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What does a civil litigator do?

Litigation is the process of preparing a case for trial and, if a settlement cannot be reached, presenting the case at trial and handling appeals. Litigators develop the best legal theories in support of their client’s case, gather the relevant documents and facts through discovery requests and depositions, and research and draft pretrial motions. If the case is not settled or dismissed, it proceeds to trial. At trial, litigators select the jury, make opening and closing statements, introduce exhibits, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and make and/or renew objections to preserve the record for appeal.

Any area of the law can be the subject of litigation. Some litigators are generalists whose practice includes a wide range of matters. Most specialize in one or more areas of the law. Commercial litigation generally involves one or more business entity and a financial dispute. Some commercial litigators have a subspecialty in a particular area of the law such as antitrust, securities or intellectual property. Commercial litigators often represent both plaintiffs and defendants. With many other civil litigation practices, especially those involving personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability/toxic tort and employment discrimination, litigators usually represent plaintiffs or defendants, but not both.

  • What skills do I need to be a civil litigator?

    Civil litigators need a wide range of skills that carry them from case and client selection through preparation to resolution. If you want to be a litigator, you’ll want to excel at research, storytelling and public speaking, oral advocacy, writing and creative problem-solving.

  • What kinds of jobs are available for civil litigators?

    Most civil litigators work for law firms. Students interested in civil litigation can also find jobs at nonprofits that provide direct legal services, at the Department of Justice and at other federal agencies with litigating authority, such as the JAG Corps and the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, as well as in the legal departments of corporations, insurance companies, financial institutions and other business entities.

  • What courses should I take?

    When you choose courses, think about both the substantive area of law you will be learning and the skills you will develop in the class or activity. Many of these classes will provide you with a combination of substance and skills.

    Courtroom procedure: Trial Advocacy • Advanced Trial Advocacy • Bench Trial Advocacy • Maryland Civil Procedure • Federal Courts

    Trial preparation:  Administrative Law • Litigation Process • Discovery Practice and Procedure • Federal Courts • Forensic Evidence • Electronic Evidence and Discovery Workshop • Conflict of Laws

    Research and writing:  Collective Bargaining Seminar • Dispute Resolution Workshop • Electronic Evidence and Discovery Workshop • Supreme Court Seminar • Environmental and Toxic Torts Seminar • Civil Liberties Seminar • Law and Disabilities Seminar • Law and Social Reform Seminar • Race and the Law Seminar • Gender and Law Seminar • Contemporary Legal Issues: Perspectives on Sexual Orientation and the Law Seminar • Capital Punishment and the Constitution Seminar • Election Law Seminar • Appellate Advocacy Workshop

    Practical experience: Saul Ewing Civil Advocacy Clinic I & II • Disability Law Clinic • Mediation Clinic for Families • Bronfein Family Law Clinic I • Immigrant Rights Clinic I • Immigration Law • Criminal Practice Clinic • Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts’ Student Fellows Program I •  Community Development Clinic • Innocence Project Clinic •  Attorney Practice Externship (upon approval by the externship director) • Judicial Externship

    Dispute resolution: Interviewing, Negotiating, and Counseling • Mediation Skills • Remedies • Mediating Family Disputes: Theory and Practice

    Substantive areas: Medical Malpractice Litigation • Maryland Administrative Law • Elder Law • Employment Discrimination Law • Juvenile Justice • Law and Human Rights • Bankruptcy and Creditor Remedies • Consumer Law • Health Care Law • Land Use • Patent Law • Copyright Law • Products Liability • Business Organizations