What Is the Difference Between a Trial Lawyer and a Litigator?

February 28, 2020

Understanding the legal language surrounding your personal injury claim can help you feel more in control of the situation. You may hear words such as settlement, judgment award, negotiation and litigation tossed around during your case. Learning the differences between these recovery outlets, as well as the types of lawyers involved in each, could help you make smart decisions moving forward. A particularly important distinction to make is between a trial lawyer and a litigator.

What is a Litigator?

Many people use the terms trial lawyer and litigator interchangeably. Both are licensed legal professionals. However, they have different meanings on a legal level. A trial lawyer can be a litigator and vice versa, but a lawyer does not have to be both. It is up to the individual attorney whether to choose just one or to practice in both capacities. A lawyer in private practice will typically be both out of necessity.

A litigator is a lawyer that sees the big picture of a claim. A litigator does not necessarily specialize in sitting at trials, but in taking legal action against others in general. A litigator takes care of the legwork of a claim – investigating the accident, collecting evidence, procuring documents, naming the defendant and filing a claim. A litigator does not necessarily take claims to trial, but rather stays out of the courtroom and handles duties related to case preparation. Litigators typically charge by the hour.

What is a Trial Lawyer?

A trial lawyer is someone with specific training in representing clients at trial. It is a lawyer with ample courtroom experience who knows how to choose jurors, make statements, depose witnesses, and present a case to a judge and jury. A trial lawyer dives into the combat associated with going to trial rather than staying away from it with legal paperwork. Trial lawyers often pass case preparation off to paralegals while they focus on the trial. Trial lawyers typically start their legal careers differently from litigators, as they will go down different paths.

Most personal injury lawyers are trial lawyers. They are intuitive, smart and aggressive – especially when it comes to going up against defendants in courtrooms. Personal injury lawyers generally need courtroom savvy to get the best possible results for their clients. A trial lawyer may oversee a group of other attorneys and associates to help with the more mundane side of things but handle the court process him/herself. The rest of the team may appear in court during difficult, complex or high-profile lawsuits.

Which Do You Need?

If you are seeking a lawyer to represent you during a personal injury claim, a trial lawyer might be the right choice for you. A trial lawyer, or an attorney that is both a trial lawyer and litigator, will have the courtroom experience you need to convince the defendant to settle for a higher amount. An insurance company will respond to an attorney who has the ability to go to trial better than one who does not. Since insurance companies want to avoid trials, they may offer higher amounts to settle the case pre-trial. If you only work with a litigator, you may not have as much power during insurance negotiations.

A litigator could also cost you more than a trial lawyer. Most trial lawyers charge by the case, not the hour. A personal injury trial lawyer may charge on a contingency fee basis, for example, meaning you will pay your fees out of a percentage of your settlement or jury verdict at the conclusion of a successful case. You will not have to pay for services rendered if the lawyer does not win. On the other hand, you will need to pay most litigators by the hour even if you lose the case. A litigator might be the right choice, however, if you have a different type of claim. Discuss your needs in more detail with our firm by contacting us today. We can give advice about your specific case.