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Career Story: Litigation Attorney With A Small Law Firm

Litigation Attorney With A Small Law Firm

Job Title: Litigation Attorney

Type of Company: I work at a small law firm specializing in business, real estate and probate law.

Education: BS, Broadcast Journalism, Bradley University (Peoria, IL) •• JD, Suffolk University Law School (Boston, MA)

Previous Experience: During law school I worked as an intern and later a volunteer in a district attorney's office. After passing the bar exam I worked as an independent contractor for a small law firm and also ran my own office on the side. I've been in my current job since 1994.

Job Tasks: I represent people and businesses in civil legal matters (not criminal). My cases include litigation arising from business, real estate or construction disputes, personal injuries, will contests, and divorce or other domestic relations matters. I also represent several condominium associations, mostly regarding the collection of monthly condominium fees from unit owners. Although other attorneys in my office specialize in helping people or businesses make plans or deals, I usually become involved only when something goes wrong.

I enjoy the variety that I get from handling so many different types of cases. Many of my cases are lawsuits filed in a court, but often I resolve a matter some other way, through arbitration (where a neutral third party that both sides agree on decides a case instead of a court), mediation (where a neutral third party helps us reach an agreement), or simply through settlement negotiations before filing a lawsuit. Once a suit is filed, there is a period of "discovery" where each side finds out about the other's case through depositions, document requests, or written questions called "interrogatories," that get answered back in writing. There might also be motions for the judge to decide before we get to trial. Most of my cases get resolved before trial one way or another, but I have about ten trials per year, either before a jury or a judge. Sometimes I am also involved in an appeal.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is meeting all kinds of people and learning new things. I often have to learn about the subject of the case. It might be termite damage to sills of a house, or a certain medical condition, or how to calculate the value of an in-home videography business for a divorce case. The worst part is when I am unable to get a client what he thinks he deserves, but there is no way to predict or completely control what could happen.

Job Tips: When in law school, remember to have a life. Unless you insist on having the kind of career that requires a stint on Law Review and the highest grades, etc., just relax. I was active in arts groups and my church throughout law school, but still graduated, passed the bar, and eventually found a job, as did everyone I went to school with. I think it's better to have a well-rounded life, and resume.

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