What is civil litigation? What does a civil litigation solicitor do?

A civil litigation solicitor is someone who specialises in disputes, helping their clients to resolve disputes. If disputes cannot be resolved by negotiation or agreement, then it is likely to lead to Court Proceedings.

Civil Litigation is a term used for non-Criminal Law disputes. It comes from the term “Civil Law”. The dictionary definition of Civil not only means polite but means:

“relating to ordinary citizens and their concerns, as distinct from military or ecclesiastical matters.”

from Latin civilis “relating to a society, pertaining to public life, relating to the civic order, befitting a citizen,”

https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=civil

So Civil Law, then, is all the laws which relate to ordinary citizens and their concerns. Civil Law is sometimes referred to as Common Law, although to a lawyer, Common Law really means the cases that have been before the Courts and set precedents, as opposed to Statutes and Legislation.

Civil Litigation is, therefore, disputes involving individuals and their rights. These can include contracts and quasi-contracts, civil wrongs, Tort Law, Property Law and much more besides.

Civil Litigation generally includes two (or more) parties, typically seeking monetary damages or specific performance of a thing.

What are the steps/phases in a typical civil case?

In England & Wales, the Court has a set of rules known as the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR). These are really important in Civil Litigation and any good litigation solicitor will know these well.

The CPR sets out certain steps parties should take before a Claim is issued at Court. These are called the Pre-Action Protocols. There are different protocols for certain areas, such as personal injury or dilapidations, but the general protocol is the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct and Protocols – https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/pd_pre-action_conduct

The general first step before a claim is the writing by the Claimant (the party intending to make the Claim) writing to the proposed Defendant with a Letter of Claim. This should “include the basis on which the claim is made, a summary of the facts, what the claimant wants from the defendant, and if money, how the amount is calculated;”

The proposed Defendant should then get a period of time to respond to that letter in a Letter of Response.

If the matter cannot be resolved, the parties should consider Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as Mediation.

If the matter is still not resolved, then a Court Claim will usually follow. These can be issued in the County Court or the High Court (subject to various rules on venue, value, process etc).

Once in Court the general steps in a Claim are as follows:

  1. Statements of Case – the Particulars of Claim, Defence, Counterclaim if any, Reply to Defence and Defence to Counterclaim, Part 18 Requests for Further Information, Schedules of Loss.
  2. Allocation – the Court with the parties help decides whether the matter is a Small Claim, Fast Track or Multi-Track matter.
  3. Disclosure – the parties exchange documents which are relevant to the dispute (whether such documents affect your case or not).
  4. Witness Statements – the written evidence of key witnesses explaining factually what happened/what went wrong etc
  5. Experts – if needed, experts (or just one single expert) provide reports addressing any technical issues.
  6. Preparation for Trial / Pre-Trial Review
  7. Trial itself – the hearing in front of a Judge.

How to choose the right civil litigation solicitor?

Ultimately, there are probably thousands of solicitors that can help with most simple civil litigation matters. These days, solicitors tend to be reasonably specialised and therefore only practise in the one area, eg civil litigation.

In my opinion, having qualified as a litigation solicitor in 2008 and having trained a number of new solicitors, come across many solicitors good and bad, and having helped thousands of clients in disputes worth millions of pounds, I believe that a good civil litigation solicitor should have the following qualities.

  • Honesty – sounds obvious, but I don’t mean just mean like integrity, I mean being able to be honest with you and tell you straight whether you have a case or not. I’d much rather not take on a case that wasn’t going to win, because you’ll end up spending far too much money when you lose.
  • Transparency on Fees – Litigation is one of those areas where you usually pay on an hourly rate basis, and so the more complex a matter, the longer it takes and the more expensive it is. You should ask your lawyer whether it is possible to work on capped or fixed fees, so you can better budget for costs.
  • Robustness – we all want the bulldog on our side… but that also needs to be balanced with letting go of the bone sometimes if that is better for the client. Having a solicitor who is constantly creating arguments every step of the way only seeks to increase legal costs for all, delay the process and make it less likely to settle. My philosophy is to be robust when needed, conciliatory when needed.
  • Interpersonal Skills – I believe that for most of my clients, their civil case is probably the biggest thing they’ve dealt with in their life. Many have trouble sleeping at night because of it. So as a solicitor if I can also be compassionate and understanding, and hold their hand, guide them every step of the way, and that helps, then that’s what is required.
  • Recommendations & Reviews – look at their Google, LinkedIn and Facebook reviews. Are they recommended? See mine here.

Steven Mather Solicitor

Litigation Solicitor in Leicester

Call on 0116 3667 900 or email steven@stevenmather.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *