A third of High Court claims succeed, while having a KC on your side does not boost your chances substantially, according to research for a new legal search engine launched this week.
BeCivil aims to connect consumers and companies to lawyers by expertise, including knowledge of particular pieces of legislation.
Co-founder Michael Green, a law graduate, said the idea came to him when a friend asked for help with a specific tax problem and the only way to find a lawyer with the right skills was to ring round law firms.
Mr Green said Google searches “only produced profiles from lawyers saying they did tax law”.
To find a lawyer with experience of the relevant tax legislation, which related to capital gains tax, Mr Green had to ring law firms, using references to them he found on court transcripts.
“If you have a very specific question, it is difficult to find a lawyer who knows about it.”
Mr Green said that before he studied law at Cambridge, he designed computer games and was “generally quite interested in data sets”.
The search engine allows users to search for law firms by category of legal work or by a particular piece of legislation.
The answers list the law firm’s known case appearances and “legislation experience”, and scores each result in terms of its relevance to the search.
Law firms are invited to add further information to their profiles, but they are not charged for it.
Mr Green, who describes himself as an entrepreneur, founded CaseHub in 2014, an online service which linked consumers with potential class actions to law firms and litigation funders. Despite becoming well-known for its campaigns against private parking companies and airlines, CaseHub folded in 2017.
After that, he worked at a financial markets data company, before joining the Self Studio, a London branding and software agency for startups, as a partner in 2021.
Mr Green co-founded BeCivil with fellow Self Studio partners Ivan and Michael Gostev. They had all contributed their time to the project, but they had no plans to raise external capital.
The search engine would stay in its beta phase for two to three months and improve over time.
Monetising the site was not a priority, Mr Green said. “Self Studio is absorbing the costs of development. We’re more interested in collaborating with people interested in technology and law and developing relationships over time, while seeing if we can do a good job in providing insights and connecting people with relevant lawyers.
“If we can do that then I think a business may present itself further down the line.”
As part of his preparation for launching BeCivil, he studied a sample of 6,000 High Court cases over the past 30 years, finding that 34% of actions and 33% of appeals were successful.
Analysing a larger sample of 12,000 cases, he found that where the claimant had a KC who was up against a junior, the success rate rose to 39%. Where the claimant relied on junior counsel and the defendant had a silk, it dropped to 28%.
“This suggests that having a more senior lawyer does help, but not substantially (it helps by 10-20%); and having a junior lawyer on your case when against an experienced opponent hurts your chances of success by 10-20%.”
However, when looking at a KC against a junior, irrespective of which side each was on, the chances of winning the case were on a knife edge – 51%.
Female barristers had acted in fewer cases than their male colleagues, but had a slightly higher success rate – 35% compared to 33%.
Mr Green said the gender data sets “would need to be of equal sample sizes to be considered valid, but we include it provisionally in case someone wants to contribute to further research”, in which case they should contact him.