The legal profession, though ancient, is more diverse than people realize, with various roles and specializations.
While the term ‘lawyer’ often brings to mind an image of a courtroom professional in a suit, a ‘litigator’ is sometimes associated with someone in a white wig and black dress robes.
Beyond attire, there are differences in their roles, which we’ll explain.
Here are the key differences between a lawyer and a litigator and when to choose each in different situations.
What’s a Litigator?
A litigator is a lawyer specializing in courtroom disputes and representing clients in legal actions.
They often focus on specific areas like employment or personal injury law, and may handle various case types.
Litigators work in private law firms or government agencies.
The Work of a Litigator
Not all litigators spend their time in court. They focus on the court process, arbitration, mediation, and administrative tribunals. Their work involves creating pleadings, attending discovery examinations, preparing for hearings, and advocacy.
Litigators are experts in courtroom advocacy and trial preparation, and they may appear in court wearing black robes when necessary. They often work independently, seeking clients through professional relationships with solicitors and law firms. Some litigators work in shared spaces called ‘chambers’ near the courts.
In summary, a ‘lawyer’ includes both solicitors and litigators. A litigator primarily serves as a courtroom lawyer.
What’s a Lawyer?
Litigators are often seen in courtrooms wearing black robes, but lawyers work in various settings, such as law firms, government, and corporations. Some lawyers specialize in specific areas like family, contract, corporate, or estates law.
They handle diverse cases, including divorce, accidents, labor disputes, wills, estates, and provide legal advice and representation. Courtroom trials are just one part of the litigation process.
The Work of a Lawyer
A lawyer’s work involves three main activities: providing legal advice, representing clients, and conducting legal research and document organization.
- Legal Advice: Lawyers typically specialize in specific areas of law due to the complexity and constant changes in legal regulations. They offer advice on legal solutions, explain potential legal consequences, and present available options for clients to make informed decisions.
- Client Representation: Lawyers act on behalf of clients, but they can’t do so without the client’s authorization. They negotiate with opposing parties, aiming to resolve issues through means like mediation or negotiation rather than going to court.
- Court Representation: Lawyers may argue cases in court if necessary, following their client’s mandate. However, court decisions are usually a last resort, and lawyers explore alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or arbitration.
What is the difference between a lawyer and a litigator?
The key difference between a lawyer and a litigator is the type of work they do.
Litigators specialize in trial proceedings and participate in litigation, often presenting evidence in front of a jury and a judge. Lawyers, on the other hand, may not engage in jury trials at all.
Some lawyers, like criminal defense attorneys, are litigators who present evidence in court, while others, like contracts lawyers, work with business contracts and rarely appear in court, making them non-litigators.
When to choose each
If you’re looking for legal representation for a dispute that will go to trial, you should consider hiring a litigator.
If your legal matter does not involve a court appearance, such as drafting a contract or negotiating a settlement, focus on hiring a lawyer who specializes in that area of law.