'Take those five DWI cases and run with them,' he said. I will never forget his comment.
Robert went on to explain that I should fight all five of those first few cases I had. His reasoning was that if I began fighting DWI cases in 1983, at the time the laws were revised, I would have a life-long career in the DWI field. Robert later called to tell me about another lawyer named Gary Trichter who was coming to Beaumont to put on a seminar about DWI Defense for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Project. I attended that seminar, and got materials from Gary that helped me for the next few years.
Fast-forward a few years to 1994. By that time, I had been handling DWI's solidly for 11 years. I had won a number of cases, including breath test cases. Along the way, I had also done a lot of 'court appointments' in the local courts handling every other kind of criminal case you can imagine, including some famous murder cases, some major white-collar cases and even some personal injury cases. But DWI was my mainstay. DWI was how I made most of my living, it was my 'bread and butter.' Eventually, I no longer accepted 'court-appointed' cases, because I was too busy on my DWI cases and retained criminal practice.
But it was a lonely existence being a DWI lawyer in Beaumont, Southeastern, Texas. No other local lawyers or judges really understood what I was doing, and why I was doing it. Then one day I was invited to attend and become one of the 100 original founding members of the National College of DUI/DWI Defense Counsel at Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Mass. (see the website, http://www.NCDD.com) There I made 'the connection,' and I realized there were 100 other 'top' lawyers in the United States who did these cases and took them as seriously as I took them. You can imagine how comforting it is to have 'peers.' And these lawyers help each other all the time, anytime another DWI lawyer needs something!
Today, Robert Hirshhorn is one of America's greatest experts on choosing jurors, and Gary Trichter is one of America's leading experts and authors on DWI Defense. The National College is the premier DWI Defense organization in the United States. And me? I am proud to say today that since 1983, I have made a decent living fighting DWIs throughout the 11 counties of Southeastern Texas, 'riding the circuit' in an area probably about the size of the State of Massachusetts. I regularly attend sessions of the National College, and I am very proud to be a DWI lawyer and to help people who are not criminals.
I have handled thousands of DWI cases, all on the Defense side, never as a prosecutor. I have been a trail-blazer in the DWI Defense arena, and have kept up with all the latest trends in this rapidly changing field. Very few lawyers in the State of Texas, if not the entire United States, have had as much DWI trial experience as my firm. By the way, no law school that I know of teaches DWI Defense as a required course of study, so if you think that just any lawyer can successfully defend a DWI case, you may be in for a shock.
After you have done what I do for so long, you realize that Defending a DWI is an art, not a science.
DWI is not only a criminal case, it has civil aspects as well. DWI is the only criminal matter that is a crime of opinion, and opinion only. To be a successful DWI Defense lawyer requires not only skill, but judgement. DWI Defense requires a vast fund of knowledge, not only of the law, but of many other disciplines as well, including some chemistry, biology, medicine, pharmacy, physics, optics and mechanics. I have all these. In fact, I know quite a lot about all sorts of different things. For example, I also hold an Airline Pilot's License, and am an F.A.A. Licensed Certified Flight (Pilot) Instructor. I've also worked as a newspaper reporter and investigative journalist. Therefore, I am not just a lawyer. I am a person who has a fairly broad fund of knowledge and understanding about a lot of other disciplines as well.
By the way, my relationship with Mr. Goodwin ended after I had a couple of months making more money out of fighting DWI's than he did with his more 'glamorous criminal cases.' I'm afraid he realized he did not make such a 'good deal' with me after all when he told me I could 'have all the DWI's.' Funny how things can change. For that matter, a DWI practice, once considered 'the bottom rung' of the legal profession, is now considered by most lawyers as more 'glamorous' than any other type of civil or criminal law work!