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What does it mean to work as a civil litigation attorney

published January 04, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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What is Civil Litigation?

If you talk to successful trial lawyers, they will typically agree that most cases are won or lost before the trial ever begins. It is the pretrial process—in which evidence is gathered, facts and case theories are developed, witnesses are interviewed and deposed, and various motions are filed, argued, and decided by the judge—which occupies the vast majority of the time and effort of civil litigation attorneys (known as "litigators") and has the greatest influence on the outcome of a case or trial.
What it is Like to be a Civil Litigation Attorney

Litigation involves the process of preparing cases for trial and, if necessary, presenting the case at trial and conducting appeals. Over 90% of all civil cases are settled without having a trial. As an advocate for a client, the litigator must develop the best legal theories possible and gather the facts to support those theories; the litigator's goal is to achieve the best result at trial or a favorable settlement without a trial. Successful litigators typically proceed on the theory that the best settlements are achieved on the strength of the case developed during trial preparation.

Some litigators are generalists who work in diverse areas of the law. Others are specialists in particular practice areas, such as tax, patent, antitrust, labor and employment, and torts. No matter what their specialty area, litigators must have strong oral and written communication skills; must be able to work effectively with their clients, expert witnesses, and opposing counsel; and must have strong analytical skills that allow them to take creative approaches in representing their client's interest. Because such a large percentage of cases settle, it is also critically important that litigators have excellent negotiation skills.

Investigation and Discovery

The civil litigation process officially starts with the filing and service of a complaint, the statement of the plaintiff's (or aggrieved party's) cause of action and request for relief. The plaintiff usually seeks monetary damages or some type of court intervention. Court interventions can include an injunction prohibiting a certain type of behavior (such as an order that striking airline pilots return to work) or an action (such as an order to prevent the demolition of an architecturally significant building). Long before the official start of the process, however, the parties have typically been involved in negotiations through letters, phone conferences, and meetings to resolve the dispute without resorting to legal action.

Litigation proceedings in federal court are governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure; most state courts have similar rules that govern the actions of the parties and the litigation process. Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that an attorney make a good faith investigation of the facts before filing a complaint and that the legal theories chosen be well-grounded in both fact and law. Therefore the pre-filing stage of litigation involves extensive investigation, review of documents, and interviews with potential witnesses.

The defendant responds to the plaintiffs complaint in a formal pleading known as an answer. The defendant may also file counterclaims, which are the defendant's own claims or requests for recovery. The parties then engage in a process called discovery.

Written Discovery: Document Requests and Interrogatories

Typically, parties first engage in written discovery. Written discovery includes requests for documents and for written responses to questions (interrogatories) about the matter in dispute. In a commercial litigation case, the parties will seek copies of all correspondence, including letters, memoranda, and even e-mail messages, that relate to the dispute. For example, in the highly publicized antitrust case involving Microsoft Corporation, the government sought copies of literally thousands of internal e-mail messages. In a securities fraud case or a breach of commercial contract case, the written discovery requests may seek to review tens of thousands of pages of documents that include the accounting, sales, and marketing records of the transaction^) at the core of the dispute.

Interrogatories, an important type of written discovery, are questions to be answered in writing, under oath, by a party in the lawsuit. Interrogatories often seek a written description of a company's organizational structure or its system of accounting and record keeping. In addition they usually seek the details of the other party's contentions of facts or theories of the case. For example, in an action for breach of contract, the defendant may issue interrogatories seeking the details of the alleged contract breach, such as the extent of the economic harm the plaintiff incurred as a result of the breach.

Preparing and responding to written discovery requests such as interrogatories can consume a substantial part of a litigator's time. New attorneys at civil litigation firms or in civil litigation departments of large firms may spend a good portion of their first few years of practice searching for and retrieving documents in response to discovery requests. Successful litigators know that the outcome of a case may depend on their ability to undertake a thorough review of the essential documents and piece together the various threads that will form the fabric of their case.

