Trial lawyers are lawyers who try cases before a judge or jury. While many lawyers specialize in drawing up contracts or offering legal counsel, trial lawyers specialize in making a convincing argument to a court. Although trial lawyers frequently appear in court, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, much of their time in spent performing a number of tasks outside of the courthouse in preparation for trial.
Planning a line of argument in order to win a case in court, a trial lawyer lawyer must first draw up a strategy that she may deploy to convince the court to rule in her favor. This can involve arguing the case on its merits or in fighting the case on technical or procedural grounds.
Deposing Witnesses: A large part of gathering evidence is interviewing, or "deposing", witnesses. In depositions, a witness offers sworn verbal or written testimony, which may later be used in court. Witnesses often are sworn in and re-interviewed during the trial. Trial lawyers may call their own witnesses to testify on the behalf of their client or they may cross-examine witnesses called by the other side.
Selecting Jurors: In a jury trial, trial lawyers will be required to participate in the selection of the jury that will hear the case. Jury selection varies between jurisdictions, but the process often involves asking jurors questions or requesting that they fill out questionnaires. The lawyers will then use the provided information to select their jury.
Preparing Written Motions: In the course of the trial, a trial lawyer will file a number of written motions in which he requests the judge to perform certain actions. These papers will generally outline the motion desired and contain a legal justification for why the motion should be granted.
Presenting the Case: Perhaps the foremost duty of trial lawyers is to verbally argue the case in front of the judge or jury. The central argument of the case will usually be presented in its fullest form in the lawyer's opening and closing statements, but it will also be made in the course of filing motions and interviewing witnesses.
Settling: Although a trial lawyer is prepared to argue a case during trial, in certain instances she will find it wise to settle out of court. In a criminal case, this can be done through a plea bargain, while in a civil case this happens through the drafting of a written settlement.
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