What Does a Civil Litigation Attorney Do?
The term lawyer generally refers to someone that is in the active practice of law, but it is more nuanced than this. This is because there are many branches of law, and thus equally as many types of lawyers present in the legal profession. One of the most common types of lawyers is civil litigation lawyer. A civil litigation lawyer, sometimes referred to as a civil attorney, a litigator, or a trial lawyer, plays a very critical role when it comes to the handling of civil cases pertaining to personal injury, employment, real estate, and other legal disputes, according to Patrick Short. After going through years of formal education and having gained experience in the legal profession for years, it is the duty of the civil litigation lawyer to defend the interest of the client through the knowledge and proper application of the law. They are present and manage every single phase of the litigation process from investigations and pleadings, as well as the pre-trial, to the trial, the settlement process, as well as handling any appeals if the client wants to appeal the ruling issued The tasks that a civil litigation lawyer will have to handle depend on the very nature of the dispute and which branch of law the dispute falls. It will also depend on the attorney’s experience and if he or she is representing the plaintiff or the defendant in the case.
Comparison with criminal law
To clearly understand the full jurisdiction of a civil litigation lawyer, you have first to understand the comparison between civil and criminal law. Civil law is important in addressing the behavior that causes any injury, be it to an individual or any other party, according to Kroll. If a party to a lawsuit is found to be liable for any injurious acts caused, then the consequences generally revolve around monetary awards of injunctions issued by the court to the said party. On the other hand, criminal law is the law used to generally punish those that have committed any sort of crime, according to Bryant and Stratton College. It revolves around disputes between individuals, organizations, or both. Essentially, it addresses crimes or behaviors that are found to be contrary to the rules created by society.
Education and training
In order for a person to become a civil litigation lawyer, he or she must attain a Juris Doctor degree from a law school that the American Bar Association has accredited. This means that the person must first attain a four-year degree, and then three additional years in law school, according to The Balance Careers. To become a civil litigation attorney, in addition to the seven years spent in school, the person must again sit for and pass the bar exam in order to be admitted into the bar in the state that they want to practice law in. Most of the time, it is better to be admitted into the bar of neighboring states as well to increase the cope of attaining potential clients and thus increase job opportunities.
Skills needed to become a civil litigator
In addition to the educational requirements, there are a couple of key legal skills that a person should have, and they are essential when it comes to litigation practice. They include:
The knowledge of substantive and procedural law
This will mainly be acquired in the educational process, but experience in the field also contributes to becoming knowledgeable.
Strong oral advocacy and writing skills
A civil litigation lawyer needs to be fluent yet concise when making a speech and should also be able to handle the writing requirements required on the job.
Ability to synthesize and analyze complex legal and factual materials
Critical thinking and analysis are needed to break down complex legal problems and then make compelling legal arguments for the client.
Superior interpersonal and negotiations skills
This is especially important when it comes to settlements. The lawyer needs to know how to deal with and handle different types of people and persons.
Initial case investigation and assessment
In a plaintiff’s case, litigation lawyers have to initially investigate to get evidence and then determine whether the said evidence is sufficient in filing for a lawsuit. The investigation process includes finding and locating witnesses, taking witness statements, interviewing clients, gathering the needed documents, and in general, investigating the facts that led to the dispute. In a defendant’s case, the civil litigation lawyer will assess the evidence brought forth by the plaintiff to prepare worthy defenses for the client. More often than not, litigation attorneys engage in pre-litigation discussions to get settlements and resolve the matter out of court before the lawsuit is filed.
Drafting the pleadings
Both the defendant and the plaintiff must file a variety of pleadings and motions in the lawsuit, and the litigation attorney has to do this. The attorney representing the plaintiff will file both summons and a complaint to initiate the litigation process and the lawsuit. On the other hand, the defense attorney will draft counterclaims and answers in response to the initial complaint. The defense attorney will have to work hand in hand with the client to investigate the allegation leveled and then formulate the needed responses together. The litigation attorneys may also have to draft a plethora of pre-trial motions, including motions to dismiss or strike some evidence or change the time and location of the trial. They may also file for motions of judgment on the basis of pleadings, making it not necessary for the client to make a court appearance.
