If I were to summarize a given lawyer based on their work, what would be the name of the property that describes whether their work is contentious or non-contentious?

For example, if Susan works in Commercial Litigation (a contentious practice) and also Corporate Commercial (a non-contentious practice), her summary would be:

  • Name: Susan
  • Practice: Commercial Litigation, Corporate Commercial
  • [X]: contentious and non-contentious

What is the property name [X]?

As a further example, to provide a use-case: imagine a situation where a CEO might want search their employee database for all the lawyers who practice in non-contentious fields within their firm to assign them to a particular case. If we want to give the CEO a single search box (so they don't have to type a list of every possible non-contentious practice area), what would the name of that search box be?

  • What do you mean by "contentious?" I can't think of any non-contentious litigation.
    – cpast
    Oct 11, 2017 at 13:38
  • @cpast Thank you for your comment. I have made a clarification to my question to reflect that I mean "contentious" as a property of the lawyer and not of their work (although this detail is not what my question is about.) Oct 11, 2017 at 16:35
  • @Harry Smith: How would this field be filled, by which I mean, how would the value of this property be determined? Or to put it another way, if this summary was expanded to fields beyond lawyers, would the way this "contentious" value be noted or determined need to change?
    – sharur
    Oct 11, 2017 at 16:48
  • 1
    @HarrySmith I think we're still confused what you're talking about. I for one have no clue what you mean by "contentious/non-contentious;" the most natural reading I can think of is whether they do litigation or transactional work, but that's apparently not what you meant.
    – cpast
    Oct 11, 2017 at 19:31
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    @Harry Per that page, commercial litigation is something that’s always contentious, and it’s a property of the work (not the lawyer).
    – cpast
    Oct 11, 2017 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


One of the main divisions, as a practical matter, is between lawyers who have a "litigation" practice, lawyers who have a "transactional" practice, and lawyers who have a "general" practice which means that they do both litigation and transactional work. These would be forms of "practice type".

Litigation would be "contentious", while transactional work would be "non-contentious". You normally wouldn't separately identify contentious v. non-contentious in addition to a type of practice, it would be superfluous to do so. It sounds as if the contentious v. non-contentious distinction is just a British English distinction between litigation and transactional work, which would still just be called practice type and would be pretty much superfluous.

There actually are a few kinds of litigation which are predominantly non-contentious, such as adoption petitions, uncontested probates, name change applications, petitions to approve the formation of municipalities, and so on, but often these types of work would be done by someone who would describe their practice area as "adoption" or "probate" or "government law" or "family law" that would speak for themselves.

It wouldn't make any sense to have a field that allows someone with a "commercial litigation" practice to mark "non-contentious" or to allow someone who negotiated business deals to mark "contentious" in the common use of the term.

  • In the field, is there a clear enough distinction in the terminologies "practice area" and "practice type" such that people would instinctively know the difference if they saw it in a database? Oct 12, 2017 at 8:08
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    @HarrySmith They are the same thing. More generally, the distinction you seem to be setting up simply does not exist, and to the extent it does, is not a useful distinction. A commercial litigator and a criminal defense lawyer, for example, are both litigators, but are not interchangeable.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 12, 2017 at 9:08

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