Why No Attorneys Are Winning Like Charlie Sheen

(By the way, I'm ashamed of even mentioning that guy.  Please go away Charlie).

When hiring an attorney, many people ask about win-loss records. They want to know how likely it is that a certain attorney will win their case for them. It's a valid question, in theory, but in reality it's not an accurate measure of the attorney's ability or the likely outcome in your particular case.

Unlike the Cubs pitchers, attorneys don't have records that you can look up to see how well they perform. The main reason is because it's impossible to quantify. What counts as a "loss" for one person may be a "win" for another. I once was repeatedly thanked by a family whose son was going to jail for two years. For them, this was a great outcome. Before I recommended an attorney for them, their son was being offered 12 years and the prosecutors wouldn't budge. Technically, he pled guilty to get the deal, so that was a loss. On the other hand, his family clearly viewed it as a win as their child would be out of jail in no time.

There's no way to measure this success or failure because almost no party to a case is going to announce what they consider a success to be. The outcome in legal cases isn't black and white. Often, there is a compromise or settlement. Is that a win or a loss? It depends on the terms of the agreement, but mostly on how each party feels about the outcome.

Beware of attorneys who claim to have a clear record or an unbelievably high rate of success. There is a workers' comp attorney who boasts that he has made recoveries for more than 98% of his clients. It sounds impressive, especially if you don't know how workers' compensation works. If you do, you know that many of these were cases where the client took anything from $100 to $1,000 to just go away. It's pretty bold to count these as a "win." And it's dishonest, in my opinion.

An attorney's track record is important; it just isn't something that can be talked about in absolute terms. So what can you rely on? Client reviews and the attorney's reputation among other attorneys and the local legal community. If they are recommended by former clients and respected by colleagues and known for representing clients tirelessly, you can be confident that they are successful in what they do.

Before you hire an attorney, talk about what your goals are and have them help you think about what your goals should be and how to achieve them.  A good lawyer will tell you if your goals are realistic.  It also helps to develop a game plan for the case because you should always know what the end game will be.  If during the handling of the case the lawyer seems to stray away from the game plan, call them out on it and hold them accountable.

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