Litigation law is a series of rules and practices used to resolve disputes that arise through the court system. Oftentimes, the term is associated with different tort cases, but litigation is involved in a number of different cases. Eviction proceedings, contested divorces, breach of contract lawsuits, and any other civil complaint can be dealt with through litigation.
Most people believe that litigation is the same as working for a trial, but the process of litigation starts a long time before a case reaches the courtroom. In the majority of cases, litigated disputes don’t proceed to trial. Instead, they have settlements negotiated.
Business litigation lawyers will take care of any disputes that concern a particular business or corporation. There are a number of different types of lawsuits that a business litigation lawyer might represent. Most commonly, they’ll be called on to mediate contract disputes for businesses, or to litigate a dispute between a business and consumer.
If you’re not sure whether a legal matter would count as a “business litigation matter,” consider whether there are grounds for a lawsuit. Would a lawsuit solve the problem? If so, this is a litigation case. Is one or more of the parties a business or business owner? If so, this is a business litigation case.
If all parties are in agreement, or there aren’t any controversial disputes, the negotiation is not considered litigation. Non-litigation matters include things like estate planning, property sales, and business formations. The attorneys who handle these contracts practice a different branch of law called “transactional” law.
To familiarize yourself with the litigation process, you should understand each basic stage of a lawsuit. Each jurisdiction has a set of Civil Rules of Procedure that governs the behavior that can occur during litigation. These rules outline legal requirements with which all involved parties must comply during each part of the process. Different case types will be subject to different procedural rules, but the general principle remains the same.
When an average legal dispute arises, the involved parties will typically discuss said dispute with each other. If one of the parties is a business, oftentimes the business owner or a public relations representative will act as the spokesperson. Polite negotiations will continue until it’s clear that the parties cannot reach a common understanding without legal intervention. At this point, it’s time for the parties to retain a litigation attorney.
The attorney’s first job is to investigate the facts of the case. They’ll understand their client’s perspective, the other party’s perspective, and potential strategies for a defense. At this point, they will generally send a “demand letter” to the other party. A demand letter is exactly what it sounds like: a letter that lists demands with which the party must comply to avoid legal action. This letter might demand that a certain sum of money is paid, or that a particular activity is stopped.
If a party receives a demand letter from their opposing side, they have a number of options to respond. They might offer to pay less than the demand entails, or they might send a counter-letter with their own demands. They might also do nothing. At this point in time, the parties are forced to attempt to reach an agreement with each other. If the parties want to involve the court system, this is the point at which a formal litigation would be enacted. However, a good number of parties will come to an informal settlement agreement in order to avoid a lawsuit.
If the initial negotiations are unsuccessful, and the demand letter has no effect, the dispute will move forward through the filing of a formal lawsuit. At this point, if any involved parties haven’t hired their attorney, they should do so. Lawsuits are surrounded by a great deal of complicated legal information. People need to follow complex rules regarding the initial filing and the response to the lawsuit, and small mistakes can cause disastrous consequences for the negotiation.
After the official filing, each party will take part in discovery. This is the mandatory exchange of information and documents between the involved parties. Discovery reflects the bulk of the research and case compiling work done for the whole case. It’s difficult to prepare and respond to discovery requests, and the tedious nature of discovery means that your expenses will mount. After physical evidence is exchanged, any witnesses for the lawsuit will be formally interviewed.
After discovery is complete, all involved parties must review the information they’ve learned. The defendant, at this point, is likely to file a request for summary judgment. This means that the defendant argues that the law should not hold them responsible, even if the plaintiff’s contentions are factual. If the judge agrees, the case ends. The plaintiff loses. If the judge denies this motion, the case proceeds to trial.
The trial is the point at which the case will be tried in front of a judge and jury. Witnesses will be required to bear testimony, evidence will be submitted and examined, and both attorneys will present arguments for their clients. After the trial is over, the losing party will have a right to appeal, which can drag the process out even longer.
If you’re involved in any business litigation, you should have an experienced attorney on retainer to deal with these potential disputes. That way, you can focus on your work without worrying.
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