Litigation lawyers help clients resolve civil disputes. Litigation in the UK can involve a large number of legal issues, such as:
• Breach of contract
• Landlord/tenant issues
• Infringement of intellectual property (IP) rights
• Construction-related disputes
• Bad faith insurance claims
• Shipping cases
• Dangerous and defective products
• Banking and regulatory matters
• Media and entertainment disputes
• Personal injury/general negligence
If legal disputes cannot be settled by negotiation between the parties, they are typically resolved through either litigation in court or by means of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), usually mediation or arbitration.
In the UK, there are two divisions of the High Court that deal with civil cases: the Chancery Division, which hears matters related to wills, trusts, probate, insolvency business and land law; and the Queen’s Bench Division (QBD), which handles numerous contract law and personal injury/negligence matters.
Type of clients
itigation clients are those who have found themselves in the midst of a legal dispute and are looking for competent representation. Most litigation clients select solicitors based upon referrals from others, particularly those who have faced the same issue or dispute. They are looking for lawyers with high ethical standards who will be able to cut through the chaff and get to the main point of the case, give them sound advice, advance their cases forward, protect their interests and achieve the best outcome possible.
Kind of work
Litigation law firms handle all types and sizes of cases, and litigation solicitors do a variety of things to help their clients, such as:
• Advise claimants on whether or not they have a valid claim.
• Advise defendants regarding whether to settle or defend a claim that's been made against them.
• Gather evidence and witnesses to bolster their client’s position.
• Develop case strategies.
• Initiate court proceedings or move forward with a form of ADR if negotiations don’t prove fruitful.
• Represent clients at hearings and case-management conferences.
• Attend meetings with barristers to brief them regarding advocacy in hearings, trials and ADR.
• Attend trials and ADR proceedings to provide assistance to barristers.
A litigator’s work is guided by procedural rules and the court calendar, and experienced solicitors know how to navigate this system and develop successful case strategies. Litigation solicitors need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely, and unless the claim value is relatively small, the litigator’s job is much more about preparation than performance in court.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requires that all trainee solicitors gain some experience in resolving disputes, and most lawyers decide early on whether or not they are suited for life as a litigator. A litigation lawyer must have solid communication and negotiation skills, along with the ability to make a solid case for their client. They typically need a strong academic background, a keen sense of commercial awareness, a reasonable command over legal and technical principles, and the ability to present facts in a logical and persuasive manner. Litigators should have a good handle on numerous areas of law, including constitutional, administrative, torts, public law, land, real estate, EU law, equity and trusts, and contract law.
The huge amount of paperwork involved in litigation means that litigators spend much of their day drafting correspondence, conducting research and sorting through, organising, filing and copying documents to provide to the court and other parties with the required evidence. Although barristers still dominate court advocacy, if properly qualified, solicitor advocates can also appear in higher courts. For the litigator who wants to function as a solicitor and an advocate, matters involving family law, criminal law, employment and smaller civil litigation have more potential for advocacy.
Litigation remains the primary method by which parties resolve civil disputes in the UK and Wales, making a career as a litigator a popular choice for specialisation among solicitors.
Legal Practice Areas