This guide gives you a basic idea of the many things you need to consider when doing civil litigation.
FIle a Lawsuit
Determine whether a viable claim exists, who the proper parties are, where the action must be brought, and whether administrative remedies have been exhausted. Utilize applicable jury instructions to plead elements. Verify detailed allegations and review them. Make sure the research is in order. Include Praecipe, Summons, and Serve. Respond to the pleadings if you have been served. Make sure you have made note of the response deadline. See if you can remove the case. See if the matter can be Mediated. If not, see if you can do a Motion to Dismiss. Otherwise, Answer the Complaint. Discovery is time consuming. Make sure you Request for Documents and Admissions, and Interrogatories. Complete Depositions if necessary.
Narrowing Down the Dispute and Determining Liabilty
Figure out the claim. Make sure that sufficient facts are alleged to satisfy each element of the claim. Take a good look at the facts that are going to be in dispute. Think about and consider all defenses and potential counterclaims. Don't forget about Affirmative Defenses. Remember that some Defenses are completely exculpatory while others only create fact questions or require proof. Don't forget about potential Third Party Liability. Make sure that Damages are correct and claimed. Always know about the Judge, the forum, and opposing Counsel.
Proving Damages, Calculating Lost Income and Supporting Expenses
Find out what the jury instructions will be. You may want to consult the relevant Rules of Evidence. Make sure you can prove what is fair, reasonable, and necessary. You may need records of medical expenses, if any, and loss of earning capacity. Be sure to include Experts. You may need other documents, including tax returns, W-9's, employment records, etc.
Identifying Opposing Strategy, Finding Weaknesses and Anticipating Defenses
Never underestimate your opponent, they are as good as you (maybe even better). Make sure to identify the elements of proof of claims and defenses. Be creative. Use resources available to you: Talk and listen to potential witnesses; Review documents and testimony from your opponent's perspective; Look at documents in "isolation"; Review all publicly available documents regarding the opposing party and subject of the case. Always look for and confront any gaps.
Preparing for Trial
Start early and prepare, prepare, prepare. Create a Theme and pinpoint your Theory. Be clear and concise. Consider the ultimate message to the court or jury. Always be flexible and adapt to unforeseen developments. Don't think about winning or losing: Reveal what you need to for each element and deliver. Always, always, always: write your closing first and work backwards. This helps to figure out what evidence or testimony is necessary and how you will get it into evidence. Consider what is needed, e.g., authentication, foundation, hearsay concerns. Review depositions, written and recorded statements, and factual reports. Make sure you have in-person meetings with important witnesses and make sure they will be available come trial. Lastly, make sure your Briefs conform to the Court's rules and preferences. Set the tone early during Voir Dire and make sure your Opening Statement outlines the theory and theme of your case. Before all of this you may want to consider Motions in Limine and a Daubert/Schafersman I motion. Always make sure the witnesses know where they have to be, have copies of everything, and make sure you have a checklist for each stage of the trial (Evidence, Direct, Cross, Opening, Closing, Objections to exhibits and anticipated testimony).
Using Physical, Demonstrative, and Documentary Evidence & Fixing Mistakes
Be prepared. Consider using medical records, bills, reports, photographs, etc. Refer to the relevant Rules of Evidence. Stipulations to certain evidence can go along way at this point. Make sure the witness is available. Go through any demonstrative exhibits and see if it will assist the jury. Always reserve the equipment you need to help make your case. And, be sure to disclose evidence to the other side and judge. Amend the pleadings if necessary and always remember to do it if the Motion to Amend is granted.
If the trial is over, you might be able to Motion for a New Trial or Motion for JNOV (if you asked for a directed verdict), and Appeal. Always consider the relevant time and costs including motion fees.
Our Rating is calculated using information the lawyer has included on
their profile in addition to the information we collect from state
bar associations and other organizations that license legal
professionals. Attorneys who claim their profiles and provide Avvo
with more information tend to have a higher rating than those who do
What determines Avvo Rating?
Experience & background
Years licensed, work experience, education
Legal community recognition
Peer endorsements, associations, awards
Legal thought leadership
Publications, speaking engagements
This lawyer was disciplined by a state licensing authority in .
Disciplinary information may not be comprehensive, or updated. We recommend that you always check a lawyer's disciplinary status with their respective state bar association before hiring them.