If you’re thinking of hiring a litigation lawyer to help you with a civil suit, you might be wondering what exactly a lawyer can do for you throughout the case. The legal system can be complicated, so it helps to know exactly what to expect from your lawyer.
While the common image of a lawyer involves pacing around a courtroom, litigation lawyers are actually involved in all aspects of the process, including:
- Initial case assessment and investigation
Before anything can really start, your lawyer will need to conduct an assessment of the case. The purpose of this step is to determine if enough evidence exists to take the case forward. Once the assessment is complete, your lawyer can advise you on the next steps to take.
If the case has enough evidence to go to trial, your lawyer will begin investigating. This can involve a variety of steps, including locating and interviewing witnesses, collecting documents, and investigating all facts and evidence related to the case.
Your lawyer’s role in pleadings will depend on whether you’re the plaintiff or the defendant. A plaintiff’s attorney will draft a summons and complaint, which initiates the lawsuit, while a defence attorney will draft responses and perhaps counterclaims.
Litigation lawyers may draft other documents as well, including motions to dismiss the case, strike evidence or change the location of the trial. At this point, it could be possible for your lawyer to draft motions that make a court appearance unnecessary.
The purpose of the discovery process is for the two sides in the case to exchange information so that both lawyers are well-informed. Information can be gathered in a variety of ways. Your lawyer might use depositions or lists of questions for the opposing side, or they might request documents from the other party and ask that the documents be admitted as evidence. They may also examine physical evidence, often with the aid of an expert.
At this stage, your lawyer will be wrapping up discovery and preparing for trial by retaining witnesses, attending conferences, developing strategies and advising you. During the pre-trial stage, your lawyer will also prepare depositions from witnesses, prepare any evidence that will be used as exhibits, and put forward necessary motions, such as motions to admit or remove evidence.
It’s possible that your case will be settled before the trial. However, if the case does go to trial, your lawyer will focus on presenting the case to the judge. Your lawyer will also be involved in selecting a jury, giving statements, and questioning and cross-examining witnesses. Behind the scenes, your lawyer will spend a lot of time preparing arguments and advising witnesses about how to handle their role in the trial.
If the case doesn’t go to trial, it will be because the two sides reached a settlement beforehand. Your lawyer can settle at any point in the process. Settlement proceedings involve a lot of negotiation with the other party, and possibly mediation with a third party. Your lawyer will also draft documents during the settlement process to document offers and agreements.
If litigation lawyers believe a decision is wrong, they can appeal by presenting evidence that the court reached an incorrect decision. This involves filing post-trial motions, gathering evidence and researching laws.