We all know that the practice of law has changed dramatically in the past 25 years. Perhaps the biggest change, and indeed the most formidable challenge, for lawyers of my generation and older is the increasing call for specialization. In-house counsel often seek lawyers who have a specialized subject matter knowledge rather than the know-how of a trial lawyer. In this quest for specialists, however, it’s easy to lose sight of one still very important fact: Litigation is itself a specialized skill which can bring significant economic benefits to clients. As I have noted often, a true trial lawyer can learn the facts and the law much cheaper and easier than a specialist can learn to litigate, despite his or her knowledge of a particular industry or type of law.
The best litigators identify issues, create arguments in support of one side of that issue and “sell” those arguments to the adverse party, jury, court, arbitrator or mediator. This is no small feat, which is why advocacy, both oral and written, has long been considered an art form. The ability to stand up in a courtroom or in an arbitration hearing (or even seated during a conference call) and present your case to opposing counsel, or the judge, or jury and persuade these decision makers to agree with your position requires skill that comes from experience and practice. If you define yourself as a trial lawyer, that’s also the most fun part of the job.
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