How To Choose and Hire a Litigation Attorney Staff Profile Picture
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The United States is considered one of the most litigious countries in the world, with the largest number of lawsuits. While Germany can technically claim the top honor of most lawsuits per capita, the U.S. has the most lawyers per capita. With one lawyer for every 300 Americans, there are many legal professionals to choose from when you need to file or defend a lawsuit. When facing legal trouble, a knowledgeable lawyer specializing in the same type of law as your case is essential. Lawyers can have a variety of roles and specialties, so it is key to find the appropriate attorney for your lawsuit. 

Litigators handle every type of dispute imaginable, especially those involving businesses, shareholders, and employees. Litigation lawyers may focus on contracts, product liability, and other specialized practice areas, such as the following:

  • Intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights

  • Professional negligence, including medical malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty

  • Liability, such as manufacturing defects and breach of warranty claims

  • Discrimination, employment disputes, and non-compete violations

  • Environmental law and pollution claims

  • Defamation, libel, and slander cases

Whether you want to file a lawsuit against another party or another party is suing you, having an experienced litigator on your side is vital.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Litigation Attorney?

Litigation lawyers work with clients at every stage of the lawsuit process, from planning to presenting their cases in court. They can work on several types of cases within the civil system, including business and commercial, public interest, civil, personal injury, and patent litigation. 

Additional responsibilities may also include: 

  • Representing clients in a civil trial

  • Consulting with and advising clients 

  • Investigating the case 

  • Filing documents with the court 

  • Gathering evidence & witness statements 

  • Scheduling and conducting depositions 

  • Drafting legal documents (pleas, appeals)

  • Negotiating settlements 

Do I Need a Litigation Attorney?

A litigation attorney, also referred to as a litigation lawyer or trial lawyer, is an attorney who represents people in civil cases. Litigation attorneys differ from criminal defense attorneys primarily because they work with civil cases rather than criminal cases without the penalty of jail time. In most cases, litigation attorneys seek compensation for their clients. Choosing a litigator with experience in the area of law in which you need representation is essential. They should also be familiar with the rules of civil procedure in that area. Research litigation attorneys and their history to find the right lawyer for your unique situation. To become a litigation attorney, one must hold a bachelor’s degree and a law degree and pass the bar examination in their state. It is crucial to meet with any potential lawyers before you decide to hire them. 

Complex Cases

Disputes between parties can escalate quickly when a lawsuit is filed. The timeline and rules for each case are set forth once a complaint has been filed, and the case begins. Litigation is unpredictable and can go in many different directions. Complex civil cases can last for multiple years, which can be impossible to navigate on your own. A litigation attorney will guide you through the legal procedure while explaining how various rulings and events influence your overall legal position. The stress of a lengthy lawsuit can take its toll mentally and financially. However, a strong litigation attorney will be able to mitigate the negative consequences of a drawn-out court battle. 

Discovery Help

Discovery is a key step in the legal process. It helps both parties learn about the facts and outstanding issues in the case. Discovery can take place in either written or oral form. Requests for the production of documents or other relevant evidence will be requested in written form by your attorney. Interrogatories are also a common form of discovery in litigation cases. Interrogatories are a series of written questions served on a party to acquire more understanding of the case. A deposition or another sworn statement is considered a form of oral discovery.

Since each case is unique, your litigation attorney should be familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction and how each new fact impacts your case. Your attorney should be able to apply current case law to provide you with a sense of the strengths and weaknesses in your case going forward. A highly trained attorney will provide consistent updates to their client(s) whenever a new fact is presented. 

Settle or Go to Trial?

Though most cases are settled out of court, your attorney should understand when a case should go to trial. Going to trial is a risky venture and not always the best decision for your case. It is estimated that over 97% of civil cases are settled or dismissed without a trial. While taking a case to trial is rare, it does happen. Your attorney should have a background in trying cases in court, so they’re prepared to go to trial at any moment. A skilled attorney can determine when it is best to settle and can effectively negotiate for the maximum compensation available.

Qualities of a Good Litigation Attorney

Picking someone to represent you in a civil case is a personal decision that should be made carefully. While every attorney has a unique background, certain skills are nonnegotiable when it comes to excellent legal representation. First and foremost, your representation should have experience in the same type of law as your case and be able to demonstrate that knowledge during your initial consultation. A skilled litigation attorney should have the following qualities: 

Communication skills

What separates a good attorney from a great one is their level of communication. A lawyer is primarily a communicator, and the most effective lawyers are those who have mastered the art of communication. Lawyers must communicate with clients, other parties to the case, and the court. A great attorney will know how to share important ideas across formal legal writing, informal emails, phone and private conversations, and discussions in legal settings. A good lawyer should be able to demonstrate their professional communicable capabilities in the consultation with their prospective clients. If your communication style differs dramatically from the lawyers, consider another professional you can communicate with effectively. 

Good listener

Perhaps the most underrated trait of any successful attorney is a strong ability and willingness to listen to their clients. Although strong listening is a part of overall communication, it is important to underscore the importance of listening as its own signature trait. The best lawyers always listen to their clients, the witnesses, opposing counsel, and the court to help leverage their cases. A great attorney takes in all relevant information, analyzes it, and creates a game plan. 

Compassion & creativity 

A strong litigation attorney is committed to compassionate representation of their clients and helping improve their lives. The best lawyers highlight service as one of the building blocks of a top-notch attorney. 

Additionally, the most successful attorneys are often highly creative people. The law is not purely a science. There is an art to effective legal practice. Many cases require attorneys to think outside the box and craft a solution tailored to their client’s situation, so creativity is key to successful litigation. 

How To Hire a Litigation Lawyer

Litigation, or handling a dispute through the court system, isn’t necessarily the most convenient or cost-effective method for resolving legal disputes, but in some cases, it’s unavoidable. Potential plaintiffs should consider hiring a litigator following injury accidents, instances of professional malpractice, breach of contract, financial disputes, and negligence claims. Businesses or individuals who have received a notice of intent to sue or are facing an impending lawsuit should consult a litigator as soon as possible before the issue escalates. Here's how to find and hire the right litigation attorney for your situation, whether you are contemplating filing a lawsuit or being sued.

Ask your attorney these important questions.

Hiring a litigator is an important decision that can determine the outcome of a case. In business settings, professionals who are responsible for hiring litigators look for candidates who are intelligent, creative, and have a strong work ethic. They may ask for general information about the lawyer’s experience and bar admissions to ensure that the lawyer is qualified to practice in the appropriate court or district. Other important questions to ask may include the following:

  • Have you litigated cases like mine, and what were the outcomes?

  • What is your current caseload?

  • Are you familiar with the judge and/or with the other party's attorney in my case?

  • What will be your strategy with my case?

  • Will you handle my case personally?

  • How long do you anticipate the process will take, and how often will you update me?

Understand the cost of hiring a litigation attorney and how and when you will pay.

Typically, litigators who represent plaintiffs work on contingency, which means they’re entitled to a portion of any settlement or court-awarded damages after the case is completed. On the defense side, litigators usually charge an hourly fee ranging from $250 on the low end to $500 or more for the most accomplished and experienced professionals, usually with a retainer required upfront. Commercial litigation attorneys bill hourly or on a contingency basis, with hourly rates averaging $250 to $500 per hour or a contingency percentage of about 33%. Clients are also responsible for paying expert witness and filing fees, among other associated costs.

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