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When clients look for attorneys, they're looking for someone who will win. But finding that information isn't always the easiest. Sure, attorneys may tout their big victories on their websites, billboards, and subway adds, but the average legal consumer can't easily tell if that $15 million personal injury verdict was a fluke or the norm.
That is, until now. A new startup has launched a free website, Justice Toolbox, that lets users look up the winning-est lawyers by practice area and city -- though there might be some problems with evaluating lawyers based on wins alone.
Looking Up a Lawyer's Win Rate
The startup was launched by coder slash lawyer Bryant Lee, who formerly worked for Covington & Burling. Lee's free lawyer search engine uses AI technology to scour data from 5 million court records, covering 70,000 lawyers, across 180 case types, according to a press release announcing Justice Toolbox's launch.
The site's technology, "developed in secrecy over the last year," works by collecting information from state court dockets and case outcomes. Currently, Justice Toolbox only uses information from D.C. and Maryland courts, but Lee expects it to grow to cover more jurisdictions over time.
Taking Justice Toolbox for a Test Run
So, how's it work? If you're looking for a lawyer for a child support dispute in Washington, you just click a button and hundreds show up. Currently, though, it's not totally apparent how lawyers end up on the top of the list. For example, when we performed our child support search, the number one lawyer had a 100 percent win rate, having won six out of six (estimated) cases and handled 59 child support matters. She was followed by a second attorney, with an 83.33 percent win rate, or 15 wins out of 18, with 122 matters handled, and so on down the line.
But on page two (of 168), we're met with seven more attorneys with 100 percent records, so it might take some digging to find a perfect attorney match.
Once you click on an attorney's name, you're taken to an informational page with an impressive amount of information: the lawyer's contact information, litigation vs. settlement stats, a list of recent cases, a space for customer reviews, even a Google map with directions to their office.
Does a Win Really Mean That Much?
There are, of course, questions about how much win rates actually matter. Inexperienced clients may expect to emerge victorious from a courtroom battle for their every slip and fall or custody battle. But lawyers know that a "win" rarely comes in the form of a final verdict. Almost all civil cases are settled before trial -- less than 3 percent of civil cases reach a trial verdict, according to a 2004 study.
Justice Toolbox seems to acknowledge this problem, somewhat. There's the included settlement frequency, of course, and the list of the lawyer's recent cases marks cases that were a "success" or "settled" in a reassuring blue, though not the popping green of a "win."
Whether consumers will respond to this win-based approach to evaluating attorneys remains to be seen. But, as Bob Ambrogi notes on LawSites, this isn't the first website to rate lawyers on their court records. After just a few months, that site, Legalist, abandoned lawyer rankings and shifted to litigation financing instead.