3 ways to put the “civil” in civil litigation


Something I’ve always found easy is keeping calm about going to court. My clients, on the other hand, are often a ball of nervousness when it comes to even thinking about it. But for me, staying calm isn’t about education or experience; there are plenty of attorneys who cringe at the idea of court – and probably some judges, too! It’s more about staying focused and remembering a few key principles.

1 – Every hearing has a definite purpose

I read a book about meetings once, which said that most meetings can be halved by using the right agenda. One thing to remember about a hearing is that the judge isn’t there to hear the complete litany of the different arguments in the case, about the particulars of each piece of evidence, or about how the defendant may have yelled at you in the hallway last time. Instead, I always try to plan out exactly what I want to get and how to get it, and then I consider what the other party and the judge are looking for. This way, if someone throws a hissy-fit about something off-topic, I can ignore it and stick to the script.

2 – Court is governed by principles, not passions

Having to follow a bunch of rules may sound like a good reason to fear court, but actually the fact that court is so regulated by procedural rules means the range of outcomes can be highly predictable. Of course, that means I need to study the rules well before I get to court, so that I know where the hearing might go, but once I do, and the other side clearly doesn’t, it becomes possible to object to errors and corral the discussion into the regulatory framework that governs the hearing.

3 – Negotiation may lead to a better outcome

A judge gave some advice to young attorneys at a panel this year: “Talk to the other side.” I can’t think of a better piece of advice for maintaining civility; the outcome of a court battle almost always goes better when both sides are able to chat and synthesize some level of agreement. Getting an agreed order usually means the case gets to go first and be finished in under a minute. Even simply eliminating some of the points of contention first can make it easier to proceed. Keeping dialogue going is usually the best way to save the client a bundle of money, while at the same time advancing his or her cause to its conclusion.

These simple strategy tips can go a long way towards minimizing the costs of litigation for clients, and minimizing the stress for all parties involved. If you are in need of someone to help you sort out a stressful legal situation, feel free to check out my website for more information about my services.

DISCLAIMER: Please do not prepare your own documents / filings after reading this blog, without consulting an attorney first about your specific situation. I make no representations or guarantees here as to the applicability of any claim in your specific situation. This blog is ADVERTISING MATERIAL only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice, especially if you are not an Illinois resident. Please contact me if you have a legal question or concern, as no attorney-client agreement will exist between myself and any readers of this blog unless it is signed in writing.

Photo by Yathin S Krishnappa / attribution license from Wikipedia


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