Oral Discovery: Depositions

Oral discovery involves placing witnesses under oath and obtaining their testimony by deposition. A deposition is a proceeding at which attorneys for each side take turns asking questions of a witness while a court reporter records the questions and answers. Depositions are typically conducted at the attorneys' offices without the presence of a judge. Depositions allow the attorneys to learn the expected testimony of each side's witnesses and enable each side to establish facts under oath and authenticate or explain the details of written documents. Large civil litigation cases which involve numerous parties, such as environmental site clean-up litigation or anticompetitive conduct cases, may require hundreds of depositions that result in tens of thousands of pages of deposition transcripts.

Motion Practice

During the discovery process and before trial, numerous motions are filed before the court in an effort to resolve certain issues or narrow the issues for trial. If a witness refuses to answer questions in a deposition or if a party fails to cooperate in the discovery process, a motion to compel discovery may be filed. In a motion to compel, one party asks the judge to require another party to cooperate with discovery or face sanctions.

Another type of motion that arises as a result of discovery is the motion for summary judgment. In a motion for summary judgment, a defendant argues that, based on the uncontested facts that have been revealed via discovery, the plaintiff is not entitled to prevail on a certain issue as a matter of law. For example, in a breach of contract suit, a party may move for summary judgment on the ground that the plaintiff delayed for too long in bringing the lawsuit. In a product liability suit, a defendant product manufacturer may move for summary judgment on the grounds that it acted in accordance with all of the product warning requirements of the law and therefore the plaintiff is not entitled to any recovery.


Once the pre-trial tasks are completed, if no settlement has been reached, the case proceeds to trial. This phase and the appeals phase which may follow raise additional issues for attorneys. For example, there are certain requirements that must be met before attorneys can present evidence in a trial. Admission of evidence and witness testimony at trial in federal court are governed by the Federal Rules of Evidence; each state has its own rules regarding evidence and testimony in state courts. Litigators must be very familiar with the rules that govern presentation of evidence and other courtroom behavior.

In addition to state and federal procedural rules, judges may have rules concerning particular behavior within their courtrooms. Many judges have strict prohibitions against inflammatory language or overly-dramatic behavior in the presence of the jury. Some judges even restrict the location from which the attorney must stand and require the attorney to request permission to approach the bench or hand the court clerk a photograph or other exhibit to be shown to the jury.


When a trial has reached its conclusion, the verdict or judgment is often subject to an appeal. Part of the challenge in trying a case involves developing a complete record for appeal. Failure of the attorneys to make and renew objections at appropriate times may result in waiving the right to appeal certain rulings. Prompt objections must be made so that the trial court judge can modify or correct a ruling at the time it is made.

Not all rulings and decisions are subject to appeal. Some rulings and determinations, such as credibility of witnesses, are left to the discretion of the trial judge and can only be reversed upon a finding of an abuse of discretion. Other issues are subject to review on standards such as "clearly erroneous" findings or "legal error." The skilled trial lawyer will make sure a complete record is made on all the issues that are necessary for appeal. There are so many nuances involved in appellate practice that some litigation attorneys devote their entire practice to appellate work.

Life as a Civil Litigator

Where do civil litigators work?

Most civil litigation attorneys work in law firms. Sometimes they are employed by boutique firms that specialize in a particular type of litigation, such as employment litigation, patent litigation, or business litigation. Other civil litigation attorneys work in the litigation departments of mid-size or large law firms.

While many government attorneys are involved in criminal litigation, some government attorneys work as civil litigators. They may work for federal government offices such as the U.S. Attorneys' offices, for the civil division of a county prosecutor's office, or for a municipality such as the city of San Diego.

Other civil litigation attorneys work in-house for corporations, insurance companies, financial institutions, and other business entities. Some in-house attorneys handle litigation, while others supervise the litigation work of outside firms hired to do litigation for the organization.

Who are their clients and what types of cases do they work on?

