What is a civil lawyer? (With job duties and skills)

Updated 1 June 2023

A civil lawyer is someone who works in the legal field and focuses entirely on civil matters instead of handling criminal law. They specialise in dealing with legal matters such as family law, employment issues and personal accidents. If you're interested in becoming a lawyer and find helping others fulfilling, you might choose to become a civil lawyer. In this article, we answer the question 'What is a civil lawyer?', discuss what such lawyers do, explain how to become one and share key skills that can help you succeed in this role.

What is a civil lawyer?

The answer to 'What is a civil lawyer?' is that this is a legal practitioner who specialises in handling civil law matters, including disputes between individuals or organisations relating to family law, employment law and personal injury. Civil lawyers in Ireland are either solicitors or barristers who have completed a law degree and have passed the Law Society of Ireland's Final Examination Part 2. The standards require a civil legal practitioner to complete a two-year training contract with a law firm or other legal organisation before their admittance to the roll of solicitors.

Solicitors may represent their clients in negotiations, mediation and court proceedings, and their primary objective is to help each client achieve a favourable outcome in their legal dispute. These practitioners may also provide legal advice and guidance to individuals and businesses to help them avoid legal disputes and comply with the law. Besides solicitors, barristers might also specialise in civil law matters and can represent clients in court when a solicitor assigns a case to them.

Related: What does a lawyer do? (Careers and responsibilities)

What does a civil lawyer do?

A civil lawyer handles legal disputes between individuals or organisations in matters such as personal injury, property contention, contract disagreements and family law issues. Their role is to represent their clients in mediations, negotiations and court proceedings and to help them achieve desired results in their legal disputes. Here are some key tasks that a civil lawyer might undertake:

  • Consultation: a civil law practitioner may meet with clients to discuss their legal situation, assess their case and provide advice on the best strategy to deal with their circumstances.

  • Research: a civil law practitioner conducts research on relevant laws, regulations and case law that apply to their client's situation to build a strong legal argument.

  • Document drafting: these professions draft legal documents, such as pleadings, motions and contracts, to support their clients' cases.

  • Negotiation: a solicitor or barrister might engage in negotiations with the other party or their legal representative to reach a settlement or compromise that's favourable to their client.

  • Representation in court: if they can't settle with the other party, a barrister represents their client in court proceedings and argues their case before a judge or jury.

  • Legal advice: these legal practitioners may give legal advice and guidance to individuals and businesses to help them avoid legal disputes and comply with the law.

Overall, the role of civil lawyers is to provide legal representation and advice to their clients to help them resolve legal disputes and achieve positive outcomes in their cases.

Related: What does a solicitor do? Salary, role and responsibilities

How to become a civil lawyer

Consider the following steps if you're interested in becoming a civil lawyer:

1. Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination is exclusively for non-graduates. It includes three papers, namely, English, Irish Government and Politics and General Knowledge. The pass mark in each paper is 50%. The standard requires that you complete all three papers at one time to pass. You can take the exam for a maximum of three attempts.

2. Final Examination – First Part entrance examination to the Law Society of Ireland

This exam occurs twice a year for all successful graduates and covers various topics. It comprises eight papers, namely, Company Law, Constitutional Law, Law of Contract, Criminal Law, European Union Law, Equity, Law of Property and Law of Tort. Besides an official syllabus that the Law Society publishes annually, you can order past papers and sample papers to prepare for the exam.

Related: How to become a solicitor in Ireland (Skills and duties)

3. Professional Practice Course (PPC)

You may benefit from continuing your knowledge in law by taking additional courses for your professional development. The Law Society Law School provides trainee solicitors with holistic PPCs, which give you the opportunity to develop your legal knowledge and skills to prepare for real work as a legal practitioner. This is additional training that you can list on your CV to help distinguish yourself from other candidates. Some of the courses are full-time, while others are part-time, allowing for more flexibility. There are several levels of these courses that require different qualifications to complete.

4. In-office training

After the PPC I tests, you usually go immediately into two weeks of in-office training to prepare for your participation in the PPC II, which you can typically sit the following year. You return to your office to finish your training after passing the PPC II, which usually takes ten months unless the learner has additional credit. Credit accumulates depending on the time the trainee may have served in an office before starting the PPC II. You can hold a maximum of four months of credit.

5. Admission to the roll of solicitors

Once you've satisfied all statutory and regulatory requirements for education and training, you can apply for admission to the roll of solicitors. For acceptance to this roll, it's necessary that each trainee has successfully finished the training period, passed all the relevant exams and sworn that they qualify to practise law.

Related: Barrister vs solicitor: difference and job requirements

Skills for a civil law practitioner

Here are some top skills that can help you succeed as a civil law practitioner:

Active listening

Active listening allows legal practitioners to fully understand client needs and concerns. This can help them build stronger relationships with their clients and provide more effective legal representation. Additionally, active listening can help legal practitioners gather important information and identify key issues in a case, leading to better outcomes for their clients.

Related: 12 law degree jobs (With salaries and descriptions)

Analytical thinking

Analytical thinking enables legal professionals to effectively assess complex legal issues and develop compelling legal arguments. This skill allows legal experts to critically analyse information and evidence, identify patterns and trends and draw logical conclusions. Analytical thinking can help these professionals anticipate potential legal issues and develop proactive strategies to mitigate them.


Communication is a key ability for legal practitioners because it's necessary to effectively convey complex legal concepts to clients, judges and juries. Barristers and solicitors communicate clearly, persuasively and with authority to achieve their goals. Effective communication can also help you cultivate stronger relationships with clients and colleagues and, ultimately, lead to better outcomes for your clients.


Empathy is a key skill for legal professionals because it allows them to understand and emotionally connect with their clients more deeply, which helps provide effective legal representation. Practitioners who are proficient at showing empathy can demonstrate to clients that they hear and understand them, which can assist in resolving legal disputes. Furthermore, empathy can help these professionals to negotiate more effectively by discerning the needs and motivations of opposing parties.


Being competent at negotiating allows legal practitioners to resolve legal disputes and achieve favourable results for their clients without going to court. Good solicitors are skilled negotiators who effectively advocate for their clients and reach mutually beneficial agreements with opposing parties. This competency can help build better relationships with clients and colleagues and, ultimately, lead to a more successful legal career.


Research enables legal professionals to stay updated with changes in laws and legal precedents. Legal experts conduct thorough research to find relevant information that can support their cases. Additionally, research can help identify potential issues and challenges and proactively develop plans to address them.


Writing is a key ability for law practitioners because it's the primary way in which they present legal arguments to judges and other legal experts. Excellent writing skills can help lawyers build credibility with clients and colleagues. As a skilled writer, you can effectively communicate complex legal concepts in a clear, concise and persuasive manner.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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