US company Premonition have released data that appears to rank law firms across the UK based upon their win percentage when appearing in the High Court.
Calling themselves the 'Moneyball' of legal analytics, Premonition, through the data released, have the potential to revolutionise the manner in which consumers perceive the quality of the lawyers they instruct.
The big winners? A Cambridge-based firm called Hewitsons, who topped the rankings after recording an 88% win rate in the High Court between 2012 and 2014 (the term of the data assessed).
The data released wasn't such good news for many other firms, especially some of the bigger players in the industry.
Ian Dodd, the UK director of Premonition, commented that while the custom had previously been to hire lawyers on the basis of prestige rather than results, the release of detailed information on firm's performances may go some way to changing this.
’When you look at the data, many emperors have no clothes,’ he added.
The question on everyone's lips in the immediate aftermath of such data being released is just how far can consumers base their idea of a firm's quality on the ranking of their 'win percentage'?
It must be taken into account that the vast majority of legal cases are resolved before a trial even commences. This has the potential to skew the data somewhat. If cases in which settlements before trial are taken into account, further questions need to be asked as to what will constitute a 'win'. Most settlements are confidential and the contents of them can rarely be reported at all.
A subjective argument can also be had on whether a settlement for less than what was originally sought after a case is jarred off course is deemed a 'win' or 'loss'. The acting lawyer is likely to argue their success, pointing out that they may have got nothing at all without pushing for a settlement; their client is likely to view the outcome in something of a different light.
The reality? Following a settlement being reached, representatives for both parties often declare themselves victorious.
Premonition themselves, accept that there are grey areas left by the data released.
Toby Unwin, the chief innovation officer at Premonition, said: ’Most law firm league tables simply record earnings and employees. Lawyer lists are no measure whatsoever of effectiveness.
’Of course there will be some grey areas around individual wins and losses and some will argue that companies only take on hard or easy cases. However, given the massive sample size included here, we believe such issues are effectively ironed out offering the most in-depth study ever of the British legal system.’
The release of these 'rankings' has split opinion amongst legal professionals and the general public alike. Some have dismissed the data as 'utter rubbish' but others, more importantly, members of the general public, have praised the innovation behind such analysis. It is their opinion that holds the most weight in this argument. After all, it must be remembered, "the customer is always right".
The research, which could change how the quality of lawyers is ranked, showed that at present those who are rehired are not the lawyers with the highest win rates.