Civil litigation is a field of law that deals with any kind of civil disputes that involve a demand for monetary compensation and that don’t involve a crime.
This is a broad field of law, that encompasses just about every type of dispute a person can have with another and stops just short of criminal activity. Many cases of civil litigation may spill over into many other fields of law including employment law, intellectual property law, and property law.
As such, it’s an excellent field to consider if you don’t quite have the stomach for dealing with criminals on a daily basis but you’re still interested in doing detective work and settling disputes between people.
While as a civil litigator you would sometimes be required to attend a trial with a judge, often times the disputes will be resolved before it gets that far.
Read on to find out just what kinds of disputes you might encounter as a civil litigator, as well as how you can get into this fascinating field of law.
What are the most common cases in civil litigation?
First up, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common cases of civil litigation, to give you an idea of what kinds of things you would deal with as a civil litigator.
Each area covers a different type of dispute, and of course, each will have plenty of laws that you need to know about if you are to resolve it.
- Personal Injury
One of the most common cases you will see as a civil litigator is the personal injury claim.
When you think of personal injury claims, you probably think of those adverts that are regularly shown on TV in which somebody suffers an accident at the workplace and needs a lawyer’s help to get monetary compensation from the company.
Accidents happen all the time, so as you can imagine, this is a type of case that keeps many civil litigators busy.
Some common examples of personal injury cases include accidents at work, road traffic accidents, and slips or falls.
- Medical malpractice
Medical malpractice is defined as any form of negligence in a medical facility that puts the health of its patients at risk. Examples of this include insufficient attention provided to the patient, or errors during surgery, and other mistakes of that nature.
As you can imagine, if you were to lose someone due to the error of a surgeon, you would want to know that there were repercussions. As such, medical malpractice is viable grounds for a civil litigation case, as it doesn’t fall under the category of criminal law.
Sometimes medical malpractice is grouped together with personal injury.
- Anti-trust litigation
Anti-trust litigation is an interesting example of civil litigation that you may not be familiar with.
Examples of anti-trust litigation cases include those in which there have been deliberate attempts at price-fixing, monopolization, or market allocation. There are a lot more examples, and most of them involve money and large corporations.
- Landlord and tenant disputes
Another interesting case in civil litigation is the far-too-common landlord and tenant dispute.
If there’s a legal contract between a landlord and a tenant, it makes sense that either party would seek legal advice should there be a perceived breach of said contract.
There are so many potential disputes between landlords and tenants that it would be pointless to list them all here, but some of the most common examples include the recovery of rent, eviction, and disputes with letting agents.
- Construction liability
Construction liability is a form of civil litigation that involves the contractors and any number of factors related to the construction site they are working on.
There could be disputes surrounding the project itself, about the environment the contractors are working in, and more. This case could fall under commercial law, too.
- Intellectual property disputes
Intellectual property disputes are all-too-common in this day and age since now so much information is online that it’s easy to steal others’ ideas and make them out to be your own.
Due to this slew of information that enters the online space every day, there are countless IP disputes made by creators and authors in order to protect their original work or idea.
This field is usually covered by intellectual property lawyers, who specialise in either contentious or non-contentious IP, but it also falls under the general umbrella of civil litigation because it typically involves two or more people with a non-criminal dispute.
They say that around 50% of marriages end in divorce.
This seems like a crazy statistic, but family lawyers would probably tell you that it’s sadly true.
While divorce does fall under the umbrella of family law, it is a civil litigation matter too.
What does a civil litigator do?
Now that you have an idea of what exactly the field of civil litigation covers, let’s take a look at what a civil litigator or litigation attorney’s main duties and responsibilities are.
In brief, here are some of the main tasks you will have to work through as a civil litigator:
- Case assessments
- Draft pleadings
- Settlement discussions
As a civil litigator you will essentially work with a client from the moment they file the dispute officially to the moment it has been finalised and an agreement has been reached.
This first entails taking a look over the initial case and scouring through the details to see if it’s actually worth the client’s while to file a lawsuit. If not, then the process ends there, but if you see that there is a case in there worth fighting for then you can choose to defend the client.
You will then usually go through a period of investigation which could involve interviewing the client, getting together the necessary documents, and speaking with the appropriate witnesses if there are any.
From this point, you will have to file pleadings and motions to court based on any evidence you have collected, and then come the trials, which precede the settlement discussions and then appeals if any are made.
How do you start a career in civil litigation?
Unfortunately, if you want to start a career in civil litigation, there’s a long road ahead full of exams and training.
But you didn’t decide to pursue a career in law because it would be easy… right?
Here are some general steps you will need to take to become a civil litigator:
- Get a law degree
If you’re serious about getting into any field of law, you’re likely going to study for an undergraduate degree in law.
Don’t worry if you’ve already taken on a different course, though, since you can adjust your sails and embark on a law conversion at the end of your degree which will usually last just a year.
- Gain work experience
Work experience is one of the most important prerequisites for many LPCs (Legal Practice Course) so it’s imperative that you get as much of it as humanly possible.
In this case, it’s best to find work experience that covers civil litigation in some way, such as an internship at a law firm or a similar program.
Even if you can’t get civil litigation-specific work experience though, it’s certainly the case here that something is better than nothing.
- Take an LPC
The LPC is a competitive program that you’ll need to enroll in if you have aspirations of becoming a practising lawyer.
While it’s difficult to get into, once you’re in hard work and a little bit of luck are all that stand between you and your dream of becoming a lawyer.
What are the main reasons to study civil litigation?
There are many compelling reasons to specialise in civil litigation.
It’s perhaps the field of law outside of criminal law that most people are familiar with, and it’s all about detective work and solving disputes.
Sounds fun, right?
Here are some of the top reasons to study civil litigation:
- It’s great for your social skills
If you’re an extravert and you love nothing more than shouting from the rooftops about everything from hobbies to health, then you’ll relish the opportunity to show your stuff in the courtroom.
It’s a profession that is very well-suited for developing social skills and operating in the limelight.
- You just need a good work ethic
With that being said, introverts could thrive as civil litigators too.
Of course, you would need to be willing to overcome your social fears to communicate with clients and coherently present a case, but the job is also suited to the quiet and curious nature of introverts.
The main skills required to be a good civil litigator are arguably curiosity and a good work ethic since your primary responsibility will be to break apart a case so the voracious readers out there will have no trouble with that.
- You can help those who need it
As a civil litigator, you would be able to fight in the corner of those who can’t fight for themselves, which in itself should be a gratifying experience.
This is one of the main reasons a lot of people decide to get into law since you get to deliver justice and uphold law.
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