Pre-lit, short for pre-litigation, is a subspecialty of the litigation practice area. It consists of all action taken on behalf of a potential plaintiff or a potential defendant before a complaint or petition is filed with the trial court. Successful pre-litigation action—such as early settlement—is advantageous to both parties in a controversy, as it saves both the time and the monetary cost of court intervention.
Role of a Paralegal
A paralegal has many duties in the pre-litigation process. Some are ongoing duties that serve as background information or templates for future litigation cases. Others are case-specific and done on a case-by-case basis. Pre-litigation duties are more common in a plaintiff-oriented practice than a defense-oriented practice, but there may be pre-litigation duties to be performed on a potential defendant’s behalf as well.
Initial Client Interview
A pre-litigation paralegal has duties before, during and after the initial client interview. In preparation for the initial client interview, a paralegal may be called upon to conduct legal research to identify issues, make scheduling arrangements, develop an interview questionnaire or checklist, and gather necessary forms and documents. During the initial client interview, a paralegal may assist her attorney and take notes. Following the initial client interview, a paralegal may be asked to prepare narrative summary of the interview.
A paralegal may assist in both fact investigation and analysis and background investigation of parties and witnesses. Preliminary investigation may also include interviewing witnesses, including obtaining affidavits or written statements. A pre-litigation paralegal may also be called upon to obtain, review, organize and analyze available documentation and information supporting the client's claim.
Preliminary research includes investigating corporate background to determine proper parties, statutory agents and officers; determining appropriate jurisdiction; conducting conflict of interest checks; and reviewing and summarizing rules of procedure in the court in which the action will be filed.
A demand letter is correspondence from a claimant or potential plaintiff to a potential defendant, stating the claimant’s version of the facts in dispute and making a claim for monetary or other compensation to resolve it. A pre-litigation paralegal may be asked to prepare a demand letter on behalf of a potential plaintiff or a response to a demand letter on behalf of a potential defendant.
General Non-Case-Specific Duties
General, non-case-specific duties that may be assigned to a pre-litigation paralegal may include maintaining a library or database of current court rules; collecting, organizing and maintaining form files of pleadings, motions, etc.; tracking and reporting pending legislation or case law that may affect clients in a particular practice area; and reviewing legal periodicals and news feeds relevant to specialty litigation areas.
- “Civil Litigation, 5th Edition”; Peggy Kerley, Joanne Banker Hames, Paul Sukys; 2009
- “The Litigation Paralegal: A Systems Approach, 5th Edition”; James W. H. McCord; 2008
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations Paralegal Responsibilities: Litigation
- Nolo: Plain-English Law Dictionary: Demand Letter
- Photo Credit Legal Law Justice image by Stacey Alexander from Fotolia.com
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