The Key Stages of Litigation in Legal Proceedings

The stages of litigation refer to the distinct components of the legal action process, which can vary based on the complexity of the legal matter and when it gets resolved.

The Key Stages of Litigation in Legal Proceedings
The Key Stages of Litigation in Legal Proceedings. Source (Forbes)

What are the stages of Litigation?

In the early stages of litigation, hiring an experienced attorney is crucial.

They should specialize in the relevant area of law to ensure the best outcome.

After finding the right attorney, an initial client interview will take place.

The lawyer will gather information, discuss options, and if a strong case exists, you can proceed with legal action.

The main stages of litigation are:

  • Investigation
  • Pleadings
  • Discovery
  • Pre-trial
  • Trial
  • Settlement
  • Appeal


Civil litigation cases begin with the investigation stage, managed by your lawyer.

They decide on the evidence required, which may involve forensic evidence, medical records, and witness interviews, to bolster your argument.


In a lawsuit, both parties must file pleadings, which consist of the complaint and the answer.

The complaint, filed by the plaintiff, outlines the defendant’s wrongdoings and the plaintiff’s claims.

The defendant then responds, seeking clarification, corrections, or even the dismissal of the suit if they believe it’s unwarranted.


Discovery is a crucial stage of litigation where parties gather information about the case.

This stage involves research, document review, witness interviews, and more, lasting until the trial.

Key aspects of discovery include depositions, securing witnesses, and motions.


Before trial, attorneys from both sides hold meetings and negotiate. Often, settlements are reached in this pre-trial phase.


During a trial, both sides present their case, which may involve a judge or a jury.

They submit briefs before the trial outlining their arguments and evidence.

The trial includes jury selection, opening statements, arguments with witness questioning and evidence presentation, closing arguments, and a verdict by the judge or jury.


The settlement is the case’s final outcome, typically involving the losing party paying a sum of money to the winner in civil cases.

After a judge’s final judgment, the winning party is entitled to the settlement, though sometimes collection or execution efforts may be necessary to obtain it.


Both parties can appeal the trial’s outcome within 14 days of the decision.

The appeal goes to a higher court, where legal arguments and evidence are presented.

The court primarily assesses for any legal errors that could impact the outcome.