The discovery process
This is involving the exchange of any relevant information between the clients’ parties involved in the lawsuit. Litigation attorneys employ the various devices in this process. Some of the most used methods include interrogations, with is a series of written questions that the other party must answer truthfully under oath, or be liable for perjury, and depositions, which are oral questions presented by the other attorney in an office setting and under oath, according to Legal Match. Other methods include the request for particular documents in possession of the opposing party, or requests for admission, which is asking the other party to either accept or deny, under oaths, the facts and aspects of the case. Moreover, the litigation lawyer must examine physical evidence, also collect and analyze information gathered. Most of the time, for the latter, they rely on experts to provide the service. Litigation attorneys should also draft motions, which include motions to compel the opposing side to respond to specific requests if they, the opposing side, haven’t done so in a specified period of time. All in all, the discovery process helps litigators gain and gather the information needed for the trial, identify any issues that may arise in the future, and formulate the case strategy.
The weeks immediately before the commencement of the trial are usually used to wrap up discovery and preparation for the case. The litigators will advise clients, consult with them, gain expert witnesses, attended the pre-trial conferences, and, in general, prepare a trial strategy based on the facts and evidence of the case. Additionally, they may also have to arrange for pre-trial depositions on the key and expert witnesses, make sure that the demonstrative evidence that is to be used in court is prepared adequately, and draft pre-trial motions such as the admissibility of certain evidence with relation to the facts of the case.
If the case does proceed to trial, the litigation lawyers will be working round the clock to make sure that they are fully prepared for what they are presenting to the judge the following day, or on the next trial date. The lawyers will work in tandem with experts as well as the client to make sure that they create a suitable trial theme. In order to do so, they will have to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their side of the argument. They will also have to prepare the witnesses, as when as their clients, for the court testimony. Moreover, the process of voir dire also begins. This is essentially the jury selection process. Both sides of the lawsuit must make sure that the jury selected is impartial to any side, and this vetting process ensures that. The litigators will then present their cases in the court, beginning by giving their opening statements, then making their arguments, and then making closing statements; all this in front of the judge and the jury. They will have to craft their version of the case through evidence and testimony from witnesses. After the trial, the litigation attorney may also have to conduct post-trial interviews on the jury.
Civil cases often do not reach the trial stage, and if they go, the trial may not even end, as both parties may decide to settle. The settlement eliminates the risks and the expenses that come with the litigation process. All in all, the litigation lawyers have the ability, with the client’s permission, to settle the case at any time during the lawsuit life cycle. During settlement, the lawyers will be engaged in negotiations with the other party, and sometimes they may even mediate between the two. Moreover, they may also arrange for and participate in settlement conferences with the judge. They will be responsible for creating settlement brochures, releases, agreements, and any other materials that will memorialize the settlement agreement reached between the two parties.
If the case does not go in favor of the client, and the client wants to appeal the ruling issued, then the litigation attorney will be responsible for the appeal process. However, the appeal cannot be used if the client simply does not like the ruling. The lawyer must provide sufficient evidence showing that the trial court’s decision was wrong in one way or another, based on issues like certain evidence being admitted into the trial when it shouldn’t have. The litigation lawyers must draft the post-trial motions, while also identifying and preserving the issues that may lead to the appeal, make sure that they develop efficient and effective appellate strictures, conduct research on the procedural issues, gather evidence for the appellate record, draft the appellate document, and also present arguments before the appellate court.
How much does a civil attorney lawyer cost?
The amount of money you will have to part with to acquire the services of a civil attorney lawyer depends on a myriad of factors. They include the area of practice, the geographical location of the lawyer or where the case will be handled, the difficulty of the case, the experience of the attorney, and the length of the lawsuit, according to Valiente Mott. That being said, there are several costs that are ubiquitous to almost all civil attorney layers and attorneys. They are grouped in different payment structures.
The hourly rate
The hourly rate is based on experience, the location of practice, and the operating expenses. The average rate in the US is about 100 dollars an hour, which can go up to 300 dollars. Lawyers in large metropolises who are specialized can and will charge much higher fees.
This is common in straightforward cases which are well defined, such as banking filings, uncontested divorce, and wills. Your price is set on the onset of the case, and you can pay it all at once or in installments.
With a retainer, the client will pay the lawyer in advance and the money will be deposited in a special trust account. It is normally based on an hourly rate, and the lawyer will deduct the payments as they render the services to the client.
In a contingency fee, the client will not make any upfront payment. The attorney, instead, will get paid a certain amount or percentage of the settlement amount, or damages, if they win the case.