Civil litigation attorneys often represent business entities. "Many of the clients I work with are very large multistate and international corporations, and I represent them in regulatory litigation involving the federal government," explains Harold Stupps of Miller & Chevalier in Washington, D.C. "These are often companies that have had a long association with the firm. A typical case on which I will work involves judicial review of a federal agency order or regulation. The cases will usually be in federal district court, with an appeal to follow in one of the federal circuits."

As a general litigation and health care partner at Potter Anderson & Cor-roon LLP in Wilmington, Delaware, Susan Gotfried works with a wide variety of business clients. "Most of my clients are businesses, both large and small, and several are health care providers. They require a broad range of legal services," she explains.

Paul Gersowitz is a litigator at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he specializes in toxic tort litigation. He says, "A typical toxic tort case involves a claim of personal injury as a result of exposure to chemicals in a residential or occupational setting. The claims include chemical sensitivity, brain damage, immune system dysfunction, neuropsychological impairment, cancer, and birth defects," Paul explains.

Nina Mosher specializes in corporate litigation at Richards, Layton & Finger in Wilmington, Delaware. Her clients are business entities that "range from Fortune 500 companies to smaller privately held companies to local business owners." Adds Lisa, "Their needs can also vary from seeking advice on matters of Delaware corporate law to requiring lead representation in actions filed by stockholders against a corporation in the Delaware Court of Chancery to needing 'local' representation in Delaware proceedings."

Bonnie Meister, a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. in Minneapolis, Minnesota, heads the litigation department at her firm. Most of Deborah's cases are large and complex, involving numerous parties. "I've done a little bit of all kinds of litigation, including employment, contractual relations, antitrust, securities fraud, and even patent litigation," she says. Most of Deborah's clients are businesses, such as accounting firms, insurance companies, and publicly held companies, though she also works on suits in which the firm represents individuals.

Mona Sampson is a litigation attorney and Assistant General Counsel at The Northern Trust Corporation, the Chicago flagship subsidiary of a multi-bank holding company. The Northern Trust's legal department has about 27 attorneys; Mona and another attorney are the two litigation attorneys in the department. "I work on any litigation in which the bank or any of its affiliates are named as a defendant. This can include real estate cases, breach of fiduciary duties cases, banking cases, securities cases, and employment cases. The only cases I don't handle are tort cases, which are handled by our insurance company."  Mona explains that an important part of her job is managing litigation. "When we have to go to court, we hire outside counsel to handle that. I actively manage the work handled by the law firms we hire." Although Maureen's client is always the bank, she works with numerous bank employees in managing litigation. "Generally, I am conferring with senior managers of the bank about litigation issues— whether current or potential litigation."

What daily activities are involved in civil litigation practice?

Like most litigators, Nina Mosher says that her activities vary from day to day. "Corporate litigation at our firm has become a truly diverse practice area, and as a result there is no typical day. For example, you could find yourself working with a team of attorneys on an expedited corporate proceeding, drafting a brief in support of a motion for summary judgment, taking a deposition, making an oral argument, or preparing for a trial. It's this variety which makes this practice area challenging and exciting." Nina recalls a memorable experience early in her career. "At the end of my second year of practice, I returned from my honeymoon expecting to spend my first day back at work going through my mail—instead I found train tickets to Washington, D.C. waiting on my desk. I spent the day participating in a meeting with a new client and 10 months (and several deposition trips) later was sitting second chair in a federal court trial for this same client."

Susan Brady also told us that her activities vary widely from one day to the next. "I generally spend several hours each day on the phone with or on behalf of my clients. Sometimes my clients need help on an expedited basis, so I realized early in my practice that any 'plan for the day' must be flexible enough to accommodate emergency research projects. I also spend a good portion of each day drafting letters, pleadings, motions, and briefs."

