The Business Litigation Process

For those facing the prospect of a lawsuit (either as a plaintiff or defendant) for the first time, it can quite daunting and scary. Numerous questions will arise about the process, what to expect, and how to prepare for what’s to come. An experienced business litigation law firm in Atlanta, below we outline the basic steps in the litigation process for you. Understanding a little about these steps may help ease some of the anxiety that naturally arises from the unfamiliarity and uncertainty of being involved in a lawsuit.

Litigation Process

Within the business litigation process, there are generally up to seven steps. No case is exactly like another, so remember this is just a guideline and may change according to the specifics of each case.

Step 1: Consultation

Busy Court JudgeA client must first meet with a business litigation lawyer to discuss the specific facts of their situation. The lawyer will review any relevant documents and counsel the client regarding their rights and whether one or more claims may be pursued on the client’s behalf. An experienced attorney will also focus on the best strategy to achieve the client’s specific goals. Conversely, if the client has been sued, the consulting attorney will assess the merits and relative strengths and weaknesses of the case against the client, and determine the best strategy for defending the lawsuit. He or she will also determine whether the client has viable counterclaims that should be asserted against the other party. In any event, this consultation should take place as soon as possible. Time is of the essence, as delays may lead to the loss of rights on behalf of the client.

Step 2: Investigation

After the initial consultation and once retained by the client, lawyers at Brownstein & Nguyen set to work carefully reviewing and analyzing all relevant information and documents pertaining to the client’s matter, researching relevant legal authorities and precedents, and collecting evidence to support the client’s claims or defenses. Due diligence is an important step to ensuring that the client’s interests will be properly presented and protected in the litigation.

Step 3: Preparation and Filing

After completing our investigation, the attorneys will prepare and file the appropriate pleadings with the court. A pleading is a legal document filed in a lawsuit, and includes a complaint filed by the plaintiff, or person bringing the lawsuit, and the defendant’s answer (defenses) to the complaint. For a new lawsuit, we carefully draft a complaint that contains relevant and material facts and the applicable legal claims to be presented on the client’s behalf. When defending the client against a lawsuit brought against him or his business, the same care is taken in preparing an answer with all appropriate legal defenses. On occasion, depending on the case and court rules, we may also prepare one or more procedural or substantive motions to filed with the court in response to the plaintiff’s complaint. Such motions could include a motion to transfer venue or to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, inadequate service of process, or failure to state a legal claim.

Step 4: Discovery

Once the parties have filed their initial pleadings, a case will typically progress into what is commonly referred to as discovery. During this phase of litigation, both sides have the opportunity to request and obtain information and evidence both from each other as well as third parties who are not involved in the case. The purpose of discovery is to both learn more information about the issues in a case, as well as to develop evidence to be used at trial. During discovery information is gathered through various means including depositions, or oral examination of witnesses, interrogatories or written questions, and document and evidence requests, and subpoenas. Depending on the particulars and complexity of the case as well as court rules, discovery can take anywhere from 6 months to several years.  

Step 5: Pre-trial Motions

Once discovery is completed, the parties have an opportunity to present pre-trial motions to the court. Typically, such motions either help narrow the issues for trial or deal with matters that help streamline a trial. Examples are a partial motion for summary judgment where a party asks the court to rule on one or more discrete legal issues; a motion in limine that asks the court to rule on specific evidentiary issues expected to come up in trial; or a motion for summary judgment or judgment on the pleadings in which a party asks the court to rule in their favor based on the record without a trial. After the parties have filed their motions and presented written arguments, or briefs, in support or opposition to them, the court may hold a hearing to allow oral argument by the attorneys before the court issues its rulings (usually by written order).

Step 6: Trial

After all of the preparation, discovery, and pre-trial motions and rulings, the case is finally ready to go to trial. The plaintiff has the right to go first in the U.S. legal system, presenting evidence through witnesses who testify before the jury or fact-finder. The defendant has the right to question, or cross-examine, the plaintiff’s witnesses during their testimony. After the plaintiff has presented his case, the defendant has an opportunity to present his evidence, during which the plaintiff may also cross-examine or question defense witnesses. After the parties have presented all of their evidence, the attorneys will give closing arguments and in a jury (as opposed to bench) trial the court will instruct the jury on the law that must be applied in reaching in a decision in the case. The jury will then deliberate and give its decision. Trials vary in length depending upon the complexity of the case and variables involved such as the number of witnesses and the evidence that has been gathered.

Step 7: Post-Trial

After the conclusion of the trial, the court will render a judgment based on the jury verdict or court decision (in a bench trial). Either party may then file post-judgment motions or file an appeal. Depending on the case and court, there are several levels of appeals that can take anywhere from one year to several years to conclude. Alternatively, if a monetary judgment is entered by the court after a trial, the winning party may take legal action to collect on the judgment such as a garnishment or property levy.

Brownstein & Nguyen – Representing Business Litigation Clients in Atlanta for over 25 Years

The business litigation process can be complex, lengthy and costly. With the importance of understanding the legal process in a case, including legal and procedural issues, meeting court deadlines, presenting the best arguments to advance a client’s interests, and developing a winning strategy, it is critical to have an experienced, knowledgeable, and effective lawyer on your side. If you have a business dispute, are considering filing a lawsuit or have already been sued, contact the offices of Brownstein & Nguyen for a consultation today.