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How long will my case take?

"How long will my case take?" is a question every attorney hears from his or her client.  The answer to how long it will take is never a definite one.  From the point a case is filed with the court to the point of completion, hopefully in a settlement or verdict favorable to the client, depends on the facts of the case.  Each case is unique therefore it is often hard to put an estimate on a timetable for such things.  There are specific time periods on which a person can file a legal action, known as statutes of limitations.  The time it takes a filed case to work its way through the legal system, however, does not fit as neatly into a specific time frame.

The first thing to remember is that the court system is very busy.  It takes time to find a day free in the court's calendar for each case.  Additionally, once a complaint is filed there are often numerous motions and pre-trial hearings that take place before a trial date can be scheduled.  These motions and hearings each require a free time slot in the judge's calendar (think more delays).  Further, before a trial can take place both sides of the action need adequate time to conduct discovery (fact and evidence gathering).  Discovery deadlines are sometimes given by the court but extensions are often freely granted.

If after the pre-trial hearings and discovery a settlement is not reached, then a trial must be scheduled.  The court's trial calendar is often booked weeks or months ahead of time.  Then the trial itself can last days, weeks, or if the matter is complex--months.

Attorneys work hard to make sure the client's case moves through the system efficiently but some things are beyond the control of the attorney.  Time is needed for case preparation and time is needed for the scheduling.

Source:  "Why Do Legal Cases Take So Long?" by Christopher Coble, Esq. 

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