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legal practice areas

Civil litigation dispute resolution law

What is civil litigation & dispute resolution law?

A civil litigation/commercial dispute resolution solicitor tries to resolve their client’s disputes. Matters dealt with by these solicitors can include landlord and tenant issues, neighbour disputes, unpaid bills, professional negligence, breach of contracts and/or agreements, intellectual property disputes and general business disputes.

What does a dispute resolution lawyer do?

When a client initially comes to the solicitor for advice, it is the solicitor’s job to evaluate the claim and advise the client on the next steps that should be taken. To do this, the solicitor must read through all the relevant documentation received from the client and formulate an opinion on the client’s prospects of success.

The solicitor might advise the client that their claim is not particularly strong and therefore they should try and settle it as soon as possible. Alternatively, the solicitor might advise the client that a claim that has been issued against them is weak and that they have a good defence.

Civil litigation/dispute resolution solicitors issue court proceedings and deal with disclosure and drafting witness statements. They instruct Counsel to attend the trial, prepare trial bundles and all the documentation required by the court both pre- and post-trial.

Civil litigation/ dispute resolution solicitors frequently attend mediation and/or settlement meetings whereby all the parties sit round a table and try to come to an agreement. Depending on the type of dispute, arbitrations as another form of Alternative Dispute Resolution are also popular.

Depending on the type of firm you work for, there may be an opportunity to do some advocacy by representing your client at interim court applications, case management conferences and pre-trial hearings.

The solicitor will attend conferences with Counsel and the client to discuss the case and preparations for trial. At the trial, the solicitor has a dual role; they are there to assist the barrister if they have any queries about the case or need instructions and also to ensure that the client understands what is happening around them, as court can be quite terrifying for lay people.

What skills do you need to be a dispute resolution lawyer?

You need to be level-headed

This is very important as you could go into work with a plan as to what you are going to achieve that day but if a client calls and requires your urgent assistance, everything else must be left and their dispute becomes the top priority.

You need to be well organised and able to keep to deadlines

There are huge amounts of paperwork involved in litigation from disclosure documents to preparing trial bundles that run into many files. It is imperative that the civil litigation solicitor is organised because nothing can be lost or overlooked as it could be detrimental to the case.

Litigation is extremely procedural and there are very important court deadlines that must not be missed otherwise your client’s claim or defence could be struck out. Litigators generally keep comprehensive diaries to ensure that all deadlines are met.

Ability to communicate both orally and in writing

Solicitors need to be succinct and coherent in both written and oral communication. They must be able to communicate with the court, clients, barristers and their opposing number. Court is generally the last resort and there will have been at least some pre-issue correspondence between the opposing parties. The ability to be persuasive when communicating is another extremely relevant skill as this could help your client settle a claim.

Having an interest in the world of business and finance is a prerequisite for this area of law. The solicitor needs to know their client and their client’s business in order to give sound commercial advice. Litigation clients are generally busy people and organisations and they don’t want to read letters that are three pages long and refer to statutes and case law. Clients want to know that their solicitor will either help them resolve a problem or avoid it altogether by using their commercial knowledge.

What are the different types of civil litigation?

There are many different types of legal disputes which would fall under civil litigation:

  • Intellectual property disputes
  • Educational law disputes
  • Personal injury cases
  • Employment or labour disputes
  • Medical malpractice cases
  • Lawsuits surrounding divorce

All these civil litigation examples don’t involve any criminal charges. These cases sometimes may want action from another party and need the courts to help with that. 

How to become a civil litigation and dispute resolution lawyer?

To work as a solicitor, you can either take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), or if you are eligible, you can study the Legal Practice Course (LPC).

If you qualify through the SQE, you will also need to complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). To prepare for the SQE, we recommend studying one of our SQE courses, which have been designed to give you the knowledge and skills for a successful career as a solicitor.

If you’re eligible to study the LPC, you will need to get a two-year training contract with a law firm. To find out what route is right for you, see our Becoming a Solicitor page.

Once you complete your two-year training contract or QWE, you can apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be admitted as a solicitor.

To become a barrister, you will need to have completed an undergraduate law degree, or if you are a non-law graduate, a conversion course, before completing the Bar Practice Course (BPC). You will then need to secure pupillage.

You can also study a Master of Law (LLM) in Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution to give you the knowledge and skills to move into this area.

Apart from educational qualifications, you will need to be prepared to cover many areas of the law from housing issues, neighbour disputes, unpaid bills, professional negligence, breach of contracts and/or agreements, intellectual property disputes and general business disputes.

As these areas are varied and subject to rapid change, you must be ready to keep up with this fast-changing industry and be able to keep up with varied caseloads.

Experience in mitigation is highly valued in this area of law along with time management skills, ability to organise work based on client and urgency, and the confidence to advocate for clients in the courtroom.

Average salary in dispute resolution law

A newly dispute resolution qualified solicitor in a law firm outside of the city or smaller criminal practice may expect to earn around £30,000 to £40,000. An average civil litigation and dispute resolution solicitor salary in London is anything from £30,000 to £80,000 based on five years’ experience according to For those with over ten years' experience, earnings can range from £50,000 to £100,000. Those based in London and bigger cities will often earn more too.

Gaining dispute resolution work experience

Gaining work experience at a local non-profit or legal charity is the perfect way to get a taste for human rights law. Our Employability Service also offers support with this during your studies. The experience of working with real clients on a placement is invaluable. We work with employers to organise work experience opportunities nationally that could prove valuable in furthering your career.

We can also help you to get external placements in a range of not-for-profit organisations, providing members of the public with free legal advice and representation.

Civil litigation and dispute resolution student guide

The following student guides have useful information on working in litigation: Chambers and Partners Student guide, Lawcareers and Target Law.


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