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Can DUI Lawyers Really Help Their Client’s Addiction?

Sep 2nd, 2016 Alcohol Treatment

I suppose the answer to this question depends in part on what one thinks is the central role of the DUI defense lawyer?  I think the vast majority of those asked, lawyers and clients alike, would answer the question this way: the purpose of the DUI defense lawyer is to help the client with their legal problem.  Maybe it’s the DUI lawyer’s job to try to get their client’s off.  At a minimum it is the DUI lawyer’s job to get their client a better result than they would have achieved without a lawyer.

This all seems very logical and right, but is this the only answer to the question?  And, is a pending criminal case the only problem a person facing a DUI has? In other words, does the DUI defense lawyer have any role in addressing any underlying addiction issues that may be present?  Perhaps most importantly the question is whether or not there is a relationship between the legal issue and the addiction issues?

Clearly there is a relationship between the two.  Simply stated, addressing any underlying addiction certainly will help improve the client’s legal issues.  The reason this is true has already been discussed on these pages.  See for example:

  • Treatment is Important for Those Accused of Drunk Driving

And so we’ve come to the central problem with the vast majority of lawyers handling DUI cases.  They are woefully unequipped, or at least ill-equipped, to deal with their client’s addiction issues.  This is because they do not possess the four attributes that are necessary to a lawyer-relationship that effectively deals with addiction.  These four attributes are; empathy, insight, understanding and acceptance.

Why do most DUI lawyers not have these attributes, and even for those that do, why are they so difficult for most DUI lawyers to apply when dealing with their clients?  I think the answer begins with an understanding of the primary goal of nearly every law school, which is to teach the student to think like a lawyer.

Thinking like a lawyer demands an application of problem solving skills within the confines of existing statutory and case law.  It also requires thinking within the confines of inductive and deductive logic and reasoning.  When one possesses these skills they rarely possess the four attributes of empathy, insight, understanding and acceptance.

To understand why this is true, consider for example what the American Bar Association identifies as the core skills and values required for all lawyers and law students:

Core Skills and Values:

  • Analytic / Problem Solving Skills
  • Critical Reading
  • Writing Skills
  • Oral Communication / Listening Abilities
  • General Research Skills
  • Task Organization / Management Skills
  • Public Service and Promotion of Justice

Starkly absent from this list are any skills related to understanding a client’s legal problem from the client’s point of view, which is to say, from an empathetic point of view.  No skills are listed related to insight or understanding or acceptance.

Of course, it is also true that once you start thinking like a lawyer it becomes difficult to think any other way. Learning to think like a lawyer makes the student less capable of the kind of emotive thinking necessary to help a DUI client with an addiction problem.

This brings us back to the original question.  Can DUI lawyers help their clients with their addictions?  The answer is clearly “yes” and the best way to do this is to develop a relationship with people that do have the proper training.

Which is not to say that the DUI lawyer should not learn as much as possible about the pathology of addiction.  Such training is important if for no other reason but that it will help to better identify which clients are truly in need of addiction therapy, and also, will help the DUI lawyer to encourage your clients once they’ve begun treatment.

Additionally, understanding addiction and treatment will also assist DUI lawyer in his or her relationships with the Courts, particularly the drug courts, and also with the prosecutors, both of whom have different but similar reasons for wanting to assure that your client’s drug or alcohol addiction, if any, has been addressed.

The answer to both questions is this: not only can DUI lawyers help their clients with their addictions; DUI Lawyers most assuredly should help their clients with their addictions.  The best way to do this is to partner with a treatment facility that has the proper knowledge, training and experience.  Such a relationship creates a potent winning combination for both the DUI lawyer and the client.

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