A litigation attorney is most simply an attorney who specializes in litigation. Litigation is a fancy legal term for the practice of carrying a lawsuit through the court process. While some attorneys prefer to handle settlements and avoid going to trials, and some lawyers prefer to practice criminal law, litigation attorneys for the most part focus exclusively on lawsuits. After all, lawsuits are what litigation is all about.
Just as the different types of injuries, remedies, and legal issues cover an immensely endless variety of situations, the same goes for litigation – the different kinds of legal cases where litigation is practiced are practically unlimited. While one litigation attorney might focus on a niche type of litigation, other litigation attorneys will practice more generalized litigation and cover all kinds of lawsuits.
Because major personal or toxic injury cases, such as those involving benzene exposure or other workplace hazards, are so incredibly complex and include so many parties, a litigation attorney or even a team of litigation attorneys rather than other attorneys usually cover such large lawsuits. A general practice attorney (which the average citizen might turn to in order to update a will or fight a traffic ticket) most likely does not have the required experience or level of specialization that an expert litigation attorney does when it comes to major lawsuits. Practicing law is not a one size fits all endeavor – there are simply different attorneys for different situations.
It’s not unusual for a litigation attorney to file suit against dozens of companies or parties just as a part of one single legal case. Because of the potential for a large group of people to be involved, litigation is often extremely detail oriented. Because of this, it’s often necessary for litigation attorneys to have a team of co-attorneys and many qualified non-attorney staff members that help with much of the paperwork, too, especially when trying a large scale lawsuit. Because of the sheer complexity and expense involved, this type of litigation is most often reserved for only the biggest legal cases. Therefore it is not unusual for the smaller legal cases to be settled out of court so that the parties involved can incur fewer legal expenses and save some time.
Very rarely does the litigation process go quickly. It’s not that litigation attorneys don’t want to expedite the process as much as possible or are not experienced enough to work efficiently – it’s just that there are an unbelievable number of details and legal procedures that have to be followed in any type of litigation. Court systems and their rules also introduce their own level of bureaucracy (with accompanying procedures and paperwork) that only extends the amount of time needed for litigation attorneys to cover all the bases necessary.
Again, litigation is a very complicated process. While it might sound simple to carry a lawsuit through the court process on the surface, every experienced litigation attorney knows that this is just not the case at all.
Adapted from What Does a Litigation Attorney Do Anyway? by Shane Hester, 2013.
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