I need to save my driving licence. How much regard should I pay to the ‘success rates’ I see advertised by motor offence solicitors?

Introduction

You stand accused of having committed a road traffic offence. It is essential that you maximise your chances of saving your driving licence. You are looking for the lawyer, barrister or solicitor, who will give you the best chance of doing so. You Google ‘success rates motor offence solicitors’ and find a whole series of solicitors’ websites boasting success rates of between 95-100%. Should you be persuaded by these claims to instruct one of these fabulously successful solicitors? 

Legal Cases are rarely black or white

I regularly represent motorists who have pleaded ‘Guilty’ to speeding at excessively high speeds. Recently I had a client who was sentenced for speeding at 127 mph. After considering carefully his mitigation the court elected not to ban him (at all). How should this be compared with a solicitor who presents mitigation for a client who avoids a ban (let’s say for speeding at 91 mph in a 70 mph limit)? You may think that it would be relatively easy to avoid a ban in the latter case compared with the former. So, how much weight should each case be accorded in a ‘success’ table?

To take a variation on the above example, I recently represented, upon a ‘Guilty’ plea, a gent caught speeding at well over 100 mph. He was banned for 28 days. As soon as we were out of earshot of the magistrates he made clear in emphatic terms that he regarded the sentence as a ‘result’ (he was thrilled that the ban was short enough to allow him to keep his job when he had justifiably expected a markedly longer ban). If ‘success’ is gauged, in such cases, by the crude measure of avoidance of a ban then this case would have had to have been registered as a ‘failure’ in any league table. Yet, it was clearly a marked ‘success’ from the perspective of the client (which, after all, is the only perspective that matters). I can give example after example of cases resulting in bans but which the clients regarded as ‘successes’ such as the man speeding at 97 mph in a 50 mph limit who received only a 7-week ban when he expected a 7-month ban and so on….

Contested hearings have even more variables than ‘guilty’ pleas (too many for me to even begin to set out in a short article of this type). Consequently, they are even less suitable for measurement in any kind of ‘success’ table. In any event, so called ‘success rates’ can only have any meaning if one is comparing like with like. For this to have happened the solicitors’ practices advertising ‘success rates’ would have had to have agreed and common criteria as to how ‘success’ should be measured. So, next time you read of a motor offence solicitor claiming to have an impressive ‘success’ rate as measured by his percentage of ‘successes’ in motor offence cases you might care to email him or her and ask for the criteria which he and his fellow solicitors have agreed should be used. I am asked from time to time what my ‘success’ rate is. I never provide a percentage figure as to do so would, in my view, be potentially misleading and, therefore, unethical.

How can you assess the abilities of lawyers you identify online?

You can and should make enquiries as to the professional competence and reputation of the lawyers concerned. This is not always as difficult as you may think. Nowadays, there is often social evidence that can be checked. For example, you can ask them to point you to publications they have written on their area of specialisation. You can often look at their LinkedIn profiles to see how many personal recommendations have been posted about them and what they say. You can ask them to give you the details of some clients whom they have dealt with recently whom you can contact and so on. And, of course, you can read the testimonials on their websites. If you take these steps, ensure that they are experienced and that they specialise in the area of law with which you are concerned then you will have done what you can to ensure you have the best representation available.

 

15th March, 2017

Sunil Rupasinha,

motor offence barrister

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