What is Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation is a legal dispute between two or more parties that seek money damages or specific performance rather than criminal sanctions. A lawyer who specializes in civil litigation is known as a “litigator” or “trial lawyer.” Lawyers who practice civil litigation represent parties in trials, hearings, arbitrations and mediations before administrative agencies, foreign tribunals and federal, state and local courts.
The Role of the Litigation Professional
The role of the civil litigation professional is challenging and diverse. Since civil litigation is an adversarial process, litigation attorneys and paralegals must be willing to assume an oppositional position and embrace conflict and controversy.
Civil litigation can be divided into seven stages: investigation, pleadings, discovery, pre-trial, trial, settlement and appeal. Not every lawsuit passes through each stage of litigation; most lawsuits are settled prior to trial and many cases that reach a trial verdict are not appealed.
The lifespan of a lawsuit can range from several months to several years. Complex civil litigation often takes years to pass from pre-suit investigation through trial/settlement.
Discovery is the longest and most labor-intensive stage of civil litigation. Contrary to the image portrayed by television, civil litigators spend little time in trial; most time is devoted to the discovery stage of litigation.