Practice Areas

Dispute Resolution & Civil Litigation Law

Introduction

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 as well as professional negligence, breach of contracts and/or agreements, intellectual property disputes and general business disputes.

What does this type of lawyer do?

When a client initially comes to the solicitor for advice, it is the solicitor’s job to evaluate the claim, whatever it may be, and advise the client on the next steps that should be taken.  In order to be able 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 a particularly strong one and therefore they should try and settle it as soon as possible.  In the alternative, 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.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is being heavily pushed by the courts and in fact the parties must declare on court documents whether they would like a month’s stay of the court proceedings to attempt to settle the issued claim by alternative means.

Civil litigation/dispute resolution solicitors frequently attend mediation and/or settlement meetings whereby all the parties sit round a table and try to thrash out an agreement.  Depending on the type of dispute, arbitrations as another form of ADR are also proving 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 are required?

Not easily stressed. 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.

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

Keep to deadlines. 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. 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.

Being commercial.  The solicitor needs to know their client and their client’s business in order to give sound commercial advice. Generally speaking, litigation clients are busy people/organisations and they do not 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 nous.

Current issues

While it has been some time since the Jackson Reforms came into effect, the end result of these is still unclear. The reforms resulted in significant changes: success fees are no longer being paid by the losing party and there is greater pressure to keep legal costs down – and even greater pressure to resolve disputes prior to court. However, in the commercial setting, the courts remain full.

What's it like in practice

Find out what some of our people who have practised civil litigation/dispute resolution say about it, and the advice that they would give those interested in a career in this area. Look at the following Case Study:

More information

The student guides to the legal profession have useful information on working in litigation. Look at: