Litigation means a trial, right? So what does it matter if you hire a litigation attorney or a trial attorney? Can’t they both perform the same functions? Not necessarily, which is why it’s important to do your research before you hire an attorney to help you with a litigation lawsuit.
First of all, litigation does not automatically mean a trial is going to happen. The vast majority of the time, lawsuits are settled out of court without ever going to a jury. This is due to the work of the litigation attorney or litigator.
Litigation attorneys handle all of the work that happens outside a courtroom. They file lawsuits, gather evidence, conduct legal research, meet with the client, file and argue motions and defend their clients. This is all done long before a lawsuit even gets close to going to a judge and jury. Litigators may even attempt mediation to achieve an out of court settlement but if a case looks like it is going to go to court, these lawyers can take depositions and prepare clients and their witnesses.
They represent their clients from the first filing of the lawsuit until a settlement is reached. But even though they are involved in the case and represent their clients to the end, they may not actually argue the case in court. A litigator’s specialty is in research, paperwork and knowledge of their specific area of legal expertise, such as family law, real estate, wills, probate, etc.
Some litigators are also skilled trial lawyers and will present in front of judge and jury, but this is not a guarantee. Not all litigators do this. It’s very common for the litigator to handle the case until it goes to the judge then hand it over to the trial attorney to prepare it for court. This does not mean you’ll be abandoned by the litigator you’ve been working with all along. It just means another lawyer will be brought in to represent you and present your position in the courtroom. Your litigator will still be involved in the process and may even be relied on by the other attorney to provide the expert legal knowledge needed to defend the case.
Trial attorneys are just that – attorneys who work at trials. They don’t usually get involved until the case is to be presented in front of a judge and jury. Once it appears that the lawsuit will be going before a judge, they prepare it for trial and represent the client in court. He or she will be the one to ask questions of witnesses, present evidence and argue the case before the judge and jury. This is the attorney we all see on TV.
You need to remember, however, that these lawyers are not necessarily experts in the area of law they are prosecuting or defending. They are generalists who are excellent public presenters and debaters. They do not generally specialize in one area of law as litigation attorneys do.
Which One Is Better?
Although there are differences between the two attorneys, those differences don’t make one better than the other. They each serve different functions and perform different roles. Working with both types will give you the best of both worlds: an expert lawyer familiar with the ins and outs of your case and an expert presenter who can best argue your position in court if it gets that far. Many law firms have both litigators and lawyers on staff, giving you access to both types of specialists under one roof.
If you prefer to have a single lawyer represent you through the entire process, be sure to ask about his or her experience in court and specifically if it has included cases covering the same legal subjects as yours. Then you’ll need to decide if the attorney has the experience you need to carry your case through to the end or if you’re better off starting out with a litigator and hiring a trial lawyer if and when your case gets to the courtroom.
Oregon Coast Law is a firm of estate planning, elder law and litigation attorneys. Contact them for estate and business planning services, assistance in real estate transactions and all of your elder law needs. For more information, visit their website.