Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

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barestin
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Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby barestin » Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:59 pm

I'm entering my 2L year and am interested in practicing civil litigation. I haven't really narrowed it down to anything more specific and for purposes of this thread I was hoping attorneys from various areas of the civil litigation spectrum (e.g. PI, Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice, Employment, etc.) can chime in with what their daily lives entail and how difficult their jobs really are. I know I am not alone in feeling like practicing civil litigation is intimidating, so any insights would be appreciated.

EliHBCU
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby EliHBCU » Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:57 pm

Could you be more specific about who you are asking? Did you want an associate's perspective? Partner? Below I posted an article about being an associate at a big law firm. It wasn't in the area's of law you were asking about, but that might give you some idea. Also, what size firm you want to work for is going to make a big difference... so, could you be more specific?

A Day in the Life of a BigLaw Associate: http://thestudentappeal.com/op-ed/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-biglaw-associate

abc12345675
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby abc12345675 » Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:08 pm

Their day is different pretty much everyday. They work insane hours when getting close to trial

blsingindisguise
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:33 pm

This will vary a good amount based on size of firm, years of experience, area of law, etc.

Generally, in any area of remotely complex litigation the bulk of time will be spent on discovery, i.e. the process, after a lawsuit is filed, of exchanging and reviewing documents to start to build your theory of the case, taking depositions, etc. This can also include a fair amount of motion practice and briefing, as well as drafting of various agreements and stipulations as to how discovery should proceed (when and how documents will be produced, briefing schedules on various motions, depo scheduling, etc.)

While there is no "typical" day, here are some typical activities of a junior associate:
- Reviewing documents (this generally means going through docs, reading for gist, possibly writing up a brief summary or comment, coding the document as relevant/irrelevant/hot etc.) -- often for many hours at a time
- sitting in on calls with opposing counsel to discuss discovery issues mentioned above
- researching and writing a memo on a legal issue (not infrequently relating to discovery, e.g. whether a defendant in a class action can compel a class representative to produce certain documents under certain circumstances)
- drafting or helping to draft a motion brief
- drafting or editing a letter to the court or to opposing counsel (e.g. notifying the court of a change relevant to discovery scheduling, or demanding that opposing counsel explain why it redacted certain documents)
- drafting a pleading such as a complaint or answer
- assisting in prep for a deposition
- assisting in prep for a court hearing

I would say that in most kinds of litigation the bulk of work is going to be paper/computer-based and office-bound. You're not going to see much time in court or even getting ready for court, and even depositions will be the exceptional days.

A lot of the work is just about being extremely detail-oriented and keeping track of things. Even when a case is interesting the bulk of the work will be less than fascinating, although it can be kind of satisfying to watch a case develop, piece together a puzzle from documents, etc.

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barestin
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby barestin » Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:37 am

EliHBCU wrote:Could you be more specific about who you are asking? Did you want an associate's perspective? Partner? Below I posted an article about being an associate at a big law firm. It wasn't in the area's of law you were asking about, but that might give you some idea. Also, what size firm you want to work for is going to make a big difference... so, could you be more specific?

A Day in the Life of a BigLaw Associate: http://thestudentappeal.com/op-ed/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-biglaw-associate


Interesting article. Unfortunately, I don't think BigLaw is in the cards for me. I was thinking more like a smaller boutique-type firm with 2-10 attorneys or maybe something a bit larger, but not national. Thanks for the read and if you have any insight of what it's like to be an associate at a smaller firm, I would appreciate it.

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barestin
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby barestin » Wed Jun 13, 2012 1:41 am

blsingindisguise wrote:This will vary a good amount based on size of firm, years of experience, area of law, etc.

Generally, in any area of remotely complex litigation the bulk of time will be spent on discovery, i.e. the process, after a lawsuit is filed, of exchanging and reviewing documents to start to build your theory of the case, taking depositions, etc. This can also include a fair amount of motion practice and briefing, as well as drafting of various agreements and stipulations as to how discovery should proceed (when and how documents will be produced, briefing schedules on various motions, depo scheduling, etc.)

While there is no "typical" day, here are some typical activities of a junior associate:
- Reviewing documents (this generally means going through docs, reading for gist, possibly writing up a brief summary or comment, coding the document as relevant/irrelevant/hot etc.) -- often for many hours at a time
- sitting in on calls with opposing counsel to discuss discovery issues mentioned above
- researching and writing a memo on a legal issue (not infrequently relating to discovery, e.g. whether a defendant in a class action can compel a class representative to produce certain documents under certain circumstances)
- drafting or helping to draft a motion brief
- drafting or editing a letter to the court or to opposing counsel (e.g. notifying the court of a change relevant to discovery scheduling, or demanding that opposing counsel explain why it redacted certain documents)
- drafting a pleading such as a complaint or answer
- assisting in prep for a deposition
- assisting in prep for a court hearing

I would say that in most kinds of litigation the bulk of work is going to be paper/computer-based and office-bound. You're not going to see much time in court or even getting ready for court, and even depositions will be the exceptional days.

A lot of the work is just about being extremely detail-oriented and keeping track of things. Even when a case is interesting the bulk of the work will be less than fascinating, although it can be kind of satisfying to watch a case develop, piece together a puzzle from documents, etc.


