What is civil litigation?
Civil litigation can be loosely defined as a legal process in which criminal charges and penalties are not at issue. For example, if two or more parties have a legal dispute over money, or another specific performance rather than a criminal act, like a breach of contract, civil litigation is required. Civil litigation requires both parties to appear in a courtroom for trial so a judge or jury can decide the matter.
Lawyers who specialize in civil litigation are known as “litigators” or a “trial lawyers.” Litigators represent clients in a wide range of associated proceedings common to civil law cases such as pretrial hearings and depositions. Other arenas where litigators represent clients include arbitration or mediation before administrative agencies. Arbitration and mediation are processes that attempt to guide the parties in the dispute toward a settlement without the time and expense of going to court.
Types of civil litigation
Civil litigation includes a broad range of disputes, and litigators generally specialize in one or two specific practice areas. These common specialties include:
- Environmental law
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Product liability lawsuits
- Personal injury claims
- Intellectual property disputes
- Construction liability lawsuits
- Medical malpractice claims
- Employment and labor disputes
- Real estate lawsuits
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Divorce lawsuits
The role of a civil litigation lawyer
The role and responsibilities of a civil litigation attorney can be challenging and diverse. Litigation is an adversarial process with two or more parties pitted against each other. If you are sued, your attorney is your advocate, obligated to fight for you to achieve the best possible outcome on your behalf. All litigators must be willing to embrace conflict and controversy to effectively defend their clients. This adversarial approach requires key skills and knowledge beyond a mastery of legal knowledge. Simply put, all litigators are lawyers, but not all lawyers are good litigators for a simple reason – some people avoid conflict and litigation, by definition, is an adversarial conflict between two or more parties that don’t agree about a specific issue. Key legal skills for litigators include:
- Knowledge of substantive and procedural law
- Strong written and oral advocacy skills
- Analytical and logical reasoning abilities
- Ability to synthesize complex legal and factual materials
- Superior interpersonal skills
- Knowledge of legal research techniques and software
- Negotiation skills
The life cycle of a typical civil litigation case
No two litigation cases are exactly the same, and each case has its own nuances. Nevertheless, civil litigation is typically comprised of similar stages including:
- Pretrial proceedings
- Potential settlement or trial
- Appeal – when required.
Civil litigation attorneys spend comparatively little time in the trial because most of the “winning” stems from accurate, extensive research and investigation about the matter in question. The discovery stage is the exchange of information between the parties through depositions, interrogatories, and subpoenas. Discovery typically takes the most time, and is the most labor-intensive stage of a case.
Importantly, not every lawsuit passes through each stage. Rather, the majority of lawsuits are settled by agreement of the parties and never reach the courtroom. However, when a case does go to trial, the entire process, from the initial filing of documents to start the case, all the way to resolution, can take anywhere from a few months to several years. This is not a new phenomenon, “Bleak House,” a novel by Charles Dickens, is based on a famous case in England that took over fifty years to wind through the English courts.
At Radom & Wetter, we initiate and pursue litigation on behalf of our clients with the goals of our client foremost in our minds. Examining all available strategies, we advise our clients to pursue cost effective outcomes that serve our clients’ interests. Sometimes this means mediation or arbitration. If events compel, or client goals require trial, Radom & Wetter’s lawyers have decades of successful trial experience in both federal and state courts throughout New Jersey and the Northeast.
Contact Radom & Wetter
If you require professional legal advice and representation regarding personal issues anywhere in New Jersey, make sure your legal rights are protected by seeking the legal advice of an experienced law firm. Contact us at 908-707-1500 or 973-867-7053 or use our Contact Form.