Breaking Down the Law: Roles and Responsibilities of a Litigation Attorney
America ranks 5th on the list of the most litigious countries per capita.
For you as a citizen, this litigious culture makes you more likely to face a lawsuit in your lifetime-or even initiate one.
When you find yourself in these circumstances, whichever end of the lawsuit you will be in, it’s advisable to get yourself a litigation attorney.
What is a Litigation Lawyer?
Litigation lawyers are legal experts who represent a plaintiff or a defendant in a civil case. They are also known as trial attorneys or litigation attorneys.
If you find yourself in a situation that will result in litigation, here is what a trial attorney can do for you.
1. Carry out Preliminary Case Assessment and Investigation
A litigator looks into the case and investigates its merits to see if it indeed warrants a lawsuit for a plaintiff.
For the defendant, they investigate to see if there is sufficient evidence against their client, so as to find possible ways to defend them.
This process includes:
- Finding credible witnesses who can withstand the rigors of trial
- Noting down statements from witnesses regarding the cases
- Gathering documents pertinent to the case
- Interviewing you
- Establishing what created the dispute
At this point too, an attorney can evaluate the possibility of an out of court settlement. Such arrangements save everyone involved the time and resources of going through a trial.
In some instances, a reputable trial attorney can get litigation funding to support litigation processes for tort cases with precedence.
2. Draft Proceedings
Before a matter is heard in court, there are a series of motions and pleadings that need to be registered with the court for the plaintiff and the defendant as well.
Here, a plaintiff attorney will draft summons and complaints to commence the litigation process.
On the other hand, defense attorneys will then draft a response and at times a counterclaim to the defendant’s complaint.
A defense attorney will then work with the client to look into the allegations and formulate responses.
Aside from these filings, trial attorneys can also draft pre-trial motions. These include motions to change the location of the trial or to strike and dismiss evidence.
Similarly, they can file motions on judgments based on the pleadings without necessarily having to appear in court.
3. Delve into Discovery
The discovery process entails the parties exchanging all information.
Here is a look at the methods a litigator can use to do this:
- Interrogation. This is through preparing a list of written questions for the other side to answer. These are under the penalty of perjury.
- Disposition. These are done under oath and entail answering questions from either attorney in a formal setting.
- Documentation. Litigators can request documents from the opposing team, and make requests for admission as well. Requests for admission mean requesting the opposing party to deny or admit to facets of the case.
- Through experts, a litigator can examine tangible evidence in addition to analyzing information gathered in discovery. The experts forward written reports to be used at trial, and they can even be invited to testify once trial begins.
- The attorney can also argue on motions relating to discovery. These include motions to have the courts compel the other party to issue responses to discovery requests if they have exceeded the duration allowed to do so.
The discovery process aims at providing as much information to litigators as possible as well as identifying issues to help them put up a solid case.
4. Pre-Trial Preparation
Right before trial, your attorney will be tying up loose ends, finishing discovery and preparing for trial.
Here are some of their roles in this stage:
- Retain the specific expert witnesses who had done investigations and given conclusive reports
- Participate in pre-trial meetings
- Work on, and polish a trial strategy based on facts and evidence provided
- When needed, they can conduct pre-trial dispositions of key witnesses and experts
- Prepare evidence to be used as exhibits during trial
- Draft pre-trial motions to be argued in court. These can include those pertaining to admission of certain pieces of evidence
The pre-trial phase is basically your attorney gearing up to put up the best argument on behalf of their client.
During trial, your attorney is fully engaged in presenting the best case before the hearing judge.
Here they will:
- Work with you and experts to get a winning trial theme
- Identify merits and demerits of the case and strategize on the most persuasive arguments for trial.
- Find and explore any loopholes in the other team’s evidence and arguments.
- Prepare you and the witnesses for testimony. This can take the form of a mock trial where your lawyer asks you questions the other side is likely to ask.
- When it comes up for mention, an attorney gives their opening as well as closing remarks to the judge, and the jury if there is one.
- During trial, a litigator examines and cross-examines witnesses with the aim of formulating their version of events using testimonial evidence and expert submissions.
- During cross-examination, an attorney attempts to discredit a witness’s testimony, knowledge, and credibility.
The results or progress of trial can open the way to settlement negotiations or for an appeal.
6. Explore Settlement Possibilities
Trial attorneys can negotiate and settle a case anytime during the trial cycle.
If the chance was missed before trial, and there is a possibility during trial, then the attorney can bring this up to their client.
To reach settlement, the litigator engages in settlement negotiations with the other team, and at times, the presiding judge.
Any agreements that are reached are then formally documented.
7. a Litigation Attorney can Launch an Appeal
If trial does not favor you, then the litigator can file an appeal.
However, an appeal must have basis and a lawyer should be able to evidence why he deems the court’s decision is unfit.
Some of the reasons for an appeal include:
- Errors in the gathering, use, and acceptance of evidence
- If a verdict is impossible for a defendant to pay
- If the judge gives the jury the wrong instructions at trial
Again, a trial attorney would need to gather evidence, prepare an appeal strategy and familiarize themselves with appellate documents.
As you can see, trials are complex processes that require mastery of the law.
A litigation attorney has the legal knowledge and skills required to navigate court systems and get the best outcome for you. Still not sure why you should hire a litigation lawyer? Check out this blog.