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Guides and Worksheets For Lawsuits

Whether you have an attorney or represent yourself, you should learn as much as possible about the litigation process. You can help your lawyer with your case if you have legal representation. If you are managing your case, you need all the information you can get.

Self-help centers and free legal service websites have a wealth of information, including legal guides. FindLaw's Lawsuit Help and Resources section has worksheets that help you focus on your case and simplify a mass of documents and legal jargon into something manageable.

Finding Legal Assistance

If you enter "where can I find a lawyer" into your search engine, hundreds of pages of "attorneys near you" will appear. How can you sort them out and decide which lawyer you need?

It helps to know the type of case you have. A criminal case can be anything from a DUI to a murder charge. If you're facing jail time or a prison sentence, you need a criminal law attorney. Everything else is a civil case. There are many kinds of civil attorneys, so your next step is deciding what kind of civil lawsuit you're involved with.

A good attorney referral site is your state bar association website. It lists attorneys by location and practice area. You can also find out if an attorney has faced discipline before you hire them.

Free legal websites like FindLaw have guides for narrowing your search and finding legal aid. These guides explain how to evaluate an attorney, give you a list of questions to ask when you meet, and types of fee agreements to expect.

Other Types of Legal Representation

You may represent yourself if you don't want an attorney or can't afford one. "Self-represented" or "pro se" litigants are common in family law cases and small claims courts, which often don't allow attorney representation. Most courts have self-help centers at the courthouse and online, where downloadable court forms are available for non-lawyers. Court staff can help you complete the forms and file them.

Other legal professionals, such as paralegals, legal assistants, and court clerks, can help you understand civil procedure in general terms and help you fill out your forms. They can't give you legal information. Only a licensed attorney can tell you how to manage your case.

Using Legal Worksheets

Legal guides can help you understand the legal system and procedures, whether you have an attorney or not. If you have an attorney, you can ask what all the jargon means. If not, these guides and worksheets can help you prepare for your court case by explaining things in an understandable format.

Depositions

deposition is witness testimony before trial. It can clarify witness statements and get testimony on the record. You can enter the transcripts as evidence if a witness can't appear. Depositions are helpful if you have difficulty answering questions under pressure. Your attorney may schedule a deposition as practice before the real thing.

A deposition worksheet helps prepare for questions from opposing counsel. You can also use it to practice asking and answering questions from your attorney so you answer correctly.

Subpoenas

subpoena is a legal order telling someone or something to appear in court. People, documents, and things can all be the subjects of subpoenas. You or your attorney can subpoena witnesses, medical records, and other information.

You must send a document request, or "subpoena duces tecum," to the right person. Some states have different timelines for requesting documents and public records, and you may need legal help in these cases.

Settlement Worksheets

In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff and the defendant should prepare for settlement negotiations. To properly negotiate, settlement worksheets help you understand what you're suing for (or why you're getting sued) and your position in the case.

Defendant's worksheets compare what the plaintiff is asking for with what the defendant thinks is reasonable. This puts the defendant in the plaintiff's shoes and puts numbers on the entire claim.

Plaintiff's worksheets ask the plaintiff to consider the extra costs of attorney's fees and trial and whether the monetary return from a trial award is worth those costs.

Settlement worksheets can help both parties face settlement realistically without overblown ideas of what a jury trial may do.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

In many civil litigation cases, such as small claims and personal injury, judges may send parties to mediation before ruling on a case. Contract cases often have an arbitration clause built into the contract itself. Mediation worksheets help you organize your thoughts and facts in the case before entering a third-party negotiation.

Mediation is a low-cost method of resolving cases where there is no issue of fact, and the parties want to avoid litigation.

Consult an Experienced Attorney

If you are getting sued or have a pending criminal case, you may need an experienced attorney. Attorneys spend several years in law school learning how to handle legal issues and are there to help when needed.

If you go online or use a free legal clinic, you take the chance that the information is outdated, irrelevant in your state, or just plain wrong. Not every "legal" site is a good one. Talk with an attorney if you're unsure about the data or it doesn't make sense.

Visit FindLaw's Attorney Search Page to find the lawyer in your area who can give you the legal advice you need.

Learn About Litigation Resources

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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