The Litigation Process – 5 Phases of Litigation & Trial

Historically, law firms and attorneys have billed for their services on an hourly basis. That is because, among other reasons, there are few things in life as uncertain as litigation (lawyer-speak for the legal process of filing or defending a lawsuit, gathering evidence, and ultimately having a trial before a judge or jury). Because of the different outcomes or responses to each strategic move that the parties to a lawsuit may take, it’s impossible to predict at the initial consultation how long a case is going to take, or how much work is going to be involved. So for that reason, hourly billing seems logical and fair, right? The problem with hourly billing is that it’s unpredictable for clients—your attorney’s bill could be just $600 in July, but in August, when there are 3 depositions for the case, the bill could be $6000 or more. That kind of unpredictability makes it difficult to run a business. Unfortunately, however, the solution isn’t an easy one.

A minority of law firms have implemented alternatives to the so-called billable hour, and we’re one of them. We offer several alternative billing models that allow you, the client, to choose the one that works for you or your business. One of these alternative billing models is set up like this: We’ve broken down the litigation process into five distinct phases. We are then able to quote a flat fee for each stage of the process. This is possible because separating the stages of a lawsuit lets us take the temperature of the proceedings as they progress, and that helps us to estimate the time or amount of work it will take to complete the next phase. It’s not an exact science, but our clients usually prefer this kind of billing model over traditional hourly billing.

Here are the five phases of litigation. Click on each phase to see a brief overview of the tasks it comprises:

Phase I: Preliminary Case Assessment & Development

Phase II: Pleadings

Phase III: Discovery

Phase IV: Summary Judgment

Phase V: Trial (if necessary)