What Are the Basic Steps of Litigation

For people who aren’t versed in legal terminology, trying to follow a case can be nothing short of confusing, let alone trying to file a case yourself. Although fortunately most of the difficult parts of the legal process are handled by lawyers, it is essential to have some sort of legal knowledge yourself, whether or not you’re involved in a court case.

With that goal in mind, some of the main steps in the litigation process are explored below. If you’re filing a court case, you may want to hire a litigation support specialist to help you through the case. But for more general knowledge, here are the basic steps of the litigation process.


This is when your lawyer works on gathering evidence to support your case. They spend most of the time sizing up and figuring out the case and how it might be defended.


During pleadings, each side submits their case to the court. The submission of the plaintiff is called the complaint, while the defendant’s submission is called the answer.


Each side spends this time in trying to find out as much about the case as they can dig up. This can be done through witnesses, records, or depositions. It can last from a few months to more than a year.


Pre-trial consists of meetings between the lawyers on the opposing sides, often in an attempt to come to terms outside of court.


During a trial, the opponents each argue their side of the case and try to convince the judge and jury that they’re right. The judge or jury will decide on the case when they’ve heard all the arguments.


This is when the decision of the court is put into action. For civil cases, the settlement usually consists of a sum of money paid by the losing side to the winning side.


If either side believes that the court’s decision isn’t fair, they can contest it. This is called the appeals process. A higher court will usually take the case and review it to see if the decision should be changed. Some federal cases can get all the way up to the Supreme Court in this manner, although few do.

There you have litigation broken down into its main steps. Nearly all cases work on this general pattern. Hopefully, this helps you form a general idea of what litigation means and how it works.