September 25, 20190

A civil litigator’s clients don’t often have a full understanding of the complexities inherent in a civil matter. A comprehensive litigation definition must include a listing of the course of a case:

  • Client intake and investigation
  • Drafting and filing pleadings
  • Discovery
  • Motion practice and Pre-trial
  • Trial
  • Settlement, and
  • Appeals process
Client intake and investigation

Managing a civil case from beginning to end is time consuming and can take years. If an attorney is hired at the very start of a matter, the civil litigation definition begins with the attorney undertaking her own investigation. In some cases, a private investigator is hired. In other cases, experts may be retained to review the facts.

Drafting and filing pleadings

If the litigator decides that a case has merit, the next step is drafting and filing pleadings. A litigation definition is not complete without the initial pleadings filed with the court.Once the facts are verified by the client, the attorney puts together the basic facts in a document called a complaint. If the attorney represents the defendant, then the attorney prepares an answer to the complaint. A defendant’s counsel will also sometimes file counter and/or cross claims against other parties to the suit.


Once the complaint and answer are properly filed with the court, the process of discovery commences. Both sides of the litigation definition are entitled to review certain relevant and non-privileged materials, obtain answers to questions, and depose parties. Civil litigators use a variety of methods to obtain this type of information.

A civil litigation definition of discovery is the process of learning or receiving information that may have been previously unknown. It also helps the attorney develop her strategy or theory of the case.

Motion practice and Pre-trial

Through motion practice, a litigator may be able to dismiss certain counts in a complaint, a particular defense, or the entire case itself. Also, by filing and arguing or defending against a motion, the attorney can ask the judge to make rulings on particular issues prior to the commencement of the trial.

Prior to trial, the attorney begins intensive preparation. Litigation definition includes meetings with clients and witnesses, drafting cross examination and direct examination questions, opening and closing arguments, preparation of evidence, and pre-trial conferences with the judge and opposing counsel.


The trial is the main event. The parties put on their evidence, witnesses and arguments and ask either a judge or jury to decide the case. A trial is very detail oriented and complex.

The attorneys are governed by rules of civil procedure, rules of evidence, and rules of ethics. They must know how to ask questions of different witnesses, respond to objections, and think on their feet.


No litigation definition is complete without discussion of settlement. The majority of cases never make it to trial. A litigator may settle a case at any time during the litigation process. Ultimately, the client makes the decision about settlement.

Negotiations can happen at any time and often occur the morning of the trial! If the parties reach an agreement about settlement, they will enter into a consent agreement.

Appeals Process

The party that is unsuccessful at trial has the option to appeal the decision to a higher court or tribunal. In civil matters, a litigation definition also includes an appeal. The attorney must present evidence as to why the lower court made decisions in error.

The appellate process begins with the filing of the appeal itself. Then, the parties file written briefs on the legal issues. Sometimes, the court will ask for oral argument. This is where the attorneys appear and make their arguments in person.

The attorneys at Desautel Browning Law are experienced and seasoned civil litigator. To find out more about how we can help you, call us at 401.477.0023 today.

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