Basics of Civil Litigation

Basics of Civil Litigation


Welcome to Lawshelf’s video-course on the basics of civil litigation. This video-course is a survey of the civil litigation process, from the filing through appeals, though the discovery process is left for our video-courses in discovery.

This is an introductory level course and no prior knowledge of law or the litigation process is required.

The course starts with an overview of the American court system, both on the state and federal levels. We’ll go over the separate systems, their roles and where they interact. We’ll also focus on the roles of the Supreme Court as the top of both systems for federal and constitutional issues. We also look at the questions of which courts to file in and which laws to apply – the questions of jurisdiction, venue and choice of law.

In module 2, we look at the pleadings: the complaint, answer, counterclaim, crossclaim, etc. We’ll examine the requirements of each of these documents and their elements. We’ll also look at the various types of motions that might be filed in response to pleadings.

Module 3 focuses on pre-trial practice. We’ll look at joinder of parties and joinder of claims. We’ll also look at the preclusion doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, on which basis cases or claims can be dismissed as having been already litigated. We’ll look at class action lawsuits and their requirements. We’ll also focus on the filing, the summons and the service of process requirements to start a civil action. Finally, we’ll discuss impleaders and interpleaders, two other types of civil complaints.

Module 4 covers the trial process. We’ll focus on trial by jury and on the standards of proof and upon whom the burdens of proof rest. We’ll also go through the trial process itself, highlighting the federal rules that govern each step.

In the last module, we’ll look at the post-trial process. We’ll start with the motions that can be filed after the judgment, including motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, for new trial and for relief from judgment. Then, we’ll turn to the next step for a losing party: the appeal. We’ll use the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure as the basis for our discussion of this process. Finally, we’ll briefly look at the execution and collection of judgments, though those are covered in more detail in other courses.

We hope that this course will be a springboard to allow you to take more specific LawShelf video-courses that cover the litigation process and that this survey will help you understand the American civil litigation process.

Best of luck and we welcome your feedback!

What is a video-course?

A LawShelf video-course is an in-depth series of presentations on a discreet legal topic. LawShelf video-courses focus on practical legal information and applications and are each designed to familiarize the viewer with a legal topic quickly and efficiently.

Who should take a video-course?

Our video courses are designed for professionals such as attorneys, paralegals, corporate officers and financial professionals, as well as laypeople looking to deepen their knowledge of particular areas of law. The courses allow you to acquire the specific knowledge and skills that you need without the expense and time commitment of going “back to school” for a degree. 

How do I learn?

Video courses are divided into 5 or 6 modules.  Each module contains a video lesson (usually about 15 minutes long) and a series of self-test questions that you can use to practice and make sure that you understand the material.

How do I complete a video-course?

To complete a video-course, you must pass a 10-question multiple-choice examination by scoring 70% or higher.  The questions on the exam are randomly selected from the self-test question sets for the various modules. You can retake an exam as many times as you need to, though you will not get the same questions each time since the questions are drawn from an exam bank.

How long will it take me to complete a video-course?

Between watching the modules, doing the self-test practice questions, reviewing the material and taking the final exam, we estimate that completing a video-course requires a time investment of 4-5 hours.  The courses are designed to get straight to the point. We’re cognizant that your time is valuable, and we condense the information you need to know to comprehensively cover a subject into as little time as practical.

Is there limit to how many video-courses I can take or complete?

No. A LawShelf subscription enables you to access any and all LawShelf content, including all video-courses. You can take courses as quickly or slowly as your time allows.

Do I receive any recognition for completing a video-course?

Once you complete the course by passing the final exam, you will be awarded a digital badge to display as evidence of your training and accomplishment.

How will a digital badge help me? 

Modern educational trends are moving away from traditional classroom-based course completion models and towards skills-based education. Employers today care more about skills than ever before. LawShelf digital badges conform to the Open Badge standard and are verifiable records of your skills that can easily be shared online.

How long do I retain access to the course materials?

You retain access the modules and take the final exam as long as you are a subscriber to LawShelf.

The American Court System - Module 1 of 5

Pleadings and Motions - Module 2 of 5

Pre-Trial Practice-Module 3 of 5

Trials and Judgements - Module 4 of 5

Post Judgement Actions - Module 5 of 5

Final Exam only needs to be taken by those seeking to earn the Digital Badge credentials for this course.