Harold Stupps says that as a junior partner at Miller & Chevalier, his duties have changed from what they were as an associate. "My activities have now begun to focus on interfacing with clients and managing cases, rather than simply doing research and writing." Less experienced attorneys are likely to handle most of the research and writing in a large firm. "On a typical day," explains Anthony, "I spend about an hour on the phone with clients or co-counsel or opposing counsel in ongoing cases. I spend four or five hours drafting, reviewing, or editing briefs, other court materials, and legal memos. Two or three hours are spent on fact development or discovery matters in ongoing cases, and I devote an hour or two to firm non-billable work, such as interviewing attorney and summer associate candidates, handling pro bono cases, or business development. I am at my desk most of the day; court appearances are occasional, but not frequent."

For toxic tort litigator Paul Eaton, "A typical day usually involves managing approximately 50 to 75 toxic tort cases, including negotiating with plaintiffs' counsel, meeting with and conferring with clients, considering strategy with respect to each individual case, and deciding on strategy with respect to future discovery in each case. A large percentage of my time is spent preparing for and taking depositions of plaintiffs and plaintiffs' expert witnesses in toxic tort cases. Like most practice areas, a typical day also involves responding to various crises and emergencies that arise in each case on a day-to-day basis."

Much of Joseph's work on his cases is related to the discovery process. "We typically conduct affirmative discovery [discovery requests directed to the plaintiff or plaintiffs] relating to the alleged exposure, employment history, medical history, lost wages, and liability theories, and we depose the plaintiff. We also conduct extensive research on the plaintiffs expert witnesses and then depose them regarding their opinions. Once we have obtained the opinions from the plaintiffs expert witnesses, we retain our own expert witnesses and prepare motions to exclude the plaintiffs experts based on their failure to comply with the standards for admissibility."

Paul knows firsthand the powerful role discovery plays in civil litigation cases. He recalls a situation where effective discovery resulted in a favorable settlement for his client. "In a case involving claims of immune dysfunction, we obtained copies of deposition and trial transcripts where a plaintiffs expert stated that he had passed the examination for the board of internal medicine on the first try. We requested and received copies of the examination records from the relevant medical board and discovered that the expert had in fact taken the examination on five occasions and failed on every occasion. More significantly, the expert received a letter from the board indicating that one of the areas he was deficient in was immunology. This information was extremely helpful during the deposition regarding the expert's prior testimony and his qualifications relating to immunology, and it was not well received by the expert. The case settled after the expert's deposition."

As manager of the litigation department of her firm, Bonnie Meister says that 25-30% of her time is spent on administrative matters. "We have five litigation groups with a total of over 100 litigators," she says. "I keep an eye on the costs involved in the practice—where the money is going, how the attorneys' billable hours look, what billing rates to charge—as well as deciding which lawyers get to handle which cases. I have a special interest in our young lawyers and when assigning work I try to even out the case load and the experience level and make sure that even the least experienced attorneys are working on interesting and challenging matters." Much of Deborah's work involves working on the matters that every litigation attorney handles. "After 25 years of experience as a litigator, I know that the best partners have a hands-on approach. They're the partners who carry the boxes into the courtroom, review the documents involved in discovery, draft motions and briefs, and take the discovery depositions."

Bonnie goes on to explain the role that less experienced lawyers play. "Much of our legal research is handled by attorneys who recently graduated from law school. They're the attorneys who are most effective when it comes to research; they get the correct answer in the most efficient way." Bonnie says that new associates also participate in such activities as brief writing. "Though I still do a lot of brief writing, I also edit what younger lawyers write. Associates, even first year associates, usually write the first drafts of briefs."

In addition to writing and editing, Bonnie spends time preparing witnesses for depositions and taking depositions. "I work on huge cases that go on for years and years before they are tried; many of the cases ultimately settle. I don't get into the courtroom except on motion practice. I travel in spurts, depending on where the client is located and what court has jurisdiction over the case."