Very helpful, thank you. Do you find being a civil litigation attorney to be difficult, or just very time-consuming? I'm sure there will be a steep learning curve at first, but how long did it take you to familiarize yourself with most of the responsibilities expected from an associate to the point where you came into the office feeling confident and undaunted?

blsingindisguise
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby blsingindisguise » Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:44 am

barestin wrote:Very helpful, thank you. Do you find being a civil litigation attorney to be difficult, or just very time-consuming? I'm sure there will be a steep learning curve at first, but how long did it take you to familiarize yourself with most of the responsibilities expected from an associate to the point where you came into the office feeling confident and undaunted?


Well, I'll add first that I work in a relatively small firm, and I think that a challenge of that environment is that you're more likely to be treated as a first or second year similarly to a third or fourth year, in that there simply won't be enough associates to have an elaborate hierarchy. I will also add that I am a relatively junior associate (I'd rather not get too specific) so I certainly can't say that I've "familiarized myself with most of the responsibilities expected from an associate." In fact I doubt that you ever do, because there is always more to learn and the tasks are numerous and varied. Being a lawyer is never going to be a job with a narrow, defined set of duties (unless you do something extremely formulaic, like maybe bulk personal bankruptcy). But I would say that it took about a year to just feel comfortable in the sense of "ok, when partner x gives me y kind of assignment, I should spend z hours on it and it should be completely typo-free." I.e. a year to feel like I had my sea legs and was not constantly afraid of screwing up (although sometimes I still get this fear, of course).

It also depends on what area of law -- my practice involves a lot of finance and business issues and I came in knowing very little, so a lot of the learning curve is not just learning legal and procedural matters but also learning finance. I think it will be a while before I completely feel like I know what I'm doing.

I think how "hard" you find it will depend on your skillset and experience. I've never found the drafting and proofreading hard because I have a lot of writing and proofreading experience. But I do find certain things hard, e.g. the organizational skills, and also the finance-related aspects.

blsingindisguise
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby blsingindisguise » Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:51 am

I would also say that one hard thing about it is that it's hard to leave work behind -- there's always going to be more work to do and more things to worry about. Even in a boutique with a more relaxed environment than biglaw, you'll feel some degree of pressure, at times, to work evenings, weekends, etc., not because anyone is forcing you to, but because you want to own the cases you're working on and take responsibility for them (and impress partners and advance your career). A case can be a little like a child -- it will have unexpected needs and demands that you have to attend to that can't always be penciled into a neat schedudle. I suppose this is like any "professional" career though.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:04 pm

One aspect that helps with controlling or directing activities is that courts & codes of civil procedure have deadlines.

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barestin
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby barestin » Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:27 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:I would also say that one hard thing about it is that it's hard to leave work behind -- there's always going to be more work to do and more things to worry about. Even in a boutique with a more relaxed environment than biglaw, you'll feel some degree of pressure, at times, to work evenings, weekends, etc., not because anyone is forcing you to, but because you want to own the cases you're working on and take responsibility for them (and impress partners and advance your career). A case can be a little like a child -- it will have unexpected needs and demands that you have to attend to that can't always be penciled into a neat schedudle. I suppose this is like any "professional" career though.


Very helpful, thanks. Have you had experience with both types of enviornments? If so, which do you prefer?

ran12
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby ran12 » Mon Jun 25, 2012 7:41 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:This will vary a good amount based on size of firm, years of experience, area of law, etc.

Generally, in any area of remotely complex litigation the bulk of time will be spent on discovery, i.e. the process, after a lawsuit is filed, of exchanging and reviewing documents to start to build your theory of the case, taking depositions, etc. This can also include a fair amount of motion practice and briefing, as well as drafting of various agreements and stipulations as to how discovery should proceed (when and how documents will be produced, briefing schedules on various motions, depo scheduling, etc.)

While there is no "typical" day, here are some typical activities of a junior associate:
- Reviewing documents (this generally means going through docs, reading for gist, possibly writing up a brief summary or comment, coding the document as relevant/irrelevant/hot etc.) -- often for many hours at a time
- sitting in on calls with opposing counsel to discuss discovery issues mentioned above
- researching and writing a memo on a legal issue (not infrequently relating to discovery, e.g. whether a defendant in a class action can compel a class representative to produce certain documents under certain circumstances)
- drafting or helping to draft a motion brief
- drafting or editing a letter to the court or to opposing counsel (e.g. notifying the court of a change relevant to discovery scheduling, or demanding that opposing counsel explain why it redacted certain documents)
- drafting a pleading such as a complaint or answer
- assisting in prep for a deposition
- assisting in prep for a court hearing

I would say that in most kinds of litigation the bulk of work is going to be paper/computer-based and office-bound. You're not going to see much time in court or even getting ready for court, and even depositions will be the exceptional days.

A lot of the work is just about being extremely detail-oriented and keeping track of things. Even when a case is interesting the bulk of the work will be less than fascinating, although it can be kind of satisfying to watch a case develop, piece together a puzzle from documents, etc.


Yea I agree with that. I'm doing all of that for my SA right now.

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romothesavior
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Re: Day in the Life of a Civil Litigation Attorney?

Postby romothesavior » Mon Jun 25, 2012 8:29 pm

Solid answers ITT. Seriously, it could vary an incredible amount depending on the firm, the practice area, the market, etc.




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