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What is the Difference Between Criminal Defense Lawyers and Trial Lawyers?

In the United States, licensed lawyers all have the right to plead in court. That doesn’t mean criminal defense lawyers and trial lawyers are interchangeable. The latter feel comfortable with appearing in court, and that is the primary part of his or her practice.  


Criminal defense lawyers represent those accused of crimes. They may work in private practice, or for the government in the role of public defender. These days, the overwhelming majority of criminal cases do not go to court. Instead, they are either settled via plea deals, or resolution takes place during the pre-trial process. If a trial is scheduled, a criminal defense attorney may become a trial lawyer. He will defend his client during the trial. However, it’s possible that in a criminal case going to trial, the criminal defense attorney may make way for another lawyer to actually conduct the trial. The original attorney may stay on because he or she knows the facts of the case intimately. However, they are no longer the lead lawyer.


Trial Lawyers


While criminal defense lawyers represent defendants in criminal cases, trial lawyers represent clients in either criminal or civil litigation. A trial lawyer’s responsibilities include preparing the case for trial, building a record, contacting witnesses, arguing motions, and scheduling.


Trial lawyers also know the mechanics of obtaining the best possible situation for their client. That includes everything from picking a jury, conducting cross examinations and direct examinations, and delivering compelling opening statements and closing arguments. They are good under pressure, because few situations outside of battle are as high pressure as the inside of a courtroom. Trial lawyers need a strong presence and superb communication skills. Great trial lawyers are not shrinking violets. They like to fight, and they like to win. Even though most cases do not go to trial, it is at trial that case history is made.


In the United Kingdom, the difference between a criminal defense lawyer and a trial lawyer is more clear- cut. Barristers are the equivalent of trial lawyers. They primarily represent clients in courts. Solicitors are not the equivalent of criminal lawyers. They are similar to what people think of as litigators in the U.S. Most of the work done by solicitors takes place behind the scenes, in the law firm. The training involved in these two areas of laws differs. Barristers must go through more extensive legal schooling. And yes, it’s the barristers who wear the traditional white wig and long black robes while in court.




If you have been arrested and are searching for a criminal defense attorney, you might assume that individual can also handle a trial if it comes to that. As you can see, that is not necessarily true. Even though you are in a stressful situation, remember to ask the attorney if they can deal with your case from the beginning to the end, even if a trial is involved. That’s what you get with the lawyers at Blackford & Flohr, LLC. We provide high-quality trial advocacy for both individual clients and businesses. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!