As an in-house litigator, Mona Sampson spends much of her time working with bank employees. "I'm constantly fielding questions from people inside the bank who are managing potential problems. I also work closely with the outside counsel who are handling litigation for the bank on matters such as strategy and day-to-day defense issues. I spend a lot of time on the phone with outside counsel, and I edit the writing done by outside counsel. I'm also involved in litigation prevention, as my job involves risk management as well as litigation management. I make presentations to people at the bank advising them how to prevent litigation." Mona also prepares a number of written reports for the bank. "I prepare reports for auditors and members of the board of directors of the bank, and I keep bank management apprised of the status of all litigation."

What do civil litigators find rewarding about their practice?

Litigation attorneys report that they enjoy the relationships they develop through their work as litigators. They find satisfaction in their work advising clients. "The most personally rewarding aspect of my job," comments Susan Brady, "is client counseling. I get great satisfaction out of helping clients avoid problems." Nina Mosher agrees. "Although the most professionally challenging cases often involve the firm's larger clients, the most personally rewarding cases are those involving the smaller local clients. In those cases, the outcome usually has a greater impact on the individual or individuals with whom you are working," says Lisa.

Toxic tort litigator Paul Eaton says that he develops close relationships with both clients and expert witnesses. "The aspect of my practice which I find to be the most personally rewarding is the relationships that I have developed with clients and expert witnesses across the country," he says. "Clients have come to rely on the expertise we have developed in this area and are genuinely appreciative of our efforts on their behalf. Also, the focus of most toxic tort litigation is on expert witnesses; we have developed a database which contains information on more than 200 expert witnesses and have developed ongoing relationships with various experts from across the country."

As the head of the litigation department at her firm, Bonnie Meister finds reward in the working relationships she develops with the firm's young attorneys. "That's what I enjoy most about my work. I love to see the young lawyers come in as new associates, watch them grow in their experience and expertise, and then see them become my partners." When we talked to her, Bonnie explained that the firm had just named a new group of partners from the ranks of their associates. "Sometimes a new attorney will have a rocky start, but then grow and develop as a lawyer under the guidance my partners and I are able to provide. There's nothing so exciting as seeing a young lawyer become a partner!"

"This is the best job I've ever had," Mona Sampson says emphatically of her position as a bank litigation manager. "I like being part of a team effort to resolve the bank's problems. I like the people I work with because they're very intelligent and highly responsible. The people at the bank really appreciate the advice you give them. They see me as part of the team—as someone who is on their side."

Harold Stupps likes the intellectual challenge of his job as a litigator. "I get the most pleasure from my job when I am writing briefs on complex issues. It is always satisfying to win a case and, in the opinion, see your brief adopted in large measure by the court."

Bonnie Meister notes that litigation offers an attorney the unparalleled opportunity to learn about different industries. "I have the opportunity to learn about different industries, whether the aluminum business or the wine business. I have the chance to learn how accounting firms operate and how a certain chemical product is made in a small town in Japan or how semiconductors work." Deborah's interest in business and industry is longstanding. "I remember having lunch with a partner when I was a new associate. He told me about a case he was working on that involved the construction of a warehouse with cement blocks. He went on to explain, in detail, how cement blocks were manufactured. I was impressed that the partner knew so much about the manufacturing process. I remember thinking, 'How on earth did he ever learn that?'"

The Training and Skills Important to the Civil Litigator

How do people enter the field of civil litigation?

"I knew in law school that I wanted to be a litigator," says Susan Brady. Like Jennifer, many law students decide that litigation is the right specialty for them as a result of their first year law school class in civil litigation, their interest in legal writing and research, or their experience in moot court.

Most law firms hire litigators directly out of law school. Explains large firm attorney Bonnie Meister, "We mainly hire through our summer associate program. New attorneys have worked as a summer associate for our firm or have worked for a year or two as a federal judicial law clerk. For our litigation department, we hire students interested in litigation. Students don't need to know exactly what type of litigation they're interested in, but it's helpful if they have some idea. Are they interested in business or technology or medical malpractice? The most important thing is to have an interest in litigation and in civil procedure. The large cases we work on involve a lot of procedure—a lot of pre-trial maneuvering—before the attorneys see the courtroom."

