There can be an understandable tendency when faced with either a business dispute or a personal legal issue, especially something as emotive as a legal dispute with a neighbour or, maybe even worse a dispute over inheritance, to look for the most aggressive litigation solicitor you can find. However, many of the best litigation solicitors can appear as being mild mannered.
Think about a game of poker – there are many different styles and some of the world’s best poker players have the classic “poker face” where the opponent cannot discern whether the other individual is holding a good hand of cards or not.
One of the key skills for a litigation solicitor is courage – clients will often be very headstrong and emotionally involved when matters have reached the point of seeing a solicitor. They will often need to be told that they do not have a strong case, that litigation is inherently risky, and that neither party in a legal dispute which goes to court will often truly win. managing expectations and telling clients the way it is rather than perhaps what they want to hear are also hallmarks of a good litigation solicitor.
Other skills which set apart good litigators are a grasp of negotiations and timing – negotiating skills are critical and there is typically a point in most cases where there may be an opportunity to resolve it. Sometimes this is blatantly obvious and on other occasions, it can be somewhat instinctive. Tactics are key, and one area where most clients who thankfully haven’t been exposed to a litigation issue in the past can benefit from an experienced and skilled litigator is in tactical offers. most clients don’t want to make tactical offers, whether they are claimant or defendant but these can be a key way of testing the resolve of the opponent and exerting pressure, especially because tactical offers, if refused, often come into play in a big way when the costs of the case are finally determined.
For some kinds of legal disputes, especially in the increasingly important area of intellectual property litigation, a general litigation solicitor, however good, may not be the right person. These types of disputes are very complex and often it’s better to have a real specialist in that area. the same would undoubtedly apply to medical negligence cases.
Finally, technical legal competence is also of course vital – with litigation this not only means knowing the law which will ultimately determine success or failure on the evidence, but in civil litigation, the court rules are very detailed and complex. process is important and also offers us some tactical opportunities.