The Pros of Working in Civil Litigation

Litigation Law: Part I

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Civil litigation is often called the sport of kings. Unlike mediation, civil litigation is an ambitious endeavor that can be difficult and costly to pursue. Any lawsuit that falls outside the scope of the criminal realm is considered a civil lawsuit. These lawsuits encompass many diverse areas of law including, but not limited to, personal injury, wrongful death, divorce, employment law, toxic tort, product liability, medical malpractice, and intellectual property law.

Civil litigation is the single most popular area of practice among attorneys, paralegals, ​law clerks, and other legal support staff. Litigators represent individuals, large and small companies, and other entities and strive to provide competent legal services and zealous representation to their clients. Litigators often take cases from inception to a final verdict at a bench or jury trial. While litigation is one of the highest-paying legal practice areas, it is a passion for the work that keeps many litigators engaged in this area of law.

Is the litigation field for you? Litigation allows for tremendous personal and career advancement; earned professional respect; excellent compensation, benefits, and bonuses, and a coveted seat in the front of the courtroom. If you are contemplating a career in litigation, the items below can put you on the right path.

For more information, read Part II of this article, "The Cons of Litigation Practice" as well as "The Role of the Litigation Attorney" and "The Role of the Litigation Paralegal."

The Pros of A Career in Litigation

  • Litigation is rewarding. During the course of litigation, you will become the client’s closest advocate. Clients will call you with questions and seek explanations regarding complex and foreign legal concepts. Typically, those working within the litigation realm develop close working relationships with their clients. It can be rewarding to help a client navigate a complex legal matter culminating in a successful outcome.
  • Each case is different. While litigation cases typically follow a standard course through the litigation pipeline, no two cases are the same. Diving into a new client’s file is much like reading a mystery book. You will quickly ascertain the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the matter. The diversity of each case helps to diffuse the monotony sometimes associated with litigation.
  • Litigation pays well. Attorneys specializing in civil litigation (also known as litigators or trial lawyers) are among the highest paid legal professionals in the industry. In addition to excellent compensation and benefits, there is potential for bonuses and other perks.
  • Litigation work is diverse. When you work in civil litigation, you develop a general understanding of the litigation process, litigation rules and procedures, standard deadlines, and the forms for pleadings, discovery requests, demands, chronologies, and other legal documents. On any given day, you will perform an array of diverse duties – from advising clients and preparing witnesses to performing research and drafting documents – which makes for an interesting work day.
  • Litigation is recession-proof. Individuals and organizations may be more likely to resort to litigation in economic downturns to recoup financial losses or to use litigation as a cash flow tool to avoid paying money owed. There will always be a demand by the business community for legal professionals with experience in commercial litigation, class action suits, labor and employment, insurance defense, personal injury, and regulatory actions.
  • Litigation work breeds independence. Once you gain litigation experience and earn your supervising attorney’s trust, you will be more competent and independent. You will be more proactive and able to handle a variety of tasks without being prompted. The litigation realm is a great place to expand your independence and hone your career skills.
  • Litigation provides an opportunity to gain trial experience. While attorneys, paralegals, and legal staffers who work in other practice areas never see the inside of a courtroom, those working in litigation often do. Litigators advise clients, develop case strategies, depose witnesses, and advocate in the courtroom. Litigation paralegals learn the intricacies associated with trial preparation and the compilation and assembly of trial binders and blow-ups. They attend a trial and assist with voir dire and the indirect presentation of the case. A trial is a challenging and competitive niche and one that can be a great deal of fun.
  • Litigation is exhilarating and rewarding. If you work at a small to mid-size firm, you will likely handle files throughout the entire litigation process from inception through trial. Handling a case from the onset to a final resolution or trial verdict can be exhilarating and rewarding.
  • Litigation offers transferable career skills. A litigation background provides a diverse skill set. These skills will serve you well in other areas of law and provide you with transferable career skills if you should ever decide to leave litigation. Typically, an individual who thrives in the fast-paced world of litigation will do well in other practice areas.
  • Litigation inspires passion. Whether you represent individuals or large corporations, you will develop close relationships and a strong sense of passion for your chosen area. If you typically represent plaintiffs, you will become very pro-plaintiff; those representing the defense side become defense-oriented. You will become passionate about advocating the rights of others through the judicial process and will sense that you are an integral part of an important team.

Theodore Roosevelt best summed up the passion that fuels litigation when he stated:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Jamie Collins is a senior level litigation paralegal at Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she handles predominantly personal injury and wrongful death cases. She is also a professional writer, an avid blogger, and the founder of The Paralegal Society, a social forum created to educate, motivate, and inspire paralegals all across the country. Please feel free to send your comments to Jamie at jamietheparalegal@yahoo.com.