Paul Eaton began his career as a litigator immediately after graduating from law school. "I started working in toxic tort litigation when I first started at the firm and have enjoyed the interaction with clients and the first chair responsibility at an early stage in my career. The opportunity to conduct plaintiff and expert witness depositions on a regular basis and participate in hearings and trials influenced my decision to pursue this area of practice."

If you are interested in working as an in-house litigator in a corporation, it's generally important to gain litigation experience in a law firm first. "You have to build your career in the direction of becoming an in-house attorney," advises Mona Sampson. "I had 12 years of litigation experience at a large firm before I came to the bank," she explains. "It's important to develop a good record in a particular practice area, such as litigation, before you seek to move those skills to an in-house position in a corporation."

What skills are most important to civil litigators?
  • Civil litigators agree that strong writing skills are critical to success in the field. "Good writing is the most important skill. I chose to go to law school because I thought that the legal profession would offer substantial writing opportunities. I have not been disappointed," says Harold Stupps. Bonnie Meister agrees that writing is key. "Motion practice is a big part of cases," she explains. "In large, multimillion dollar cases, the parties often bring all motions possible. There's a lot of writing involved."
  • Oral advocacy skills are also important to the litigator. "Oral advocacy skills are essential in this practice area," says Nina Mosher. "I acquired these skills in law school, but I continue to refine them through working with more experienced attorneys." Though it may be a while until recent graduates try a case, they may be called upon to go to court to argue a motion that they've written. "It's my position that the person who writes the motion and the brief supporting it should argue it. If it's an associate who wrote the brief, they should argue it where possible, as they know the arguments best," says senior litigation attorney Bonnie Meister.
  • Because so many cases ultimately settle, negotiation skills are very important. "There are many skills important to litigation, but of particular relevance is the ability to be an advocate for your client while negotiating with plaintiff's counsel, whether in the deposition of a witness or at trial," notes Paul Eaton. "Negotiation skills are extremely important in this practice area," agrees Susan Brady. "Many legal problems can be avoided or minimized through negotiation and diplomacy. Although it may sound trite, the best way to acquire negotiation skills is through experience—yours and others'. Take advantage of opportunities to observe the negotiation methods of other lawyers—you will quickly learn what works and what doesn't."
  • Litigators need to be detail-oriented. "Litigators need to be able to apply details to the big picture," says Bonnie Meister. "In complex litigation details are very important. For example, if you're looking at a business litigation case in which a company is being sued by a distributor, it helps if the attorney on the case can pick up on the details of what happened in the company's other relationships with distributors. An attorney should be able to look at all those details and see how they fit in the big picture of the case." Mona Sampson agrees, commenting, "The ideal litigator pays attention to the details and minds the store— yet never loses sight of the big picture. Just being a big-picture person isn't enough. You have to mind the details."
  • Because litigators are often working closely with their clients, expert witnesses, and other attorneys, they must be skilled at working with people. Explains Paul Eaton, "The cases we work on require daily contact with clients, expert witnesses, and plaintiffs counsel. All of my experiences in dealing with people in various situations have been invaluable to my litigation practice."

