I am often asked about the process of having a case with my law firm. How long will it take? What kinds of things will I have to do as a client? Here is a summary of how the process works:
At the beginning there is some time involvement from clients and then it increases as we go further into the process. Involvement often depends on how far we go in the process as there is negotiating and potential settlement chances at each stage.
First wemeet - in person, on the phone, online, your choice! we talk about your case. Because you are the client, I want to make sure you are on board with the whole concept of moving forward in litigation, emotionally and intellectually, and that you feel comfortable with me and my way of doing these cases. Then I make sure you know you are in the driver's seat. You can stop the case, you can settle the case, you can choose to go to trial. I advise - and advise strongly, but you choose.
After the initial meeting, I would have you fill out some forms - an intake form, a representation agreement, and any authorizations for documents that I may need to gather to support our case - police report, medical records, etc.
After that, I do all the work for awhile. I (my paralegals and I) request records and wait for them to come in. I send a letter to opposing parties letting them know I am involved (there is a strategic choice as to when to do this). I review the records. I compile all of the information and we have a discussion about whether we want to try to negotiate pre litigation or if we want to go nuclear and file suit without notifying opposing parties. I almost always recommend an attempt at pre-litigation negotiation but it is the client’s choice.
Assuming we go with negotiations, I draft a demand letter to opposing parties giving a persuasive summary of the case with arguments for why our case is strong. I then give them 30 days to decide if they want to negotiate. At this point it is usually 2-3 months from the time of our first meeting.
If the parties decide to negotiate ( which happens approximately 70% of the time)I usually recommend mediation with a neutral mediator. Mediation is a guided negotiation between the parties. You would be required to be present at the mediation but you will not be questioned, will not be required to speak and won’t even have to see opposing parties if you do not want to. You make choices as to settlement with guidance from me and the mediator. We would have a meeting by phone or in person to prepare for the mediation process but it is very uncomplicated - the parties are in different rooms and the mediator goes back and forth between the rooms trying to facilitate an agreement. It is voluntary and anyone can leave at any time if they are unsatisfied. Mediation is successful approximately 90% of the time and the case is settled and over.
If mediation is unsuccessful, I draft an initiation document for a lawsuit, you review it and I file the lawsuit. Then discovery begins. Written discovery takes a few months - we draft and send written questions and requests for documents to opposing parties and they do the same to us. You would help me respond to those. There is a lot of legal work that happens her that has no client involvement as well.
Then, after written discovery is done, there is the potential for a deposition. I would fully prepare you for a deposition but it is not a fun thing to do.I never lie to clients - depos are not fun, but they are sometimes necessary. I do my best to prepare my clients for strength and confidence in order to make it empowering. We get to depose their people too and you can be present if you want to be. Sometimes this is empowering and sometimes it is boring and annoying so, we cross that bridge when we come to it.
After depositions, most - approximately 98% of cases settle. If not, we prepare for trial.
Trial is a topic for another blog and is involved. If a case goes to trial, it is generally one year from our initial meeting. Generally, only 2-3% of cases make it to trial. Most settle prior to trial.
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