Litigation is the process by which disputes are resolved through use of the court system.

Litigation begins with the filing of a lawsuit. Generally, the defendant responds to the lawsuit by serving an answer. Once the defendant responds, the parties often exchange relevant information through a process called discovery. After discovery is complete, the lawsuit is resolved by the court or a jury at trial, by use of alternative dispute resolution techniques like mediation or arbitration, or even less formal settlement negotiations. After the court makes a final determination, either party may appeal.

Most cases do not go to trial, principally due to the costs and risks involved. Many cases settle, and others are resolved by use of pre-trial motions for accelerated judgment. These motions include motions for summary judgment and motions to dismiss.

It varies widely: some lawsuits can be resolved quickly, whereas others may take years to conclude. Each case is different and depends on, among other things, the complexity of the legal issues and facts, and the volume of cases being handled by the court.

ADR is a technique where the parties to a dispute voluntarily allow a neutral third party to influence or determine the outcome for the dispute. These techniques include mediation and arbitration.

Mediation is a non-binding ADR technique where a neutral third party (a mediator), listens to each party’s position and seeks to achieve a negotiated resolution. Mediation is typically not binding, though some courts require litigants to participate in that process.

Arbitration is an alternative ADR technique. Unlike mediation, the decision of the arbitration usually binds the parties.

The main benefits of ADR include lower costs and faster resolution of cases.

If you get sued, you need to consult with an attorney immediately because defendants only have a short period of time to respond – usually 20 days. Appropriate legal counsel is important because, among other reasons: the defendant’s response must include applicable defenses (and potentially counterclaims), and cases should be evaluated comprehensively and competently at an early stage.

Sometimes litigation can’t be avoided, but you can take prudent steps. For example, consult with a trusted attorney before entering into an agreement or business relationship, and don’t rely simply on oral representations.

Lawsuits must be filed within certain limitations periods, often known as “statutes of limitations.” This is the time established by law within which you must bring a claim – and the answer is not always readily obvious; it often requires considered legal judgment and analysis. If you fail to commence a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, your claim may be dismissed. Our attorneys can help you navigate these and other critical issues.

Careful thought should be given when determining which court to use. In New York, a litigant can choose from various courts: federal court, state court, county court, city court and town court. This list is not exhaustive and other options, including administrative law venues, exist. Determining which court to use should be made after considering various factors including, as examples: jurisdictional monetary limits, subject matter and personal jurisdiction, the location of relevant events, and the rules of each court.

The attorneys at Lacy Katzen LLP are experienced in these matters and can help you make the right decision.

Although individuals are permitted to represent themselves in court, self-representation (sometimes known as proceeding “pro se”) presents risks. For example, pro se litigants typically lack: formal education, practical experience, and knowledge of procedural rules. By contrast, Lacy Katzen has more than 60 years of experience in most major areas law.

This varies widely but it is crucial to understand the various factors early in the process. At Lacy Katzen, we are committed to representing our clients economically as well as effectively. Given litigation’s inherent expense and uncertainty, this can require quite a bit of additional time and effort, but we pride ourselves on full transparency with clients, and where appropriate, on our creative, alternative fee arrangements.