Anyone hiring a barrister in the UK might be expected to go for the best – the silks who routinely win – but the case is the opposite according to research undertaken in the UK, which shows poor performing barristers are regularly hired by top law firms.
The research was undertaken by US firm Premonition, whose co-founder is Tony Unwin, a man who claims that UK firms simply fail to keep track of barristers’ win rates.
Toby Unwin, co-founder and chief technology officer of Premonition, said the Florida firm had studied 3,225 UK Court of Appeal cases over a three-year period.
“Win rate does not correlate with billing rate,” Mr Unwin said. “The more people pay for something, the better they think it is, but because nobody has been keeping the score, they don’t know.
“Sooner or later someone will break the news that law firms have, for several hundred years, been picking barristers at random and not keeping track of win rates.
“Peer recognition does not relate to success at all. Clients of magic circle firms will spend insane amounts of money hiring QCs based on how attractive their offices are, the colour of their hair and whether they’re a well-regarded guy.
“The people with win rates of 70% or 80% are the ones who should be hired. What angers me is that you are could easily end up with someone with rates of 20% or less. The most important question a client should ask a barrister is ‘what is your win rate before this judge?’”
Mr Unwin, who was born and grew up in England, said clients would sometimes be better off representing themselves at the Court of Appeal, where the average win rate of litigants in person was 44%.
He said the amount of litigation carried out in the UK was “tiny” when compared to the USA, but it was more expensive, making it attractive to Premonition.
Mr Unwin said he had used some of his experience in founding online headhunting firm NetSearch, which he later sold, for his research on win rates.