Business litigation is about more than just going to trial. In fact, if all goes well, you won’t go to trial at all. That’s because with the help of an experienced business litigation attorney, you can build your case by deploying proven strategies and cost-effective tactics from early on in the process in order to possibly settle your legal dispute and avoid the high cost of a full case trial.
The key is in knowing how to build your case at each phase of the litigation process by implementing relevant and timely strategies. This allows your team to be ready for a settlement no matter how far along you are in the litigation process, while still preparing you for a full trial if your case necessitates it.
As you consider your pending case with your attorney, make sure that he or she is covering the following phases individually and helping you to build your case strategy piece-by-piece through the pleading phase, discovery phase, settlement phase and trial phase.
While it may appear to be uncomplicated, your initial pleading needs to be carefully considered prior to being submitted to the courts. If you’re the Plaintiff filing a Complaint, you need to be careful of the accusations you’re making. Are they grounded in law and backed by proof? Are you familiar with the burden of proof? Do you have an understanding of the elements required to prove your claim? And if you’re the Defendant, your Answers need to be equally well thought-out. Make sure you’re addressing each of the accusations independently and providing some legal foundation for your response.
Essentially, the initial pleadings can set the tone for the entire litigation process. If your opening claim is week, you’ll have to make up for it as soon as possible. If your legal argument has holes in it, it may be difficult to recover. Point being, your strategy should be well established from the very beginning.
After the initial pleadings – and assuming you don’t agree to settle at your case management conference – the discovery phase will begin. The purpose of discovery is for both parties to gather as much materials, facts, and evidence as possible in order to build a fair argument based on shared information from all perspectives. Good discovery tactics can also lead to settlement by evidencing legal points that lead to the successful use of ADR or even summary judgment.
A truly effective discovery strategy will also eliminate unnecessary ‘evidence’ that has no real value to the case while focusing on streamlining the collection of relevant pieces of testimony and document support. Effective discovery can also lead to well- supported Motions used to dismiss claims that have no legal merit. This can save a lot of time and bring you ever-closer to a settlement.
Finally, there are various points throughout litigation where you will have the opportunity to try and settle your dispute with the opposing party. Within the first 180 days, you will actually be required to attend a case management conference, which will be your first opportunity to discuss your case with the other party in the presence of a neutral. You will address the possibility of a settlement and the judge will determine if any of the legal disputes are uncontested and can therefore be dismissed from the case.
Your next opportunity to settle will come during the early settlement conference. While this conference isn’t mandatory, it can be a valuable tool if your attorney has developed and researched an effective strategy that could put you in a good position to request an early settlement conference. By proving that you have the legal advantage on most of the items in dispute – using well-planned research and a strong legal argument – you can possibly force your opponent to settle. They won’t want to risk going to trial knowing how strong your case is, giving them incentive to settle with you on the minority of issues that are still in dispute.
Finally, California offers a number of different Alternative Dispute Resolution methods. At almost any point during litigation, either party may request some form of ADR. In fact, in many unlimited civil cases, it’s mandated by the California courts that parties at least make a valid attempt to try and settle your dispute through mediation, arbitration, or a similar form of resolution.
The trial phase is far too complex for the purposes of squeezing into this post. However, it’s important to note that all other case strategies eventually lead to trial. That’s why it’s so essential that you work with an attorney who knows how to plan for settlement while building a case. Call The Law Offices of Tony T. Liu to find out more.