Clients often ask lawyers, “How long does litigation take?”
This question is crucial for financial planning, including attorney fees.
However, it’s important to note that litigation doesn’t have a fixed timeframe.
Factors that influence how long litigation takes, and what you can do about them
The perception that the litigation process is set in stone
Litigation often follows a court-mandated procedural path, but this can lead to delays.
The traditional court process includes issuing the proceeding, filing pleadings, and setting a directions date. However, court resource constraints can result in unnecessary waiting periods.
During the directions hearing, parties often agree on the next steps, which could have been decided earlier.
The COVID-19 experience has demonstrated that disputes can be effectively managed without physical gatherings.
To achieve early resolution, becoming informed and communicating with the other party are key, and there are steps we can take independently of the court’s processes.
Time taken for investigations at the start of the dispute
A focused analysis by a lawyer is crucial for expediting litigation.
Thoroughly understanding the problem, objectives, and strategy in commercial litigation is vital, as haste can actually prolong the process.
How well you understand your objective
Engaging in a legal dispute without clear objectives can lead to unnecessary work on irrelevant issues.
It’s essential to focus on the legal pathway that leads to the best and most cost-effective result.
Being purposeful with each step of the process
Having a clear objective allows you to evaluate actions based on their contribution to that goal.
Standard legal processes, like discovery, may not benefit every dispute equally.
It’s crucial to plan the information and evidence needed beforehand rather than gathering excessive and potentially irrelevant evidence.
Discussing the value of each step in the litigation process with your lawyer as a client is important for effective decision-making.
Your lawyer should clarify tasks, responsibilities, communication methods, and timelines—a form of project management.
Structuring tasks this way ensures transparency, helps meet deadlines, and avoids irrelevant commitments.
Whilst it is difficult to forecast the timing of litigation, understanding its input factors puts you in a better position to reduce the risk of delays.
Have a deep understanding of your objectives, ensure there is a strategy in place to achieve those objectives, and stay in routine contact with your lawyer to make sure all your efforts remain focused on the outcome you want.