Remember the myth of a "permanent record" from elementary school?
What if that myth was a reality, it tracked your legal career, it was easily accessible to the public, and it cataloged every single case you ever handled? Scary thought, huh? It's more than a thought, though.
It's already here.
It was only a matter of time before publicly-available court records met modern computing power. MyShingle lists a few of these startups that are collecting information off of court dockets and presenting the information to the public.
Instead of clients digging through old court files, the data, the verdicts, the settlements, and the credentials are all presented, in a searchable database. Clients seeking rainmakers need only to click a few buttons to find an attorney with the best track record.
Of course, the first iterations of these services are limited. As of now, we've only heard of startups covering California and Maryland. But if the market shows interest, expect a lot more of these types of websites in the near future.
Okay, so lawyer marketing services (that's us!) are incredibly helpful. You can establish a web presence, build your brand for consumers, and have a portal for incoming clients to contact you.
But if there is a permanent record, available on the Internet, how soon will it be before potential clients check your past case results before visiting your site? How well will that Internet marketing stand-up to a record of dozens of losses and tiny settlements, even if you are the sort of zealous advocate that takes "underdog" cases?
What we're really concerned about is risk aversion. How tempting will it be to bow to the pressures of a permanent record and only take safe and/or lucrative cases, or worse yet, let online statistics influence your judgment regarding settlement negotiations? Can you really say that you pushed for that big number because it was best for the client, and not simply part of your desire to put up big numbers?
These concerns might be overblown a bit -- after all, most of us lawyers are just concerned with getting clients and handling the case well, not tracking and inflating stats. Nonetheless, Big Data is still something to be cognizant of, and may become another online resource you'll have to monitor and manage, much like those pesky Yelp reviews.