What is a Trial Attorney?
A trial attorney is a type of attorney who specializes in practicing law in a trial court. A trial attorney represents clients in civil cases. This type of attorney may also be referred to as a litigation attorney.
In a civil case, the parties are referred to as the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff is the party who brings the lawsuit.
The defendant is the party against whom the lawsuit is brought. This is in contrast to a criminal case, where a case is brought either by a state or the federal government against an individual, called the defendant.
A trial attorney is retained for the specific purpose of suing another party in civil court. It is sometimes said that a civil attorney resolves private wrongs, which may include interpersonal conflicts or conflicts which involve business.
Civil law is different from criminal law in numerous ways. As noted above, in criminal law, the state or federal government brings charges against an individual, the defendant.
In contrast, civil law governs cases where one individual or party brings a private lawsuit against another individual or party. Civil lawsuits generally result in one party being awarded monetary damages.
Punishments under criminal law, on the other hand, may involve taking away the defendant’s freedoms. Therefore, there are additional protections for a defendant and the burden of proof is higher in criminal law cases than in civil lawsuits.
Although the two types of law are different, they are not necessarily exclusive. It is possible to be sued and fined in a civil law proceeding as well as sentenced in a criminal trial afterwards.
For example, if an individual sets fire to a property, that individual may be punished criminally for the crime of arson. They may then be sued in a civil lawsuit for the property damage.
What Types of Tasks and Services Do Trial Attorneys Perform?
A trial attorney performs many different tasks and services. Examples of the tasks and services that a trial attorney performs includes, but is not limited to:
- Meeting with and advising a potential client regarding their legal options prior to a lawsuit;
- Obtaining documents and other items or documentation which could be used as evidence during a lawsuit, which is also referred to as discovery;
- Performing legal research prior to the trial;
- Filing various pre-trial motions;
- Interviewing clients as well as witnesses and other individuals in order to build the case;
- Handling all correspondence with the other party’s attorney or attorneys as well as the court;
- Engaging in settlement negotiations; and
- Presenting the case in court before a judge and jury.
The previous list provides a few examples of the work of a civil trial attorney. They may also be required to:
- Hire expert witnesses;
- Argue for various legal remedies; and
- Handle post trial matters, such as an appeal.
In addition, a trial attorney must be familiar with the local procedural law for trials. A trial attorney must also have knowledge regarding the various laws which may be applied in a particular lawsuit.
A trial attorney practices law in almost any field in which individuals interact and conduct business. Examples of the areas of law in which trial attorneys practice includes:
- Personal injury law;
- Employment law;
- Family law;
- Business and finance law;
- Immigration law;
- Real estate law;
- Landlord / tenant law, and
- More areas of law.
What Makes a Trial Attorney Effective?
There are several key components to an effective trial attorney. If you feel you need to hire a lawsuit lawyer, it is important to take the time to find one who is a good match for your needs.
This may vary based on the specifics of your case and circumstances as well as your budget. There are, however, several common characteristics you can look out for.
You should seek the assistance of a trial attorney who is experienced in handling cases which closely resemble your own. An example would be finding an attorney who specializes in personal injury law when you had a car accident and need to file a lawsuit against the negligent party for your injuries.
An experienced trial attorney should also possess strong negotiating skills. This is important when defending your rights and working towards obtaining the best damages award available for your case.
Other qualities to look for in an effective trial attorney may include, but are not limited to:
- Excellent communication skills, so the client understands what is going on with their case;
- Strong writing skills because much of a trial attorney’s job involves writing clear and persuasive documents for the judge to consider;
- Sufficient analytical skills;
- Whether or not the attorney has specific training in the area of law, or is certified by their state bar for litigation;
- Interpersonal skills and the ability to balance compassion with aggression; and
- Being a good team player.
It is important to remember that everyone and their case are unique. A trial attorney who was a good fit for your family member or friend may not work well for you.
It is also important to remember that you have the ultimate control over your case. You are the one who decides who to sue, when to sue, and when to settle, within the confines of legal requirements. It is, however, best to defer to your attorney’s judgment when making legal decisions and heed any advice they provide regarding the overall strategy for your case.
How Much Does a Civil Attorney Cost?The cost of a civil trial attorney will vary depending on several factors, including:
- The area of law the case involves;
- The experience of the trial attorney;
- The difficulty or complexity of the case; and
- The amount of time that will be required to pursue or defend the lawsuit.
The cost of a trial attorney will also be affected by the fee structure that is used. If the attorney takes the case on a contingent fee basis, which is common in personal injury cases, the attorney will recover a percentage of your total recovery, typically around 30%.
Other attorneys will charge an hourly fee for their services. For certain types of cases, typically simple ones, an attorney may charge a flat rate. It is always important to discuss fees and costs prior to hiring an attorney for your case.
How Do You Know if You Need a Trial Attorney for Your Legal Issue?
As previously discussed, an individual may sue or be sued under almost any non-criminal theory of law. If you believe you have been wronged or injured, financially or otherwise, it is in your best interests to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable trial attorney.
If another individual or business has filed a lawsuit against you, you should immediately consult with an attorney to determine the best course of action. Any delay in your response to the lawsuit can have severe consequences for your defense.
A local, experienced trial attorney will review the specifics of your unique case and create a legal action plan to move forward. A trial attorney will be familiar with your local court system and the best manner in which to proceed with your case.
Litigation can be a complex and lengthy process that usually requires representation. Your trial attorney will provide that representation throughout the duration of your case and ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines.
It is important to remember that many businesses and companies have attorneys on their staff specific for the purpose of defending them against a lawsuit. If your case requires you to sue a large company, it is absolutely necessary to have a trial attorney on your side.