Litigation Lawyer Careers
Becoming a litigation lawyer is one of the more exciting types of lawyer career paths for those looking to carve out a future practicing law. This specialty area can involve a lot of courtroom appearances in addition to a wealth of investigation and negotiation efforts. The career of a litigation lawyer is one that many people envision when they think of an attorney’s daily responsibilities. There is an ongoing demand for litigation lawyers as courts become more and more crowded with cases of the civil variety. It is a rewarding, exciting and financially lucrative career path.
Litigation Lawyer Education
There are steps to becoming a litigation lawyer that typically take seven to eight years to complete. It is a very detailed pathway with a lot of Education involved. The following education steps will lead to a career as a litigation lawyer:
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Acceptable LSAT score
- Admission to Law School
- Juris Doctor Law Degree
- Completion of MRPE
- Passing Bar Examination
The first step of obtaining a bachelor’s degree it’s pretty straightforward. This is a prerequisite for gaining admission to law school. There is no specific major needed to gain entrance into a law school program. Those interested in becoming a litigation lawyer usually choose a major along the lines of English, Criminal Justice, Philosophy, Economics or Political Science. The main priority is to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree and a law school application is strengthened when a student finishes out the undergraduate portion with a relatively high GPA.
Applying for law school is a detailed process and that involves taking the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). Lower scores on the LSAT will make the process of gaining acceptance significantly tougher. Therefore, many students take several weeks or months to prepare for the LSAT. This is a major part of a law school application.
Once a student is accepted into an accredited law school, the next step is undergoing a rigorous academic regimen for the next three years. Law students can expect to be assigned lengthy reading assignments. During the course of a law school education, students may be asked to gain experience at a local law clinic or community law enter. Specifications differ according to each Law School. And it is during law school when students generally decide on a practice area.
Graduation from Law School comes with the awarding of a Juris Doctor Law Degree. However, that is not enough to obtain a position as a litigation lawyer. A State Bar Examination must be passed and that will allow a lawyer to be admitted to the State Bar. Prior to taking the State Bar Examination, a MPRE must be completed. That acronym stands for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, which tests an individual’s ethics. There are a variety of Bar Exams that can be administered as it is up to each state to select the format. Those exams include the following:
- MBE (Multistate Bar Examination)
- MPT (Multistate Performance Test)
- MEE (Multistate Essay Examination)
- UBE (Uniform Bar Examination)
Passing the Bar signifies final step in the education process of becoming a litigation lawyer. This will not guarantee employment, but will give litigation lawyers necessary training and certifications to begin practicing law in their respective state.
Job Description and Skills it Takes to Become a Litigation Lawyer
A litigation lawyer represents clients in a civil case. This should not be confused with a criminal defense attorney who represents clients who are accused of committing a criminal act. In cases of civil litigation, the penalties will not be accompanied by jail time. Civil litigators seek out financial compensation for their clients.
Litigation lawyers are not subject to one specific area. The claims could involve personal injuries, employment law, product liability, venture capital, medical malpractice, business disputes and a host of others. The fact that people can file a civil lawsuit for just about anything has broadened the playing field for litigation attorneys.
It is a common societal reaction to file a lawsuit when a person feels wronged. While not all of those misdoings involve criminal acts, there is still the need to hire a lawyer to navigate through the civil lawsuit process. A litigation lawyer will handle the following duties when representing a client:
- Investigation of case
- File documents to the court
- Plea drafting
- Request to produce evidence
- Trial representation
- Settlement negotiation
- Appealing a decision
A litigation lawyer essentially builds a case from the ground up. The first task is to identify whether a potential client has a strong enough case to take on. This comes with a review of all the details while also putting together a preliminary strategy.
Even though litigation component would suggest a lot of work takes place in a courtroom, there is a tremendous number of documents that need to be filed. This includes affidavits, defenses, complaints, interrogatories and much more. Litigation lawyers must be skilled and handling a great deal of paperwork as there is a lot to be done before a case is heard in a court of law.
Litigation lawyers also head up the discovery phase, which occurs when information is exchanged between both parties. There are specific strategies that litigation lawyers use to extract information during the discovery phase and the most successful ones have mastered certain techniques. Litigation lawyers should possess the following traits:
- Good communication skills
- Ability to negotiate
- Understanding of rules of evidence
- Openness to learning
The most effective litigation lawyers are in constant pursuit of a solution. They also possess a high level of confidence as the job often requires quick thinking. Maintaining a high level of poise should not be underestimated in the litigation process. Knowledge of the law also determines how a litigator will proceed and that could ultimately be the difference between victory and defeat.
It is important to hire a litigation attorney whether you are filing a civil lawsuit or when one is filed against you. There is a reduction in risk and clients can avoid self-incrimination by having a litigation lawyer on their side. Clients can also be assured that the case will be handled properly with the assistance of a litigation lawyer.
Salary and Wages
Many civil litigators work on contingency fees and are paid a percentage of the compensation their clients receive. However, there are some civil litigators who charge an upfront fee. But the potential to win large payouts has made for high annual salaries, although it often depends on the specifics of each case. Because of the uncertainty in terms of consistency of high profile cases, there is a wide spectrum of pay rates for litigation lawyers. There are several factors that can also come into play when determining the annual salary amount of a litigation lawyer and those are as follows:
- Years of experience
- Notable courtroom victories
- Size of law firm
- Geographic location
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported a $163,770 annual salary for all lawyers. There is no distinction among specialty areas when it comes to lawyer salary amounts. There is, however, a state by state breakdown of lawyer annual salaries and the top five mean amounts are as follows:
- District of Columbia – $226,510
- California – $201,530
- Massachusetts – $196,230
- New York – $188,900
- Connecticut – $174,520
Litigation lawyers have a favorable outlook for the future and that is primarily due to the abundance of civil court cases. As long as there are overflowing court dockets with a seemingly endless supply of cases, there will be a need for attorneys to represent that long list of clients. Certain parts of the country have a greater demand for litigation lawyers and that is often evidenced by a backlog of cases.
The job outlook for attorneys, in general, is favorable as the number continues to grow each year. Projections indicate that there will be a 1% increase in the number of lawyers every year for the next decade. That does not mean all practice areas will be in high demand, although certain ones remain stable over the course of time. Litigation lawyers fall into that stable category and can be considered a safe choice for aspiring lawyers looking to choose a practice area that will provide a long and productive career.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.