Litigator vs. Lawyer: What’s the Real Difference?
In common conversation, the terms “litigator” and “lawyer” may be used interchangeably. In practice, however, there are key differences between these two approaches to the law. Here, we’ll look at situations in which a litigator or a lawyer is a better choice. We’ll also touch on essential qualities for each approach to legal practice.
Differences Between Litigators and Lawyers
In the United States, both litigators and lawyers are licensed attorneys. They receive the same education from the same law schools. They are required to pass the same bar exam, and those who pass receive the same license to practice law in their state. However, litigators and lawyers tend to approach the practice of law differently.
Litigators focus on taking cases through the court system. Their work typically begins with discussing a case with a potential client and ends when they secure a settlement or verdict (which may include one or more appeals) for that client.
Lawyers work more broadly. They often handle what are called “transactional law” matters, such as contracts, purchase agreements, estates, and mergers. Patent attorneys often fall in this category, as do attorneys who work in an advisory capacity for an organization or government body. Some lawyers handle litigation as part of their work, while others do not.
Top Qualities and Characteristics of Litigators versus Lawyers
All litigators are lawyers – but not all lawyers are litigators. To specialize as a litigator, a lawyer needs a certain set of qualities, characteristics, and skills. Here’s what to consider.
Lawyers need top-notch communication skills – both verbal and written. All lawyers need to be organized and thorough. They also need excellent time management skills. The ability to think through problems logically and methodically is a must, as is the ability to maintain confidentiality.
Litigators excel when they have these skills plus a few others. The best litigators have high emotional intelligence – they can manage their own emotions while also reading the room to quickly understand and respond to the feelings of others. They know how to cut through potential distractions quickly to reach the heart of an issue.
Are you a litigator type or a lawyer type? Understanding what you want from your legal career can help you find work that provides challenge and meaning.