A trial lawyer is a person who is educated in the field of law, has passed the bar exam and argues their client’s case in front of a judge or a jury. In many movies where life of a trial lawyer has been liked by the audience where they go head-to-head in dramatic courtroom action. There are three types of trials in most countries that operate under civil law: criminal, civil and constitutional. A trial is a legal proceeding, where disputes are heard by an impartial person or group of citizen and a binding decision is obtained.
In a criminal trial, there are two trial lawyers. The person charged with the crime by the police has a trial lawyer called the defense attorney. That lawyer is responsible for arguing on behalf of the person charged.
The other trial lawyer is called the prosecution or crown lawyer. This type of lawyer argues on behalf of the law making body of the country. The purpose of a criminal trial is to act as an independent public review of the information provided by the police against the person charged with a crime.
Both trial lawyers use the law and the facts of the case to argue the case. The final decision is made by the judge or a group of independent citizens called a jury. The method for selecting a jury varies widely in different countries.
A civil trial is where two parties can go to settle their differences without having broken any laws. Civil trial lawyers can take cases covering a wide area of civil law — everything from divorce to business disputes. Each party has their own trial lawyer and both argue to the judge that their perspective is correct.
In a constitutional court, trial lawyers argue with the government about the laws they have passed, changes to the constitution, or Supreme Court rulings. The trial lawyers in these types of cases must have greater resources at their disposal than regular trial lawyers, as they must do a great deal of research into the spirit of the law and the meaning behind it when arguing their cases. These cases also tend to have a much longer timeline to complete.
To become a trial lawyer, you must complete a degree in the law and pass the bar or barrister exam. Upon successful completion, you are certified as a lawyer. Every lawyer can decide if they want to specialize in a specific area, or have a general law practice.
A trial lawyer can work either for the government or for the general public. Working for the government provides a stable job, set salary and benefits and provides access to a wide range of cases. Most legal work is done outside of the trial setting, with the writing of opinions, research, filing of motions and meetings.
Working for the general public as a trial lawyer provides an opportunity to specialize in a particular type of case or to serve a broader community. Trial lawyers are paid based on their hourly rate and are responsible for securing their own clients. They often work in law firms, to share the costs of administration, law clerks and research services.
As a brand-new lawyer, you’re going to work more hours than those who’ve been with a firm for 20 years. Depending on the type of law you’re practicing, and the policies of your firm, you may work as many as 70 hours per week.
Your daily tasks will vary depending on your area of law. A typical day for most lawyers includes:
Research: Lots of research. Lawyers carefully study the details of each case, look for precedents and take detailed notes. You may have a paralegal to assist you, but you’ll still be doing plenty of reading.
Writing:You’ll be writing documents, responses, briefs, letters and plenty of emails.
Studying: Just because you’ve finished law school doesn’t mean you won’t be studying. When preparing for a hearing, you’ll spend hours reviewing the case file and the research you completed, which may include dozens of pages of notes that you’ll have to be familiar with in order to represent your client.
Phone calls: You’ll spend time on the phone with clients, court clerks, other lawyers in your firm, opposing lawyers in other firms and your boss.
Court appearances: Though just 1% of civil cases go to court, depending on your field you may be in court fairly often. You may find yourself waiting around for an hour before the judge arrives, only to find that the opposing side asks for a continuance, which means that you’ve just spent two hours at court without getting anything done on the case. Once a trial is underway, you’ll spend up to 8 hours inside the courtroom.
A day in the life of an actual trial lawyer isn’t quite as glamorous. In fact, it’s not glamorous at all. The vast majority of lawsuits are settled out of court or through alternative methods of dispute resolution. In fact, less than one percent of all civil cases actually proceed to trial.
So, if you’re a civil trial lawyer, you can expect to arrive at the office, not the courtroom, bright and early. And depending on your caseload, it’s possible that you may not have even left the office the night before. So you just may be crawling out from under your desk, rubbing the dust out of your eyes, swapping shirts, and bracing for the day.
Civil trial lawyers spend most of their time in the “discovery” stage of litigation. “Discovery” is a fancy legal term that is used to describe the methods used by each party in obtaining information from the other party that is relevant to their case. Discovery is, governed by the aforementioned complicated set of rules.A civil trial lawyer actually spends the bulk of his or her time reviewing pleadings, drafting and answering discovery requests, drafting legal memorandum, drafting briefs, and taking depositions. Civil trial lawyers also spend many long hours engaged in tedious document review, gathering hundreds (or even thousands) of documents and then reviewing each and every document to determine if it must be turned over to the other party.
As a criminal trial lawyer, your cases will move much faster and you will definitely see a courtroom action. As a prosecutor, you’ll have a very heavy caseload and will often be working hundreds of cases at the same time. You’ll also spend the majority of your time in court. Not all of that time will be spent in the courtroom, however. You will often find yourself frantically running around the courthouse trying to locate witnesses, police officers, and opposing attorneys for your cases.
Your day will frequently consist of drafting a few pleas, arguing a few sentencing hearings, and attending a few pretrial conferences. And then there will be trial days. As a prosecutor, you will be privy to the details of some very heinous crimes. And it will be up to you to work diligently to secure justice for the victims of those crimes. You will have to decide whether to try and send someone to jail or whether to let them remain free. You will face pressure from the government, victims, and families of victims. And you will be deemed a failure if you don’t win your case. And you will be deemed the enemy if you do win your case. So the payoffs are big. But so are the pitfalls. A career as a public defender looks much the same way, except that your goal is to make sure no one is being unjustly prosecuted. As for the private criminal defense attorney, your day also looks much the same way.
For all attorneys, the days are long. And depending on the case, sometime the nights can be longer.