For those who have never been involved in litigation, the first lawsuit can seem overwhelming at times. At other times it can seem like nothing is happening and the case has evaporated. This is all normal. Each civil lawsuit goes through several distinct phases. Each with their own challenges and involvement.
The first stage is pre filing. At this time, the attorney is putting the case together with the client (if it is the plaintiff - this does not apply to the defendant). During this phase there may be presuit demand letters, investigation activities, production of documents to the law firm and interviews by the lawyer. This phase may be moderately active depending upon the situation.
The second phase is the filing of the lawsuit. This involves finalizing the complaint and getting it served. If there are hangups in getting the complaint and summons served, this can take a while. It will seem that nothing is happening for several weeks.
The next phase does not always arise. It is the Rule 12 motion phase. This is where motions to dismiss, and other preliminary type motions are considered. If a Rule 12 motion is filed, it can delay the progress of the case by several months, or even more.
After the rule 12 motion phase, there is discovery. This usually entails written questions and demands for documents, subpoenas, and depositions of the parties. This can go on for many months. There will be intermittent activity as discovery progresses. Then long pauses in activity. The most active time will be the depositions.
After discovery, parties usually consider filing motions for summary judgment. If any party files for summary judgment, then there will be significant activity on the part of the attorney, but not necessarily the client.
Next is the trial preparations. This involves a lot of activity as the parties get ready for trial.
Finally is the trial.
After trial, there can be some additional activity.