Why do I have to answer all these questions?
Why are they asking for all these documents? Do we really have to give them over?
Are we going to ask a bunch of questions too?
As a paralegal, I sometimes get questions from clients along the lines of what you see above. I can understand the confusion–the Written Discovery process is not an aspect of law you see on TV or in the movies, and it may seem counter-intuitive to a person in the middle of a legal dispute.
However, Discovery is a very important process and crucial to moving a case forward.
During the Written Discovery phase, each party exchanges a list of questions, called Interrogatories, and a list of Requests for Production of Documents. These questions and requests are designed to allow the other party to see the full picture of the case, so that each side can have a full understanding as to what is at stake, what the facts of the case are, and the strength of each side’s arguments.
Litigation, from a client’s first contact with an attorney through to completion of trial, can, as most people know, become extremely costly. This is why it is so important for the parties to be open and up front with their responses to Written Discovery. It can greatly impact the next steps in a case. Depending on the information exchanged, a party may become more amenable to settlement negotiations, which can save thousands of dollars as a trial is avoided. Even if settlement does not occur after the Discovery process, and the case does move forward to trial, it is important that each side has a clear understanding of the nature of the case, so that they can more fully form their arguments and be able to prepare for trial fully informed and competent.
So what can clients do to help speed this process along? The first thing any attorney or paralegal will tell you is to always be open and up front with your counsel. Answer his or her questions honestly, and do your best to locate documents the other side has requested for production in a timely manner. Your attorney will determine whether or not an Interrogatory or Request for Production of Documents should be objected to. In the meantime, even though you may not want to answer the questions of the opposing party, it’s important that you cooperate with your attorney, who is working hard in your best interests.
Rest assured, before the responses are sent to the other side, you will have the chance to review everything and discuss any concerns you may have with your attorney. And, the opposing side will have the same obligation to answer questions and produce documents to you.
If you have any questions during the Discovery process, I encourage you to discuss them with your attorney or their paralegal. We are here to help you and are invested in a positive outcome for you and your case!