Litigation means trial, right? So what does it matter if you hire a trial attorney or a trial attorney? Can’t they both perform the same functions? Not necessarily, which is why it is important to do your research before hiring an attorney to help you with a lawsuit.
First, litigation does not automatically mean that a lawsuit is going to take place. The vast majority of the time, lawsuits are resolved out of court without having to go to a jury. This is due to the work of the trial or trial attorney.
Trial attorneys handle all work that occurs outside of the courtroom. They file lawsuits, gather evidence, conduct legal investigations, meet with the client, present and argue motions, and defend their clients. All of this is done long before a lawsuit reaches a judge and jury. Litigants may even attempt mediation to reach an out-of-court settlement, but if it looks like a case is going to court, these attorneys can take statements and prepare clients and their witnesses.
They represent their clients from the first filing of the claim until an agreement is reached. But even though they are involved in the case and represent their clients to the end, they may not actually argue the case in court. A litigant’s specialty is research, paperwork, and knowledge of his or her specific area of legal expertise, such as family law, real estate, wills, probate, etc.
Some litigants are also qualified trial attorneys and will appear before the judge and jury, but this is not a guarantee. Not all litigants do this. It is very common for the litigant to handle the case until it reaches the judge and then turns it over to the trial attorney to prepare for court. This does not mean that the litigant you have been working with will abandon you. It simply means that another attorney will be brought in to represent you and present your position in the courtroom. Your litigant will continue to participate in the process and may even be trusted by the other attorney to provide the expert legal knowledge necessary to defend the case.
Trial lawyers are just that: trial lawyers. They usually don’t get involved until the case is brought before a judge and jury. Once it appears that the lawsuit will go before a judge, they prepare it for trial and represent the client in court. He or she will be the one to ask questions of witnesses, present evidence, and argue the case before the judge and jury. This is the lawyer we all see on television.
However, you must remember that these attorneys are not necessarily experts in the area of law that they are prosecuting or defending. They are generalists who are excellent presenters and public debaters. They generally do not specialize in one area of law like trial attorneys do.
Which is better?
Although there are differences between the two attorneys, those differences do not make one better than the other. Each of them has different functions and performs different roles. Working with both types will give you the best of both worlds: a knowledgeable attorney familiar with the ins and outs of your case, and an expert presenter who can better argue your position in court if you go that far. Many law firms have litigants and attorneys on staff, giving you access to both types of specialists under one roof.
If you prefer to have a single attorney represent you throughout the entire process, be sure to ask about their experience in court and specifically whether they have included cases that cover the same legal topics as yours. Then you will need to decide if the attorney has the experience you need to take your case to the end or if it is best to start with a litigator and hire a trial attorney when your case reaches the courtroom.