Understanding Dispute Resolution & Litigation Law for Law Training Contracts

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Dispute resolution involves both litigation and processes like mediation and negotiation. It involves assisting a party with disputes or claims that might arise during a transaction or a deal. These disputes might be between companies, or between individuals. Typical issues which fall under the banner of dispute resolution and litigation include contracts, transactions in banking and finance, fraud, mergers & acquisitions, competition and antitrust, regulation, corporate management and restructuring. You might think of court battles when you consider litigation – however dispute resolution is common due to its ability to reduce cost and ensure that business relationships are not harmed. Expect to find dedicated litigation teams at top firms, with smaller firms having to dedicate the most part of their resources to litigation. 

What do dispute resolution and litigation lawyers do?

As a trainee, expect to prepare documentation and research laws and cases to evidence your party’s argument. You might also find yourself drafting preliminary motions. As you move from being a trainee to a more experienced lawyer, you will be able to take on more complex activities. Work might therefore involve:
– Liaising with colleagues from other departments
– Advising claimants on whether their claim is likely to be valid
– Advising defendants on whether they ought to settle a claim
– Commence the process of dispute resolution or issue court proceedings as appropriate
– Attend pre-trial hearings
– Meet with barristers and provide them with relevant information so that they can represent your client in court
– Attend trials and provide advice where relevant for barristers

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What is the work like? What will Litigation work be like during a Training Contract?

The work in litigation is determined largely by the rules and timetables of the courts. If you’re a junior, expect to spend much of your time working through paperwork generated by the case. You will need to provide particular evidence bundles to the court and to the other parties in the case. You will find that your job focuses on preparing the case, rather than representing a client in court. No matter how senior you are, expect this to remain the case (despite the presence of solicitor advocates) for some time. Barristers still dominate the courts and higher profile cases. Some firms have developed their own in-house advocacy teams. However, barristers are deemed more competent, by large, in the courts still. It might be easier to become an advocate if you focus on some particular areas, like family law, and step away from large commercial work.

If you’re working at a City firm, expect to be tasked with smaller parts of large cases – a research role effectively. If you’re working at a smaller firm, you might be able to handle much more of the case, down to meeting clients and negotiating settlements. Certain firms focus much more on litigation law than others. If you’re interested in litigation, try to search for a training contract at one of these firms. You might otherwise find yourself competing for a litigation seat against many other trainees. Remember that all solicitors must gain experience of litigation as part of their training, which means that you will likely have at least one litigation seat, although this requirement has been sidestepped by some City firms who offer a short course on litigation.

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What makes a good lawyer in litigation?

A good litigation lawyer will have great communication and negotiation skills. You will need to be able to make a clear and reasonable argument that defends your client’s interests. You will need to have a strong academic record and the ability to be highly flexible. You will need commercial awareness if you are looking to work in banking and finance or commerce, as well as great knowledge of technical and legal principles. You will need to be highly persuasive. You’ll need to develop a detailed knowledge of the system so that you can work within it and build case strategies that take full advantage of it. You will need to be precise and accurate in your communication.

Current issues in litigation

Some of the most pertinent current issues affecting litigation law are:
– Unfulfilled contract obligations due to COVID-19. Due to disruptions to the supply chain, or reduced revenue, many firms are unable to come good on their contractual obligations.
– Reduced asset values and cash flow are leading to increased litigation across commerce, in both the UK and US. This is compounded by the pandemic.

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