Civil Litigation Lawyers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Recommended high school classes include government, history, business, computer science, social studies, psychology, mathematics, and economics. Be sure to take as many English and speech classes as possible, because lawyers must have excellent communication skills. Learning a foreign language will be useful if you plan to work in an area that has a large number of people who do not speak English as a first language.

Postsecondary Education

Before entering law school, many students earn bachelor’s degrees in legal studies or pursue a liberal arts major such as English, history, philosophy, economics, or political science. Others earn business degrees. 

Most law schools require that applicants take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), where prospective law students are tested on their critical thinking, writing, and reasoning abilities.

Currently, 203 law schools in the United States are approved by the American Bar Association; others, many of them night schools, are approved by state authorities only. Most of the approved law schools, however, do offer night sessions to accommodate part-time students. Part-time courses of study usually take four years.

Law school training consists of required courses such as legal writing and research, contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, torts, and property. The second and third years may be devoted to specialized courses of interest to the student. The study of cases and decisions is of basic importance to the law student, who will be required to read and study thousands of these cases. A degree of juris doctor (J.D.) or bachelor of laws (LL.B.) is usually granted upon graduation. Some law students considering specialization, research, or teaching may go on to complete further study.


Some lawyers choose to earn a master of laws (LL.M) degree, an advanced law certification that helps them advance professionally. LL.M programs, which typically last one year, are offered in many areas—such as child and family law, dispute resolution, elder law, general law, and litigation/trial advocacy. A first law degree is required for admission to LL.M programs. Visit for more information. Visit for a list of LL.M specialties and the law schools that offer them.

Other Education or Training

The American Association for Justice provides workshops, online courses, teleseminars, webinars, and other continuing education opportunities to its members. Past workshop topics include Advanced Depositions College, Case Planning Workshop, Ultimate Trial Advocacy College: Art of Persuasion, and Advanced Witness Prep Workshop. The American Bar Association, National Association for Law Placement, National Employment Lawyers Association, and state and local bar associations also offer a variety of continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Most law firms provide their employees with in-house continuing education opportunities. Some even offer mentorship programs that pair new lawyers with experienced attorneys to help newcomers learn the ropes. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The National Board of Trial Advocacy offers several voluntary board certifications that will be of interest to civil litigation attorneys, including civil pre-trial practice, civil law, family law, and Social Security disability advocacy. Contact the board for more information.

Every state requires that lawyers be admitted to the bar of that state before they can practice. Requirements include graduation from an approved law school and passing a written examination in the state in which they intend to practice. In a few states, graduates of law schools within the state are excused from these written examinations. After lawyers have been admitted to the bar in one state, they can practice in another state without taking another written examination if the two states have reciprocity agreements; however, these lawyers will be required to meet certain state standards of good character and legal experience and to pay any applicable fees.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience as a civil litigation intern or law clerk is highly recommended.

Civil litigation can be an adversarial process, as the civil litigation lawyer verbally jousts with the defendant’s lawyer and witnesses regarding facts, events, and other evidence. Civil litigation lawyers must be able to think clearly and remain calm under pressure in order to effectively represent the interests of their clients. Lawyers need strong communication skills—both oral and written. They must be skilled in cross-examining witnesses—some of whom may be hostile to their line of questioning and unwilling to volunteer much information. They also must be good listeners, and they need to learn how to ask all the right questions to obtain key information regarding the facts of a case. Writing skills are extremely important because lawyers write legal briefs and other documents in addition to interacting frequently with clients, expert witnesses, opposing attorneys, and support staff. Other important traits for civil litigation attorneys include excellent knowledge of the law and litigation procedures, ethics, strong negotiation skills, the ability to multitask, organizational and time management skills, a detail-oriented personality, persuasiveness, the ability to meet deadlines, and a willingness to continue to learn throughout one’s career.