Figuring out how "good" a lawyer is can be complicated. Is a $450 per hour attorney better than one who bills at $250 per hour? Is a 35 year veteran better than a 15 year veteran? How about a New York lawyer versus one from here in Colorado? Or maybe its a win-lose-tie question? Unsurprisingly, its none of these things. Here's why.
You may think the high billing lawyer is the best, until you realize that he or she has seniority, owns the firm, or has some other non-merit related reason lurking behind the high billing rate. You also may find that the actual rate she is willing to charge is less than the stated rate for certain kinds of litigation. Moreover, the contingency folks have no listed hourly rate, and therefore most lawyers cannot truly be compared to one another, since they sometimes make zero per hour (if they lose) and the equivalent of thousands per hour if they win.
Its also not merely a question of experience years. An attorney may have 30 years of experience doing the same thing each year, whereas a 15 year attorney may in fact have worked in several practice areas and be familiarized with many more proceedings, strategies, legal techniques, etc. So experience matters, but the quality of experience counts most.
As for win-lose-tie metrics, well frankly lawyers are here to help all of those who need assistance, not only the cases which are a slam dunk. A good lawyer will take hard cases, and will defend clients who are destined to lose but need a good lawyer to minimize the damage. So ironically, the lawyer who has never lost a case is probably not the best lawyer.
The best thing to do is call and speak with one. Do they listen well? Can they articulate an understanding of your precise needs? Do they "get it"? There is no substitute for real discussion in order to determine what the real skill set is. Call a lawyer today and chat before making up your mind.