What classes and law school experiences do civil litigators recommend?
  • Take civil procedure and evidence classes in law school. Beyond those classes, take classes related to the areas of litigation in which you're interested. "A basic corporations class is helpful, especially if you specialize in corporate litigation,'' notes corporate litigator Nina Mosher. Because litigation clients are often business organizations, a corporations class can be great preparation for any type of litigation in which you're interested. Paul Eaton advises students interested in toxic tort litigation to take classes relating to complex litigation and environmental law. And Harold Stupps believes that most aspiring litigators will benefit from administrative law, federal courts, and federal jurisdiction.
  • A negotiations class in law school can help you prepare for the constant negotiation you're involved in as a litigator. Explains Mona Sampson, "A negotiations class helps you look at litigation in a new way. You see beyond the 'winning the war' aspect of litigation and see the other creative ways to obtain results."
  • A wide range of undergraduate liberal arts classes can be helpful in preparing for your career as a civil litigator. Says Harold Stupps, "If you want to be a litigator, the preparation starts, in my view, with a strong background in literature and writing classes." "Law school can be very narrow in focus," says Bonnie Meister. "Having some breadth to your undergraduate education gives you a better oudook on life. It helps you better understand people and how they interact and it gives you a historical perspective on things." Deborah's undergraduate degree was in economics, but she also studied music. "Music has been a marvelous background for being a lawyer. Students do better in classes and learn more in classes when they study subjects in which they're interested," she observes.
  • A basic accounting class, whether at the undergraduate level or at law school, can be useful training for any litigator. No matter what your specialty within litigation, monetary damages are frequently a hotly contested issue. "You need to know how to read a balance sheet," says Bonnie Meister.
  • Strengthen your legal writing skills through writing classes and advanced law school seminars that require writing papers. "No litigator can be successful without the ability to communicate effectively orally and in written form," says Harold Stupps. Participating in your school's law review or entering a writing competition can also provide excellent writing experience, as well as providing an opportunity to develop an excellent writing sample for interviews.
  • Moot court gives students a chance to hone their courtroom skills. Students enrolled in moot court write appellate briefs and argue their position in front of a panel of judges. "Moot court gives you a chance to actually practice litigation skills," says Mona Sampson. Trial advocacy classes can also help sharpen your oral advocacy skills. In trial advocacy, students prepare and then try a case in front of a mock jury. "Any courses that build litigation skills are very helpful," says Maureen. Adds Susan Brady, "Trial and appellate advocacy courses are valuable, as they provide an opportunity for law students to develop useful litigation skills before entering the 'real world.'"
  • Gain practical experience by becoming involved in your law school's clinical programs. Clinical programs allow you to work on real cases, with real clients, under the supervision of a professor. "When we hire, I like to see that someone has an idea of what litigation practice is all about," says Bonnie Meister. "A good clinical program can show you what litigation is all about. It can help you see what going to court is like and what navigating the system requires."
  • Another way to gain experience is to seek a summer associate position at a law firm specializing in litigation or at a law firm with a litigation department. As a summer associate working on litigation matters, you'll gain an insider's view of the litigation process. This is the best way to determine whether litigation is for you. Explains toxic tort litigator Paul Eaton, "The best way to develop contacts in this practice area is to seek out a law firm which specializes in toxic tort litigation or related areas and pursue every opportunity you can to become actively involved in the cases." Explains Bonnie Meister, "When we hire, I look for someone who has an interest in our firm, an interest in the practice, and an interest in life. I look at the summer associate positions as a 10-week interview for an associate position. We're only going to make a certain number of offers for associate attorney positions. We're naturally predisposed to someone who acts like they are really interested in our firm and our practice."
  • Investigate federal judicial clerkship opportunities. Many federal judges hire recent law school graduates to work as law clerks for a period of one to two years following graduation. Working as a judicial law clerk gives future litigators a chance to see litigation from the bench's point of view, an extraordinarily valuable opportunity. Bonnie Meister points out that an additional benefit of working as a judicial law clerk is the contacts you make. "They're contacts that last a long time and that you'll find helpful in practice."
  • It's never too early to develop contacts within the litigation field. Even as a law student, you can participate in bar association activities. "Join and participate in local and national bar associations such as the American Bar Association," advises Susan Brady. Susan also suggests keeping an organized list of professional contacts. "Develop a contact list that includes the person's name, company or firm affiliation, address, phone number, and a brief description of the person's position or background." Harold Stupps reminds students that their law school class is a great place to begin developing contacts. "Keep in touch with your law school classmates," he suggests. "They can be, in the long run, a very good source, not only for friendship, but for contacts and referrals."

Please see this article to find out if litigation is right for you: Why Most Attorneys Have No Business Being Litigators: Fifteen Reasons Why You Should Not Be a Litigator

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LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.

published January 04, 2013

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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