I’m three months into my seat in the litigation department – halfway through – and I’m very busy. What’s more, I’ve noticed I’m starting to think like a litigator outside of work too as the confidence I’ve gained through my work has started to shine through in other aspects of life, and impact my approach to problems generally. I’m questioning situations which I might previously have accepted at face value.
Now, for example, when facing an everyday challenge that I might have balked at before like a faulty product or unacceptable services, I’m a little less inclined to politely just take the hit - instead I now find myself thinking “well that’s just plain wrong; I’m not going to accept that”. I feel better prepared for whatever comes my way.
The nature of the work undertaken in this department means you’re better equipped to deal with far more of life’s challenges than you would expect. Part of the reason for this is undoubtedly the fact that litigation makes you think on your toes a lot of the time, but I also think it’s because the different clients and matters that come up are so varied that after a while you inevitably start to gain more of a professional insight across the board.
Litigators will find themselves advising not just on the legal intricacies of a matter but also on the practicalities involved, which means developing an understanding of your client’s situation, including their business and the commercial realities at play.
Litigation is rarely the same from one day to the next. By way of example, in my short time in this department I have worked on misrepresentation and breach of contract claims, landlord and tenant disputes, personal injury and medical negligence claims, defamation, allegations of fraud, as well as a whole range of commercial disputes on both sides of the table. Not only does the subject matter vary often, but also the tasks that crop up from day-to-day, and the paths to solving them. One day a litigator might be drafting a Defence and Counterclaim on a tricky point of law about retention of title involving obscure Latin maxims, the next he or she is negotiating an out of court settlement with an insurance company or retaining the services of the fabled Sheriffs because enforcement steps are needed following a court judgment.
Sure, as with all jobs there can be things about the work that are at times difficult - lengthy correspondence back and forth with the other side on some of the more emotive matters in dispute, for example, or the plethora of court deadlines looming on the calendar, can sometimes get a little daunting - but everything has its challenges if it’s worth doing, and for each of those challenges there’s also an upside. Litigation is a unique and diverse area to work in, and one with a rare thrill and pace that’s hard to find elsewhere.
I am in seat two of four now, and so I’m still some way off from having to commit to a decision as to where my life as a lawyer will take me, but for the time being the life of a litigator is one I can certainly see myself leading in the long term.