What is Litigation Really Like?

Last week, I had the honour to speak to law students about the realities of litigation with Heather Hui-Litwin of Litigation Help.

I addressed several topics, including common misconceptions of litigation and recommendations for books to read. For the sake of brevity, I will address only a portion of the talk.

Common Misconceptions:

  • Litigation goes quickly; litigation lawyers appear in court at the same rates, regardless of practice area; oral advocacy skills are the key to success, most cases end in a trial.

The Reality:

a) The reality is that in many areas of civil litigation it takes 4-6 years from issuing a claim to trial. Criminal trials occur more quickly, especially in light of the Supreme Court of Canada decision R v Jordan.

b) Litigation can be isolating. A lot of litigation entails reading documents, researching, and writing, which are often solo activities that are performed outside of the courtroom.

c) Oral advocacy skills are important. But written advocacy is becoming more and more important. Especially as courts are increasing the types of motions that can be heard in writing.

d) Most cases settle. On average over 90% of cases settle before trial. The vanishing trial is real. However, some types of law like criminal law (e.g. defending murder trials) have a much higher likelihood of ending in a trial.

e) It is important to always review case law and statutes because the law is often counter-intuitive.

f) The way appellate lawyers and trial lawyers spend their time can be very different. Appellate and trial lawyers spend their time reviewing very different types of records, looking for different types of facts.

g) A great way for law students to show an interest in an area of law is to blog, volunteer, and join legal associations.

Key books to read:

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization. heatherdouglaslaw.com )

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