Civil litigation is the process of resolving disputes between people and businesses through a formalized court oriented procedure. It starts with one party making a claim against another, proceeds to a summons and complaint and results in the service of court papers on the defendant. A defendant cannot ignore service as there is a risk of a judgment being entered without a trial if no one appears to defend the case.
Most cases never go to court; they are settled or dismissed. Before the parties can determine whether to settle and if so, for how much, they need to gather information about both their own case and the case of their opponent. That is accomplished through a process called discovery. The parties discover information through sworn interviews of the witnesses (depositions), questions that must be answered under oath (interrogatories), and inspections of property and documents (requests for production). This process can be time consuming and can involve significant expense.
If settlement does not occur, then the choice is either to go forward to trial or dismiss the case. Trials are not for the inexperienced. Trial lawyers need to have skills in presenting evidence, cross examining the witnesses who are on the other side, and presenting arguments about the facts and the law. Because so many cases do settle, it is the rare lawyer who has significant trial experience.