For those newbies entering litigation support from a position outside of the legal industry or from an IT position in a law firm, there can be a learning curve when it comes to “discovery” in litigation cases, also referred to as “the discovery phase” or “the discovery process”. “Discovery” is considered the pretrial phase of a litigation case, as in prior to a trial taking place.
The discovery process requires both parties to disclose information related to the case. The discovery process is controlled by the state and federal court rules. Below are the standard methods of gathering information.
Interrogatories are a finite list of questions sent to the other party that must be answered within a specific number of days.
Depositions are in-person question and answer meetings typically taken at a law office and the witness (deponent) is under oath to give truthful testimony. A court reporter records everything said and then provides a deposition transcript shortly thereafter. Excerpts from the deposition transcript may be used at trial.
Requests for Admission are sent to the other party which attempt to ask the other party to admit that certain statements (facts or allegations) are true. The other party may admit, deny or object to each request. The purpose of this process is to streamline the issues at trial. Any issues admitted to will eliminate the need to prove them at trial.
Requests for Production of Documents are sent to the other party demanding to see specific documents. Some of these documents will be stored in electronic form, thus the term “electronic discovery” was born. The exception to turning over specifically requested documents would be if the documents are deemed to be privileged. All of the documents collected from each client are reviewed by attorneys to decide whether the documents are responsive, non-responsive or privileged before they are produced to the other party.
Litigation Support professionals can work closely with the attorneys and paralegals during the discovery process assisting with any technology related issues and with the collection, review and production of electronic and hardcopy discovery documents.
If the parties in the litigation case do not come to some agreement, the case will go to trial. The majority of litigation cases are settled before trial.
There are exceptions to the methods mentioned above. Government investigations have slightly different requirements and criminal cases are handled somewhat differently.