Litigation or dispute resolution as it is also known, involves the assistance with disputes and claims which may arise in the course of any commercial transaction or deal. Such matters could arise between companies, or between companies and individuals, or any other combinations thereof.
Issues which fall under litigation can range from contractual matters to banking transactions, fraud, Mergers & Acquisitions, regulatory mechanisms or competition, corporate management and restructuring issues. Law reforms in the 1990s have ensured that most disputes are brought to a successful resolution before they reach the courts; most companies or corporate entities would prefer quick, inexpensive and non-combative solutions to disputes with business partners and associates.
What is involved in Litigation Law?
A litigator is not just a lawyer who takes claims to court or defends claims brought against his/her clients in a judicial setting. Great emphasis is placed on alternate methods of dispute resolution or ADR, the latter includes means such as arbitration, mediation by a third party, or a solution provided by a panel of constituted authorities preferred by both parties. It is important to remember that most business contracts for whatever transactions or deals will contain elaborate clauses dealing with eventual disputes should they arise in the regular course of business.
Most top law firms have specialist litigation and dispute resolution departments, while smaller or boutique firms concentrate all their resources on just litigation. Preliminary work such as preparing documentation or conducting research for relevant laws and case histories, or drafting preliminary motions before the court is how trainees and fresh lawyers start-off, moving on to more complex activities as they gain experience.
Solicitors in litigation can be classified into claimants’ lawyers and defendants’ lawyers.Solicitors on both sides form an integral part of any ADR proceedings, protecting clients’ interests and in ensuring speedy closure of claims. Litigators usually work closely with colleagues from other departments – banking and finance, corporate, commercial, real estate, etc.
What is needed for Litigation Law?
A litigator requires good communication and negotiation skills; it’s not so much about arguing cases but making a cogent and reasoned case in favour of your client’s interests. You’ll need to have a good academic history, a creative and quick thought-process, flexible and lithe on your feet and open to challenges.
Keen commercial awareness, a good command over legal and technical principles and a thorough foundation in presenting facts, law and strategy in a reasoned and persuasive manner are some of the additional qualities required to be a good litigator.
Current Climate for Litigation Law?
Like all other areas in law, litigation/dispute resolution is also subject to frequent changes and developments over a period of time. Procedural law continuously changes, and global economic effects have a direct bearing on how legislation and regulations are interpreted in individual cases. In the UK, a growing trend is witnessed in American style class action suits, protests against escalating costs of litigation, third party funding of costs, growth of solicitors’ advocates – a new role where advocacy takes centre-stage.
With businesses going global, litigation has also moved to a bigger stage with more international disputes as opposed to local issues in the past. Expected to grow exponentially in the next few years is litigation in banking, finance and corporate governance, coverage of business risks and a tightening of the ADR framework.
A Day in the life of... an Insurance Litigation trainee at BLP
I normally arrive at work for 8.30am, not normally because I have loads of urgent work to do, but to avoid the sweaty Northern line commute in! Once I get into the office, my first job of the day is to make a nice cup of tea. After which, I check my emails to see if anything urgent has come in and have a look at my calendar to see if I have any meetings or training sessions on. My supervisor is normally in around the same time so we tend to catch up on our previous night’s activities, especially if there’s been any football on, in which case the banter about each other’s teams will normally commence!
Every Monday morning, we have a 30 minute workgroup meeting in which everyone has an opportunity to discuss their current matters, any new instructions that have come in and any upcoming court hearings. This is a good way of keeping up with what your colleagues are up to and also as a trainee, is a good opportunity to pick their brains if you have any queries.
As a result of the meeting, a Senior Associate asks me to research the conditions for appealing arbitration awards and how easy it is to achieve in an insurance/reinsurance context. This is with a view to my note being sent off to the client to inform them of their position. I start by perusing all the firm’s internal know-how and online resources and then hit the library where I grab all books with “Arbitration” in their title. I then go about starting to draft my research note.
The Litigation trainees at BLP are on a court run rota which means that every day, one of us attends the Royal Court of Justice to file various documents, make enquiries and collect any approved court orders. At 11.45am, I leave the office for the tube with a claim form and particulars of claim to file at Court. It is also not unusual for trainees to carry out hearings or applications to Masters which can be quite scary but such great experience.
Upon arriving at the Court, if you’re lucky there will be a gaggle of paparazzi and cameramen waiting outside the Royal Courts for some celeb to come out and announce their recent damages win against some tabloid newspaper - no such luck today but I did see Peter Andre a couple of weeks ago! If getting my claim form issued all runs to plan, then I tend to grab some lunch nearby before heading back to the office. On any other day, I normally head to the firm’s canteen “alibi” and catch up with all the other trainees over a bite to eat.
Once I am back at the office and have returned the stamped copies of the claim form to the fee-earner who instructed me, I focus my attention on the arbitration research note from earlier on and try to get it finished off before the end of the day. Litigation trainees quite often have client or Counsel meetings to attend or con-calls to sit in on.
Today I have a meeting with Counsel and our client, who has commenced a negligence claim against a contractor who carried out negligent maintenance works to its property causing various property damage and lost profits. I give myself half an hour to look over the documents and recent correspondence so I am up-to-date for the meeting. The Partner who is leading the case and I jump into a cab to Counsel’s Chambers for the meeting.
My role in the meeting is to take a detailed note of everything that is said and then chip in with any questions I may have. Upon returning to the office, I then draft a detailed attendance note of the meeting so that we have a comprehensive record of what was discussed and our next steps. I then read over my research note one last time before sending it off to the Senior Associate.
I normally leave the office between 6.30pm and 7pm unless there is something massively urgent on. I take part in various out-of-work activities such as our pro bono legal advice clinic and I also organise the firm’s netball team. If it’s a Friday night, I pretty much always head to our local pub where you can guarantee a good trainee turn-out and catch up on all the gossip!
Check emails and calendar after a nice cup of tea!
Start research note on arbitration appeals.
Court run to the Royal Courts of Justice.
Lunch (at last!)
Continue research note
Start preparing for meeting with client and Counsel.
Meeting with the client and Counsel at Counsel’s Chambers.
Draft a detailed attendance note of the meeting.
Head home/play firm netball/attend the pro bono clinic/go to the pub!
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