This document is copyright by the Continuing Legal Education Society of Britiush Columbia and is reproduced by permission. It is designed to accompany a retainer agreement but can be read separately to provide a plain language description of the typical steps of a lawsuit in British Columbia. Contractual agreements between individual lawyers and their clients may offer terms which differ substantially from legal services implied in the document below.

This is written from the lawyer's perspective, as a handout to clients.

The timing of a lawsuit is difficult to predict. It depends on many things including actions the other party takes, Court schedules and decisions you make. A lawsuit can take up to two years or longer to settle or go to trial.

However, most lawsuits go through the same basic steps, although not always in the same order. Some lawsuits skip some steps, and some steps are repeated many times over.

© eccolo - Lawsuit imageThe steps listed here are the main steps that occur in a lawsuit. They will give you a general idea of what to expect.

Gathering the Facts
With our client's help, we gather all the available facts concerning the claim, including interviewing and taking statements from witnesses. We sometimes hire investigators or experts to help us, so this step can involve expenses.
Starting the Lawsuit
We begin the lawsuit by preparing the necessary Court documents and filing them in Court. This means the Court date-stamps all copies of the documents, keeping one copy for their official record. We then deliver filed copies to the other party or their lawyer. This step also involve expenses such as court filing fees.
Interim Applications
After we start a lawsuit, but before trial, we or the other party's lawyers sometimes need to ask the Court to decide certain things. Going to Court to ask for an order as an interim step is called, appropriately, an interim application. These interim applications are usually about how the lawsuit should be handled. For example, we might ask the Court to order that the other party shows us a particular letter or document that the other party would rather not let us see.
Examination for Discovery
After gathering the facts, either we or the other part'ys lawyers arrange an examination for discovery. At the examination for discovery, we question the other party under oath about the important events or accident. We also ask the other party to show us what relevant documents he, she or they have, and to tell us about all relevant documents he or she has ever owned or had access to. In return, their lawyer also questions our client about the events, accident or injuries. We give the other party copies of the documents we have that relate to the lawsuit, and our client describes all relevant documents he or she once had or had access to.
Review of the Law
Once we have a good idea of all the facts, we review the law. We then give our client our legal opinion about what the likely outcome of a trial would be, and how much money our client can expect to get.
Negotiation and Settlement
When it is appropriate, we talk with the other party or their lawyers to see if they will settle the claim. A settlement is an agreement between the parties to a lawsuit which sets out how they will resolve the claim. If the claim is settled, it does not go to trial.
Preparation for Trial
We prepare the case for trial, including getting all the necessary documents together, arranging for witnesses to attend, and preparing any legal opinions.
We act for our client at the trial. When the judge has decided the case, which could be a few days or weeks after the trial, we prepare the Court order for the judge to sign, or approve how the other lawyers write up the judgment to make sure it is correct.
Completing the Claim
We usually do all the work necessary to complete the claim. This includes giving our client money from a setlement or judgment, after we have deducted our fees and expenses. However, it does not include starting new steps such as enforcing or appealling a Court judgment. To enforce a judgment means to start proceedings to force the other party to actually pay what he or she has been ordered to pay. To appeal a judgment means to start work to get a higher Court to change the original court's judgment.


This general legal information, courtesy of the Continuing Legal Education Society of Britiush Columbia, is provided free of charge by Lloyd Duhaime (practising law with Duhaime Law), Barrister & Solicitor, situated in Victoria, British Columbia, as a public service. This is not legal advice but, rather, general legal information.

This document includes parts copyright Continuing Legal Education Society of Britiush Columbia.