Exclusive: Ground-breaking ‘win rate’ research reveals top-performing litigators

Toby Unwin

Unwin: “the aim is to educate, not embarrass”

Two QCs, Michael Fordham and Phillippa Kaufmann, have been named by US analysts Premonition as the barristers with the highest win rates in the senior courts, Legal Futures can reveal.

The study also found there was no correlation between success rates and receiving further instructions.

Mr Fordham, based at Blackstone Chambers, and Ms Kaufmann, based at Matrix, have both chalked up 11 straight wins in the past three years. The two silks specialise in public law and human rights work and Mr Fordham is also a deputy High Court judge.

Premonition named Cambridge-based Hewitsons LLP as the law firm with the highest ‘win rate’, with 88% from eight senior court appearances over the past three years. The firm has other offices in London, Milton Keynes and Northampton.

Eight barristers’ chambers were singled out for having more than one barrister with a 100% win rate from at least five appearances. These were, in no particular order: Blackstone, Matrix, Monkton, Fountain Court, Garden Court, 3 New Square, 7 King’s Bench Walk and 39 Essex Street.

Florida-based Premonition, which analyses the win rates of attorneys across the United States, studied 11,647 High Court and Court of Appeal cases. A total of 51 barristers had win rates of 100%.

Ian Dodd, a director of Premonition and independent consultant to barristers’ chambers, said the company aimed to market its data to law firms “in order that they can be better informed about the barristers they already instruct and those they may wish to instruct”.

Mr Dodd went on: “All this information is in the public domain and yet nobody has analysed it. We are doing what the Bar wants in terms of making things transparent and improving access to justice.”

The Premonition report also found that law firms’ selection of barristers is “negatively correlated” with their win rates, so that a barrister with twice the performance of a peer is almost 38% less likely to be hired. Premonition declined to name “runners-up or any sub-par performers”.

Toby Unwin, co-founder of Premonition, said: “The aim of this report is to educate, not embarrass. Win rates are here and they’re the new standard. Most law firm league tables simply record earnings and employees. Lawyer lists are no measure whatsoever of effectiveness.”

Mr Unwin said there would be “some grey areas around individual wins and losses” and some would argue that “companies only take on hard or easy cases”, but given the massive sample size he believed such issues were “effectively ironed out”.

In his foreword to the report, Richard Burcher, managing director of pricing consultancy Validatum, said: “It can probably be taken as read that all lawyers confidently assert that they are highly capable and provide a high level of service.

“Historically, practitioners and firms’ reputations have been purely anecdotal. The ability to interrogate those assumptions with greater rigour will inevitably have a profound impact.”

Mr Burcher went on: “The way remains open for any practitioner to assert that they are worth more than the guideline hourly rate but to date, such assertions have only been able to be supported by relatively subjective arguments.

“One can only imagine that armed with the empirical evidence, practitioners might be far better placed to argue their entitlement to something higher than the guideline rates.”

He concluded that, like other disruptive technologies, Premonition had the “capacity to completely recalibrate the way in which clients instruct legal professionals and legal professionals instruct each other”.

Premonition revealed earlier this month that it had discussed its work with the Legal Services Board at a “very positive” meeting.


    Readers Comments

  • Richard Moorhead says:

    Is the report out yet?

    My initial reaction is that this kind of thing is interesting and its very good to see attempts to apply these kinds of metrics to practice.

    Conversely, the kind of analysis you’d need to do to decide whether the differences are meaningful or not would require bigger samples of each barrister/firm and would need to exercise some control for kinds of case (which they might attempt in the report).

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