We have found a lot of people misunderstand the process of a lawsuit. They seem to believe that lawyer A files “something,” then lawyer B files “something,” then everyone goes in front of a jury at which point lawyer A screams, then lawyer B screams and the lawyer who is “better” wins their client a lot of money. This misunderstanding probably arises from television portrayals of lawsuits as quick events.
In order to “win” a lawsuit, the first step is to understand what the process and goal of a lawsuit is.
In short, a lawsuit is an attempt to get a judgment in order to force another party to do, or not do, something. The most common goal is to force another party to pay money for damage that their actions have caused. But it is very expensive to win a lawsuit, so the cost of winning should, ideally, be far less than the amount at stake. If you are defending a lawsuit, the goal should be to get it dismissed with the least possible cost.
But why is it so expensive? A lawsuit is not a one-day screaming match. Although a trial might, depending on the case, only last for one-day, in order to “win” you need evidence. The first thing to ask yourself before embarking on a lawsuit is “what evidence do I have in my possession to prove my case?” The second thing to ask yourself is “what evidence will I need to get from the other side to prove my case?” These questions are important because both sides will have months, often stretching into years, to conduct “discovery,” which is the process of getting evidence from the other side.
Too often, the evidence that you need—documents, testimony, the identity of witnesses – is in the hands of your opponent and they won’t turn it over without a fight. If you understand that the main driver of a lawsuit is gathering and protecting evidence, then you will have a better understanding of the nature of litigation and you will make your lawyer’s job easier. That is, you will be in a better position to win.