The Steps of a Litigation Timeline

If you’re waiting for your lawsuit to come to trial, you’re probably anxious to have it happen and look forward to it being done. Most people involved in litigation are doing it for the first time, and don’t know what to expect. We’ll look at a litigation timeline template to walk you through the steps.

The Road to Litigation and Discovery

While it’s preferable to try to negotiate and settle out of court, once the parties involved have exhausted what are called “administrative remedies,” the case moves forward. The plaintiff (person who is suing) files a complaint, and the defendant must return a “responsive pleading,” which is either an answer (essentially a counter-argument to allegations), or a motion to dismiss. A judge will evaluate the responsive pleading and determine if the case can and should move forward.

The next step in a litigation timeline template is discovery, in which information is exchanged between legal counsel for both parties. The goal is to have both sides working with the same details and avoid surprises.

Motions for Summary Judgement and Dispositive Motions

After discovery, either side has another opportunity to try to get the case dismissed. This is done with dispositive motions, most commonly, a motion for summary judgment. A judge can only grant a summary judgment if the facts in the case are not in question. If there are different accounts of events (a “he said, she said” situation, for example) the case must go to trial.

Pre-Trial Order

If your lawsuit moves to trial the last step before it begins in a litigation timeline template is the pre-trial order, in which sides must list witnesses and evidence.


Your trial may be a jury trial or a bench trial (before a judge only.) Attorneys will make opening statements, cross-examine witnesses, and make closing statements, leaving the decision in the hands of the jury or judge.