- Legal research;
- Conducting discovery;
- Taking and defending depositions;
- Preparation of witnesses;
- Persuasive writing skills;
- Motion practice;
- Trial experience; and
- Appellate experience.
A more junior litigation attorney’s resume will usually reflect skills primarily in legal research or discovery matters, particularly in document review, which is a particular subset of discovery. As lawyers advance in their careers, they will gain responsibility for more sophisticated writing projects and more complex litigation tasks.
For example, as an attorney develops, he or she will likely have skill sets that reflect drafting summary judgment motions and other significant motion work before the court. Likewise, taking and defending depositions and appearing in court at hearings mark a more accomplished litigator.
Finally, a litigation attorney will graduate to trial experience, sometimes first or second chairs, which may include taking or cross-examining witnesses, picking a jury, and opening and closing arguments to the court.Though there are firms who do not handle appeals at all (and some firms that only handle appellate work), often a litigation attorney at a large firm may have had the opportunity to draft or argue an appeal before appellate courts or higher courts. Obviously, the pinnacle of this work is appearance before the United States Supreme Court.
In addition to escalating litigation skills, firms prize attorneys with clerkship experience. Law school graduates thinking of pursuing careers in litigation may apply to clerk for federal or state judges. A federal district court or appellate court clerkship is considered more prestigious than a state court clerkship. Moreover, a federal court of appeals clerkship is considered more prestigious than a district court clerkship. Depending on the firm, clerkship experience may be more valuable, depending on the judge for whom a lawyer clerked or the district in which he or she clerked.
Almost any area of law can generate litigation, and as such, one could find a call for litigators in a large range of disciplines. Nonetheless, it may help to consider some major subsets of specific substantive areas when trying to place a litigation candidate, such as:
- General commercial litigation;
- White collar criminal defense;
- Products liability.
GENERAL COMMERCIAL LITIGATION. The most significant category of litigation attorneys is the commercial litigator. Generally speaking, commercial litigation is civil litigation, the center of which is a dispute over a business or financial matter.The dispute may be a breach of contract, allegations of business fraud, or other pecuniary disputes. Commercial litigation will generally involve a corporate entity (corporation, partnership, limited liability company) as at least one of the parties, if not both.
Whether a law firm’s litigation practice is driven by the firm’s corporate clients or principally litigation clients, certain firms may have specialties within general commercial litigation. Depending on the client a firm represents, the litigation practice will be a reflection of the types of lawsuits those clients are most likely to encounter. For example, the firm that represents financial institutions may develop a specialty in lender liability matters. Some commercial litigation specialty areas may include securities litigation, financial services litigation, RICO disputes, or antitrust litigation.This litigation may take place either in state or federal court, depending on the underlying body of law. Some types of cases may only be heard in federal court. Moreover, large scale “bet the business” litigation will more likely be heard by a federal judge because of the amount in controversy.
While larger firms are more likely to have a broad general commercial practice, boutique law firms tend to specialize in one or related areas of litigation. Moreover, these smaller litigation departments are generally representing the same client or type of client each time. For example, a firm may specialize in representing stockholders in class-action suits against companies or in defending manufacturers in product liability cases. White Collar Criminal Defense. A law firm with a vibrant commercial litigation practice may also have a white collar crime practice representing defendants in criminal matters.White collar criminal defense relates to criminal matters that are closely tied to corporate or financial matters, which might include defending against allegations of securities fraud, tax evasion, or antitrust violations. Generally such practices are being developed or staffed by former federal prosecutors from the Department of Justice or other federal criminal enforcement body.
INSURANCE. Many law firms have insurance companies as clients. Some litigation departments represent insurance companies almost exclusively. Still the type of litigation that a firm may handle on behalf of insurance clients may vary quite dramatically. One may see an attorney with insurance coverage experience. Generally, this means that the litigation attorney is advising the client with respect to whether a given policy will cover any particular incident. For litigation departments representing insurance companies, this generally means that the lawyers are defending the insurer against claims. Again, this may be a relatively minor personal injury matter or may concerns billions of dollars in assets. Generally, a coverage lawyer will have some facility with policy exclusion language and understand the issues with respect to primary, excess, and umbrella insurance policies.This litigation may be in state or in federal court, depending on the parties and amount in controversy. Insurance litigators may also have bad-faith litigation claims. Generally state court claims of bad-faith litigation usually arise when an insurance company refuses to cover a particular incident. Here, the insured may allege that the denial was in bad faith or violated another similar state law prohibiting unfair claims.
Finally, an insurance litigator may be an insurance defense lawyer. In this type of litigation, a law firm’s attorneys will take over the defense of an insured, while being retained by the insurance company client.This litigation can vary widely. One popular specialty within insurance defense is professional malpractice. In these cases, where the amount in controversy can be quite substantial, a lawyer may represent a hospital, law firm, or individual professional against claims of malfeasance or malpractice.
PRODUCTS LIABILITY. Products liability is a growing area of litigation practice. In essence, a products liability lawyer represents a company against allegations that something they manufacture for sale is defective in some way.These cases may be brought by individuals or oftentimes by a “class” of plaintiffs. Products liability cases may range from allegations over the failure of a mechanical device or allegations of dangerous effects of a drug. Notable products liability cases include asbestos litigation, breast implant litigation, or pharmaceutical litigation. Because there may be technical issues underlying the litigation, some firms may want their lawyers to have undergraduate or graduate degrees in the science or technical art that corresponds to the disputes. Additionally, products liability lawyers are generally more likely to be taking and defending depositions and going to trial than their commercial litigation counterparts, so strong courtroom litigation skills are particularly important.
Please see this article to find out if litigation is right for you: Why Most Attorneys Have No Business Being Litigators: Fifteen Reasons Why You Should Not Be a Litigator
About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.