This series applies to California lawsuits only. For rules regarding your state’s civil litigation procedure, visit the website for your specific state’s judicial branch. This is a very broad overview. Multiple considerations must take place and detailed analysis goes into each step.
To recap, we’ve discussed some considerations before filing a lawsuit such as What is the Deadline to File a Lawsuit and Where to File a Lawsuit. We’ve also discussed How to File a Lawsuit, Responding to a Lawsuit, Discovery, and Mediation.
Here’s a visual representation of what a lawsuit looks like. This article focuses on the phase within the blue circle.
Although the above flow chart depicts trial preparation as a distinctive step before trial, in reality, your attorney is preparing for the trial from the minute s/he meets with you for a consultation. Trial considerations such as jury appeal, your credibility and the credibility of other witnesses, and the evidence available will influence whether an attorney accepts the case and what theories to pursue. Once a lawsuit is filed, each stage in the litigation is meant to prepare for trial: i.e., pleadings, motions, discovery and pretrial conferences are all directed to what can or may be presented to a judge or jury.
However, when trial is imminent, a lot of time and effort goes into preparing for trial, which means that this period before trial is where the litigation gets very expensive.
So that you have an idea about how your attorney is preparing for a trial that is imminent, here is a non-exhaustive list of work that must be done:
- Weighing settlement options;
- Conducting final discovery to fill in any gaps in evidence needed at trial;
- Creating a final list of witnesses and evidence needed at trial;
- Preparing and filing a Motion for Summary Judgment/Summary Adjudication;
- Preparing and filing additional final pre-trial motions to clean the case up before trial;
- Preparing witnesses to testify at trial;
- Preparing a trial brief, pocket briefs, and other motions related to evidentiary issues;
- Creating a trial notebook of various documents that will be needed at trial;
- Identifying and preparing documents to be used as exhibits during trial; and
- Anticipating and strategizing on how to respond to the other side’s presentation of their case.
This is a short list but it gives you an idea of the amount of work, which requires time and resources, goes into preparing for trial. As a party to the lawsuit, you will be in close contact with your attorney, so be prepared to have the litigation bleed into your personal and professional time.
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