A civil attorney must follow the rules of civil procedure. The purpose of these rules is to produce an outcome through a speedy, efficient, and fair trial. According to the rules of civil procedure, the plaintiff must bring a legally sufficient complaint. If the plaintiff tries to claim something that is obviously not supported by the law, the defendant can have the case dismissed. 

The Discovery Process

Once the lawsuit is underway, the plaintiff will collect information about the defendant. In this process of “discovery,” the plaintiff asks the defendant for information relating to the case. The plaintiff can “depose” the defendant; that is, call defendant’s witnesses in for a live, all-day conversation about what happened. The plaintiff can send “interrogatories,” which are written questions about what happened. 

Settlement of a Case

The next step in a civil proceeding is to see if either party has collected enough evidence to end the case, or force the case to settle out of court. A settlement is an agreement where the defendant pays plaintiff money to dismiss the case “with prejudice,” meaning that the plaintiff cannot sue the defendant ever again over the same matter.

When the Case Goes to Trial

If the case has not settled, it will go to trial. After the jury has reached a verdict, either party unsatisfied with the outcome can “appeal” to a higher court, ask for a retrial, or ask the judge to overturn the jury’s verdict. To appeal means to have another court look at the trial to make sure that everything that happened in the trial was legal and followed the rules of civil procedure

The Appeals Process

Usually a party has the right to appeal, but sometimes the higher courts have the choice about whether or not to grant an appeal. For example, the Supreme Court is free to choose the cases it takes, and because of limited time, only takes those cases which it considers to be important for the law and society. After the appeals decision is made, the case is usually over. 

A civil attorney must memorize the rules of civil procedure, and know all the details of how to see a case through from its beginning to end.

Seeking Legal Help

If you are involved in a civil legal issue, you should consult a civil attorney.