This may seem like a no-brainer, but in truth many people have only a vague idea of what litigation is and what civil litigators actually do. Many grew up watching TV shows and movies, where lawyers stand in court, deliver clever arguments, skillfully cross-examine dodgy witnesses, or frequently interrupt one-another with “objection!”
In reality–and in the modern court system–trials involving juries and parades of witnesses are few and far between. It’s been estimated that at least 95% of civil lawsuits never reach a jury. Why is this, and what does a lawyer actually do when he or she is not in court?
You see, litigation is not just a trial, it’s an entire process for resolving legal disputes in court. It is time-consuming, work-intensive, and usually takes a variety of unpredictable twists and turns.
A civil lawsuit kicks off when a plaintiff files a “Complaint”–a court document explaining what the defendant did and why the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief. The defendant then files an “Answer,” denying or admitting or disclaiming the allegations of the Complaint.
The parties then do “Discovery”, in which they answer written questions, exchange documents like emails and contracts, and even take “Depositions”, where the lawyers use their court power to make someone answer questions under oath. When disputes arise about discovery or other matters pertinent to the litigation, the parties often file a “Motion,” in which they argue their point to the judge, who then decides the Motion with and “Order.” Some motions can actually prevent an entire case from getting to a jury!
All of these steps require hours of careful research, review, planning, and preparing by the attorneys. And only after, do the parties go before a jury. All told, in a Superior Court case in North Carolina, it’s not uncommon for a piece of litigation to take well over a year! But even then, most cases will actually get settled before the trial ever begins.
If you’ve got a legal dispute on your hands, and wonder if litigation is the proper method for resolution, then you should give the civil litigation attorneys at Asheville Legal a call today.