The statistics from the Texas State Office of Court Administration are startling. In the last ten years, the number of lawsuits having been filed has dropped 17%. At the same time, the number of civil jury trials have dropped 34%.
What’s that mean for you?
It makes a difference when you’re hiring a lawyer.
The reality is that while the number of “litigation” lawyers or “trial lawyers” have been on the rise, the actual number of lawyers who have actually participated in a jury trial has been plummeting. Lawyers calling themselves “litigators” may file lawsuits and do discovery and go through alternative dispute resolution and settle cases, but most rarely, if ever, see a jury.
A recent Texas Bar Journal reported on a survey of lawyers who called themselves litigators. Of those with ten years of experience, 30 percent had NEVER tried a case to a jury. And perhaps even more remarkable, only 36 had tried two or more cases to a jury. That means that almost one third of the lawyers calling themselves litigators had never had a jury trial and another third had only had one trial.
Unfortunately, when you’re hiring a lawyer, you may never know whether the lawyer has ever tried a case or whether the lawyer has ultimate plans to just settle your claims. This can often affect the ultimate recovery that you make.
Some of us are trying to do something about it. I’m proud to be an active member of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers’ Association (I’m the immediate past president). We have started giving out a “Warrior Award” to our members who take cases to jury trials. This is a way of acknowledging those of us who have actually tried cases, and a way to encourage other lawyers to take their cases to trial. We have also started a system where lawyers help one another with voir dire or other parts of the case to make trying cases a little easier.
I certainly don’t think our system will change the face of the state’s lawsuits, but I do hope it can help provide better representation for injured persons throughout Central Texas.