Do you really enjoy litigation?
Most litigators, truth be told, do not. Based on my experience as a professional lawyer coach, there is a small percentage of lawyers who truly enjoy trial work. They love the strategy, challenge and competition it provides. But these attorneys are in the minority. The majority of lawyers who call themselves litigators, or trial lawyers, do not truly enjoy what they do.
There are reasons so many attorneys go into litigation:
- It’s sexy. We grew up seeing lawyer shows on TV and in the movies. Heros in the courtroom, wrongs being righted, the innocent vindicated and the guilty convicted.
- In law school we learned the nuts and bolts of litigation and may have tasted trial work in moot court competition.
- There’s plenty of work. Law firms thrive on controversies and litigation is the bread and butter of many firms’ profits. Firms are always looking for new associates to handle litigation grunt work and provide a nice mark up in billings to corporate clients. Solos have plenty of opportunities to pick up a litigation case, or a few-there are lots of controversies out there.
- There are plenty (relatively speaking) of jobs for litigators. If you want to do litigation, the odds of getting a job with a firm increase.
But it isn’t as glamorous as billed:
- Big firm associates are lucky to first chair a trial in their first five years of law practice. Many litigation partners have had few jury trials.
- Conversely, small firm attorneys and solos handling smaller cases may have the overwhelm of too many court appearances and trials.
- Your schedule is not your own. Trial dates, discovery deadlines, etc. are for the most part out of your control and can take a toll on your personal life.
- It is tedious. In complex litigation, document review, discovery, motion practice, etc. are pretty much what you do, especially as an associate.
- The conflict becomes wearing after a while.