"What do litigation lawyers do?"

What is 'contentious' law?

Contentious legal work covers areas of law where there is some sort of dispute between two or more parties that involves an adversarial process (such as preparing a case for court). 

Generally (although not always!), an area of law will have both a contentious and a non-contentious team. For example: 

  • Real Estate (non-contentious) will deal with the sales and purchases of houses and developments. This is a transactional arrangement and both parties want to achieve the same end goal. 

  • Real Estate Litigation (contentious) - will deal with disputes arising between two or more parties in relation to property and/or land (i.e. two neighbours arguing over who has to repair a shared driveway). Here, parties want to achieve different and opposing end goals. 

What do litigation lawyers do?

Litigation is also known as 'dispute resolution'. 

A civil litigation solicitor will help clients resolve their civil disputes. Clients can include both businesses (particularly in commercial related disputes) and private individuals (such as personal injury disputes). 

Litigation solicitors will generally try and settle the dispute by negotiation but if a negotiation can't be reached, the matter will conclude by either going to court or resolving it through an alternative form of dispute resolution (such as arbitration or mediation). 

Example: in a personal injury claim, the litigation solicitors will try and get the defending party to admit fault and once fault has been dealt with, the negotiation revolves around how much money the injured party will receive as compensation. If the parties can't agree, it will be decided by a judge. 

Daily tasks of a litigation lawyer

  • Advise clients on the merit of their claim or defence. 

  • Gather evidence to build up a case including interviewing witnesses and drafting witness statements. 

  • Gathering expert evidence (so this could include doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers etc. that will provide an analysis of the case based on their knowledge and experience - this evidence will help with building your client's case). 

  • Undertake the pre-action protocol steps such as writing to the defendant and trying to resolve the matter before issuing court proceedings. 

  • Issue court proceedings and deal with the litigation process (or alternative dispute resolution process if this route is taken). 

  • Liaise with specialist barristers and attend 'conferences' (this could be a meeting with expert witnesses, barristers and/or the client). 

  • Attending court and assisting the barrister (and sometimes doing advocacy as a solicitor if it is a low value claim or an interim hearing).