How to Become a Litigation Specialist with a Paralegal Education
Paralegal education will teach you what you need to know to work in civil litigation.
Civil Litigation Basics in Your Paralegal Education
One of the most important aspects of your paralegal education is learning the logistics of civil litigation. Civil litigation is a category of legal disputes between litigants in which a plaintiff seeks money damages or specific performance from a defendant.
Keep reading to learn about the basic components of civil litigation:
- Litigation pleadings
- Pre-trial motions
Litigation Pleadings: Summons, Complaint and Answer
Since most paralegals work in litigation, accredited paralegal education will familiarize you with the following legal pleadings:
- A summons is a written notification to the defendant in a lawsuit directing that party to answer the accompanying complaint, and then appear and defend himself at a specified time. As a paralegal, one of your most important tasks is to make sure such responses get filed on time.
- The complaint establishes the basis for jurisdiction. It states the facts that gave rise to the suit, formulates the issues of the case, and requests the "relief" the plaintiff is seeking.
- In the answer, a defendant responds to the legal issues raised in the plaintiff's complaint.
You will learn a lot about pleadings during your paralegal education, and you'll study court cases that help illustrate important legal principles.
Pre-trial Motions: Motion to Dismiss and Summary Judgment
After receiving a complaint and filing an answer with the court, parties to a lawsuit are allowed to file motions to have the case dismissed. It is up to the court to decide whether these motions have merit. Paralegals help lawyers draft and file pre-trial motions.
- Motion to Dismiss: Lawyers can file a motion to dismiss a case against their client if they believe that a part of the complaint is faulty. If the court agrees with the arguments in the defendant's motion to dismiss, the judge will dismiss the case.
- Motion for Summary Judgment: In an attempt to have the case against him thrown out, a defendant may file a motion for summary judgment (MSJ). This motion is filed when the defendant believes that no material facts exist, or when the facts in the complaint are either untrue or not provable. Both sides will file supporting evidence, such as affidavits and deposition transcripts. If the MSJ is denied, the case moves on to discovery.
Litigation paralegals sometimes help lawyers do research for MSJs, collect affidavits and help clients prepare for related depositions.
Discovery: Interrogatories, Requests and Depositions
Before trial, plaintiff and defendant are allowed to request information and documents from each other. Paralegals help write and answer interrogatories and requests for production of documents, look for evidence in documents they've received, and help organize and conduct depositions.
- Interrogatories: Interrogatories are written questions from plaintiff to defendant, and vice versa. You are obliged to answer all questions contained in the interrogatories you receive, but you may object to questions on specified legal grounds.
- Requests for Production of Documents: Both parties to a lawsuit are required to produce pertinent documents for inspection, if requested. A large part of your paralegal education will prepare you to request, inventory and search paper and electronic documents to find the evidence needed to win your case.
- Depositions: In oral depositions, witnesses are questioned under oath (although outside of court) before the beginning of trial. Both parties normally have lawyers present because they may need to counsel their clients or object to inappropriate questions. Paralegals often arrange depositions, including hiring a court reporter or a video specialist to record the proceedings.
Paralegal Training Topics
- Civil Litigation For Paralegals
- Paralegals and Contract Law
- Paralegals and Trademark Law
- Quiz: Legal Latin Terms
- Court Cases For Paralegals
- Paralegals and Legal Ethics
- Paralegal Training in a Tough Economy
More Paralegal Information
Did You Know?
The majority of legal disputes never reach trial. About 97 percent of civil cases are settled, or are dismissed without a verdict. Both plaintiff and defendant have mutual incentives to settle legal disputes:
- They avoid uncertain trial outcomes
- They save on litigation costs
- They can agree to keep settlement agreements confidential