The Difference Between Litigation and Transactional Legal Work

Within the legal profession, there are numerous practice areas as well as different types of law offices. Similar to science where one can choose a clinical or research path, within law, there are two primary categories of practices: litigation (trial work) and transactional.

A litigator‘s work is to settle a dispute which may be civil or criminal. The lawyer manages all phases of the trial process which includes: investigation, pleadings and discovery to pre-trial, trial, settlement and appeal. The work may involve researching legal questions, drafting swaying arguments, preparing for and taking deposition, organizing for trial and negotiating settlements. A litigator may have more of an opportunity to present their case in the courtroom than a transactional lawyer; however, this is not always the case. The vast majority of cases are settled outside the courtroom.

Transactional practice involves researching, coordinating and reviewing documents that may join individuals and companies such as a contract for a corporate merger, establishing a business or the closing documents needed to purchase a condominium.

Litigators and transactional attorneys work across specialty areas and in a variety of settings – law firms, private business, government, public interest organizations, the judiciary, academia, or as a solo practitioner.

To learn more about various law careers, visit the robust prelaw portal built by the National Association for Law Placement and the many law career guides offered through OCS’ subscription to Career Insider, powered by Vault.

By Denise Byrnes
Denise Byrnes Associate Director Denise Byrnes