A Civil Litigation Attorney’s Day
You know what your lawyer is doing when they are meeting with you or communicating with you about your case, but it can be helpful to understand what typical days are like for your attorney. While it can be difficult to say any day is “typical” for a lawyer, there are certain things lawyers do on a daily or regular basis as part of representing their clients and working on their cases. Here are some of the things lawyers do on a regular basis in the context of a civil litigation practice.
As you probably remember from first contacting your attorney about your case, lawyers take telephone calls from people with potential claims or cases. These calls cover a variety of different situations, including car or truck wrecks, bad surgery outcomes, abuse or neglect of a loved one in a nursing home, being harassed by a company about a disputed debt or feeling like an oil or gas company is violating the terms of an agreement. During these intake calls, the lawyer will listen to the timeline and details of the situation, ask questions to get more information and evaluate whether there are potential civil claims to investigate. These calls are an important first step in any case, and lawyers dedicate the necessary time to thoroughly evaluate claims through these calls. Lawyers also spend plenty of time on other types of phone calls as well, talking to insurance adjusters, defense attorneys or experts.
Meetings are a consistent part of a lawyer’s daily and weekly schedule. Meetings with clients, new or current, and meetings with other attorneys within the firm to discuss cases are two of the most common meetings an attorney will have on a regular basis. Most lawyers are also involved in various community, charitable and professional organizations and will attend meetings of those groups as well.
As cases are filed and then progress through litigation, lawyers also attend inspections, depositions, hearings and mediations. Inspections usually take place early on in a case, usually where there has been an injury from an unsafe condition on a premises or due to a motor vehicle collision. Depositions are a part of discovery, and your lawyer will prepare to question the defendant, witnesses or experts about what they know related to the case. Depositions can take up to an entire day, and may be conducted out of town, requiring travel, though many depositions are now taken via videoconference. Hearings are held by the court, and address various issues and disputes that arise between the parties in the case. Your lawyer will appear, along with lawyers who represent the other parties in the case, and each lawyer will generally have the chance to explain to the judge their position, and why the law and facts of the case support their request to the court. Mediation is an event that usually occurs closer to the end of the discovery period, but before trial, and offers the parties the opportunity to get together with each other and have a neutral party, the mediator, help facilitate negotiations to try and resolve the case through settlement, rather than going to trial. You will attend mediation with your attorney, and will meet with your attorney before the mediation to prepare.
Attorneys also spend a good bit of their time each day reading and responding to emails and other correspondence, and reviewing discovery materials and evidence that is produced, transcripts from depositions and hearings, reports from experts and motions and briefs filed with the court. Research is often involved in this process as well, and lawyers use online services such as WestLaw to review cases and statutes and formulate their legal arguments for the case.
Finally, your lawyer may be involved in a trial. This is not part of a typical day for most civil litigation attorneys, because many cases resolve through settlement, rather than at trial, but lawyers must always be prepared for a case to go to trial. Trial preparation is a very involved and time-consuming period for a lawyer, and involves reviewing the documents and evidence, preparing witnesses to give testimony, practicing arguments and questioning and researching the best ways to approach difficult issues or challenge tough evidence.
These are some of the major tasks your attorney works on consistently, both in your cases and the others they have, but many other things may arise in an attorney’s day as well. Feel free to ask your attorney what they have been doing while working on your case if you are curious. It will give you an opportunity to learn more about your attorney, your case, and the process of civil litigation, and may give you a better understanding of what your lawyer does in their practice.