Every lawyer is asked this question from perspective clients. And it is a good question. If you are going to trust a lawyer to help you through some very challenging times in your life, you have every right to ask a lawyer about his/her experience, qualifications, and overall approach to handling cases similar to yours.
HOWEVER, the answers to your question about his/her “win/loss” record may not be as simple as you think or would like. A lawyer’s success rate is not necessarily one that can be explained with a simple, “I win more than I lose.”
A lawyer’s success rate is different in in every case. This is because there are important factors that control whether a case is resolved “successfully” in the eyes of a client:
- The FACTS of the case; and,
- The client’s NEEDS.
Let’s consider these factors separately for a moment. First, the FACTS of a case are the most important considerations that a lawyer and client will wrestle with together. For example, if you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated and you:
- Took the field sobriety tests, on video, and fell down, vomited, and told the officer you drank 7 beers within the last hour before getting in your car;
- Crashed into a telephone pole; and,
- Took a breath test and blew 3X the legal blood/alcohol limit.
Chances are your lawyer’s chances of getting your case dismissed, dropped, or “won” at trial are highly unlikely, absent a sleeping judge, a jury comprised of 12 beer brewers, or the arresting officer making a really big mistake.
Now, if you were arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, and you:
- Refused to take the field sobriety tests;
- Refused to take a breath test;
- Claimed to have drank only 1 beer during the night;
- Did not crash into anything;
- And did not appear to have any major problems driving your car
your chances, and your lawyer’s ability to get you a more favorable result in negotiating with a prosecutor, or possibly “winning” at trial or getting some evidence thrown out, are much higher than in the previous example.
This is true for all cases. The client who confesses to wrongdoing has a lower chance of “success” than the client who exercises his right to remain silent. TAKE THE FIFTH, PEOPLE! The client who wasn’t caught in the act may have a higher chance of “success” than the client who was caught red handed. A lawyer can only work with the facts that you bring him/her.
Now, let’s examine the second factor in weighing a “successful” resolution to your case – your NEEDS.
Maybe you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated, and you care more about minimizing your time without a driver’s license than you are about having a DWI conviction on your record. Or, maybe you don’t care about how about long you lose your license so long as you avoid a DWI conviction on your record.
Some clients want to avoid a felony conviction more than they care about doing some jail time on a reduced misdemeanor charge. Other clients don’t worry about being a felon, so long as they don’t go to jail or end up on a sex offender registry. Bottom line – EVERY CLIENT HAS DIFFERENT NEEDS.
So, a lawyer’s “success rate” realistically hinges upon the FACTS of the case, and the NEEDS of the client.
Simply asking a lawyer what his/her success rate is a natural question to want to ask. But here are some better questions you may want to ask to get a more comprehensive understanding as to how YOUR lawyer will handle your case:
- How often do you handle cases like mine?
- How often will we communicate and discuss my case?
- What is your style when negotiating with prosecutors?
- How do you feel about filing pre-trial motions?
- What are some typical strategic considerations that will help (or have helped) a case like mine?
- What can I do as a client to help you help me?
If you make an appointment to come in and speak with us at OSBORNE LAW, don’t be shy. Ask your questions. Write them down before you come into the office if you so choose. THINK ABOUT WHAT A SUCCESSFUL RESOLUTION TO YOUR CASE MEANS TO YOU and how do you DEFINE SUCCESS?
Once you have done that, give us a call at OSBORNE LAW and let’s get started!