The Difference Between a Litigator and Trial Attorney

Patrick Daniel Law | Personal Injury Lawyer
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An attorney is an attorney is an attorney, right? Not necessarily. When it comes to deciding who should represent you after a catastrophic injury, you should think carefully about what type of attorney you choose. A Google search of “personal injury attorney Texas” yields 272 million results. That’s a lot of information to wade through! The task can be daunting – so here’s a quick guide to what you want to look for in an attorney.

Litigator v. Trial Attorney

At base, the difference between a litigator and a trial attorney comes down to their ultimate goals in a case, or what they’re aiming for: litigators aim to settle, trial attorneys aim to go to trial. Does this mean your case will always end up settling if you choose a litigator? No. Sometimes a litigator will bring in a trial attorney in the event that the case doesn’t settle. Nor does choosing a trial attorney mean that your case will always end up before a judge. After all, 95-96% of all cases settle pre-trial.

So, if it doesn’t mean I’ll end up settling with a litigator, or that I’ll end up in court with a trial attorney, what does it mean? It means the attorney’s posture in working your case will be different. A litigator is always looking for the best negotiation strategy. A trial attorney is always looking for how to win in front of a judge.

Defendants (insurance companies, for the most part) know this. They know that when they are faced with a litigator, the likelihood of pre-trial settlement is higher than when they are faced with a trial attorney. Trial is costly. The posture your attorney adopts, her willingness to go to trial, makes a difference in terms of settlement offers and, of course, makes a difference if the case does end up before a judge.

How do I know if my attorney is a trial attorney?

Simple: You ask. Choosing an attorney is not a matter of simply picking the person with the top Google Ad or hiring that friend of yours who went to law school and now has a solo general practice. Treat it like what it is – a job interview, and you’re the employer. These are just a few questions to ask your would-be attorney:

  • What do you think my chances of success are?
  • What types of cases do you handle?
  • Who works on my case? Will I deal directly with you or with associates?
  • How much trial experience do you have? (this is a big one)
  • What do you charge and how do you get paid?
  • Who pays the costs of the case and when are they paid?

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but the answers to these questions will give you a good sense of what type of attorney you’re dealing with and whether they are the right fit for you and your case.


Litigators aim to settle. Trial attorneys aim to go to trial. The only way to know which type of attorney you’re dealing with is to ask. We know there are a lot of things competing for your attention when you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury including pain, loss of lifestyle and work, and medical bills. Take the guesswork out of finding the right attorney and choose an attorney who is best-situated to represent your interests.

Please do not attempt to determine if you have a compensable case. You must consult a relevant liability attorney who has the expertise and extensive knowledge necessary to determine who ultimately caused the harm and injuries you or a loved one suffered. Contact us for a FREE case evaluation here.

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