Trial Counsel for Law Firms

Counsel Terminology

General practitioners have a tremendous breadth of knowledge, but as the law becomes more and more specialised, clients are demanding the specialist.

Many people think of specialties as being about an area of law, for example real estate law, corporate law, enivronmental law, etc.

But more and more often, specialties are also being recognized based on a particular skill.  Four such skill set specialties include:

General Counsel – general counsel typically help a business succeed by doing some work in-house yet outsource more and more often.  There is a trend that general counsel have become legal managers for businesses as opposed to practising a particular area of business law in-house.

Litigation Counsel – a huge variety of cases go to litigation counsel.  One day it may be a real estate meltdown and the next a wrongful dismissal.  For more complex cases, litigation counsel are retaining experts in a particular area of law for guidance.  The bread and butter of litigation counsel is drafting pleadings, arguing motions and attending discoveries.

Settlement Counsel – emerging as a new skill and form of practice is settlement counsel, who are retained for the negotiation ability above all else.  They are the right choice to send to mediation and also the right choice to fully explore settlement, so that clients can decide between the maximum available settlement and trial.

Trial Counsel – similar to the other types of counsel discussed above, trial counsel have a particular focus.  Trial counsel present cases at trial before the Courts, Tribunals and arbitrators.  The main skills employed by trial counsel are preparing witnesses, examining witness both in direct examination and cross-examination, and making persuasive submissions during the course of the trial, for example opening, closing and submissions on admissibility of evidence.

Businesses and people that find themselves engaged in significant disputes will look to a mixture of litigation, settlement and trial counsel for involvement at various stages.  In the early days of a case, litigation and settlement counsel may be active.  Later in a case, settlement and trial counsel may be active.  At all stages, there may be a lawyer who is an expert in a particular field providing guidance.  Each lawyer will contribute their own expertise to the case and make for a better result.

Less substantial cases may find that having more than one lawyer is too much.  There may be an expectation that litigation counsel can handle the case on their own.  This may be expecting too much, where the limitation is legally complex, acrimonious or destined for trial requiring extensive preparation.

Hassell Trial Counsel
111 Greensides Ave
Toronto, Ontario M6G 3P8


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