WHAT IS A LITIGATOR?
© 2010 Roland Brown
What does a “litigator” do? Some folks may not really know what a is meant when a lawyer is referred to as a “litigator”. The term “litigate” derives from a Latin term which means “to drive a lawsuit”. The title “litigator” describes one who moves a lawsuit through the judicial (or court) process. Applied to a lawyer, it suggests a licensed attorney who assists clients in preparing and trying the lawsuits they are involved in. The term should also be understood as applying to a lawyer who assists clients in presenting their dispute to an arbitrator (a sort of privately hired judge). The term “trial lawyer” is somewhat synonymous with the term “litigator”. So– think of a “litigator” as a lawyer who represents one side of a dispute against the opposing side, whether in court or in the arbitration process.
Although the terms sound similar, a litigator and a mediator are not the same. Mediators are neutral individuals who meet with all of the parties to the dispute and assist them in attempting to reach an agreement without court proceedings or an arbitration proceeding. Unlike an arbitrator, the mediator cannot make a decision that is binding upon the parties, and unlike the litigator, a mediator does not fight for one side or the other.
A litigator is typically engaged in every aspect of the process from the initial meeting with the client through the trial of the case. The litigator must investigate the facts, determine the law that applies to the case, obtain information from the other party or parties to the dispute through the discovery process, and make efforts to resolve the controversy through negotiation. Ultimately, though, the litigator must be prepared to “drive” the lawsuit through the court or arbitration proceeding with a goal of obtaining the results desired by the client. If a party to the lawsuit appeals the trial court’s decision, the same attorney or litigator who tried the case may also handle the appeal. In other instances, an appellate specialist may take over following the trial court judgment and prepare the brief on appeal as well as arguing the case before the appeals court. The selection of a litigator or trial lawyer is one of the most important decisions to be made when one finds themselves in a serious dispute.