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!


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.