Taking a case to court can be a complicated, costly and time-consuming process. That’s why when it comes to civil disputes, it is often worth the effort to try and reach an agreement / settlement outside the courtroom since that is often the most efficient and economical solution. Yet there are times when a matter cannot be settled and moving forward with legal proceedings is the only option. So when you start the litigation process — either as the plaintiff or defendant — what can you expect?

A civil lawsuit is commonly the result of at least two parties being unable to resolve a legal disagreement. In general, civil proceedings follow along the lines of a process that often includes the following steps:

Letter of demand. The initial step is usually a demand that the other party pays money or agrees to a course of action. When the demand goes unsatisfied the next step is formal pleadings.

Pleadings. During this stage, one party (the plaintiff) files a complaint against another party (the defendant). This document outlines the legal basis behind the complaint/grievance and often seeks damages, interest and costs. In response, the defendant typically files a defence, setting out their reasons for disagreeing with the claim.

Discovery. This is the information gathering stage of the trial and is often the most expensive and time consuming. All relevant evidence is sought, with each party requesting various documents, including contracts, emails and the like. Inspection follows and then production of the documents unless there are privilege issues that need to be resolved by motion.

Motions. In the period before a hearing date is set there are often motions to be dealt with. For example, if a defendant can prove that the case brought against them is unsubstantiated, they may file a motion to dismiss the case. Other motions that can sometimes be filed include motions for security for costs and to adjourn etc.

Trial. The trial itself is when both parties, usually by and through their lawyers, make their case before the judge. Starting with the plaintiff, each side calls witnesses, presents evidence and summarizes their case. Once completed and reviewed, a ruling is made and judgment is handed down. If the judge finds for the plaintiff, a judgment is made against the defendant and damages is usually awarded. If the court finds against the plaintiff, there is a judgment for the defendant and costs may be awarded against the plaintiff.

Appeal. A ruling or judgment is not always final. When a party considers that the judgment is incorrect, and there are grounds for appealing, then there may be another round in a higher court.

Each step in the litigation process is complex, and can be overwhelming without legal help and advice. Even a minor misstep can have serious consequences. That is why it is important to seek out competent help. At Litigant, are focus is commercial litigation and we bring years of knowledge and experience to the problem where we are focused on solutions. So if you find yourself facing litigation, feel free to call us at +61 2 9199 4530 to book a consultation.


We are sydney litigation lawyers. We help with: making or responding to a letter of demand (or a without prejudice offer), documenting a Deed of Settlement, getting or opposing an injunction or taking a matter to trial. We handle different cases such as breach of contract, remove a caveatproperty disputes and others. Call us on T: +61 2 9199 4530 to discuss your options.