When two sides face each other in court, the law calls for them to contest one another on a “level playing field,” meaning no side should have the advantage of knowing facts to which the other side is not privy. This eliminates the element of surprise as a strategy. Thus, during the pretrial stage, civil procedure calls for each party to have an extensive opportunity to learn all of the facts that are relevant to the litigation. This is handled through a process known as a “discovery” in which opposing parties interview one another (under oath) to provide information in the possession of each. The interviews are called “depositions.” Written questions called “interrogatories” can also be submitted.
The legal process can be bewildering. This is sometimes because many attorneys fail to educate their clients about the nature of the legal system, and why things happen the way they do. I go to great lengths to educate my clients in the legal process. This is a necessary element of our shared decision making approach, in which the client takes and active participatory role in the direction of the case. HINT: In complicated cases, the process of discovery may take several months or more to complete, which can try the patience of one or both parties.
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