Lawyers are professionals with a wide variety of roles to play, many more than people may think at first. Many lawyers don’t even make it into court, and work in offices, giving advice on a variety of different areas of the law, whilst others may be playing an important role in court.
A lawsuit is a civil action taken by one party on the other when a dispute occurrs between the two. The plaintiff (the one commencing the lawsuit) seeks a legal remedy or claim for the wrongdoing they believe took place. Generally, they will try and settle outside of court as lawsuits can be very expensive, however, if it cannot be settled, it will progress to a court of law.
Lawyers play various roles throughout the progression of the lawsuit, assisting both the plaintiff and defendant from start to finish.
The first role a lawyer might play in a lawsuit is as a mediator trying to settle a case outside of court before it becomes a lawsuit. Many courts require that you have tried to settle outside of court before they allow you to file for a lawsuit. Many lawyers act as mediators on the side of their day jobs, although many mediators are social workers with additional training as a mediator.
If they fail to settle outside of court, the next step for a lawyer is to help the plaintiff write up a document that contains all the details of the case including: the basic facts of the case, names everyone involved, references the legal theory behind the claim, and states what outcome you want from the lawsuit, be it money or an agreement of action and so on. After this, the lawyer’s job is to file the complaint in the relevant court.
If you are seeking monetary compensation of less then US$5,000, your case can only be solved in the small claims court, where a lawyer cannot be used. However, before the court date, a lawyer can be hired to give advice on what to say in court.
For larger cases, a lawyer also often has the role of choosing where the lawsuit of their client is held. A lawyer is expected to know which court would be best for their client in terms of what the judge is like, how complicated the particular court’s process is and so forth.
Once the complaint has been filed, the lawyer has the role (if hired to do so) of sending the complaint to the defendant, who at this point may be unaware of the proceedings. The defendant then has up to 30 days to send back responsive pleadings.
This is when a lawyer may also play another role in the lawsuit. The defendant may be liable for thousands of dollars, so it is in their best interest to hire a lawyer to write their responsive pleading to maximize their chances of winning the case against them.