This is the longest stage of the legal process and the most work. In discovery, each party involved may use various legal tools for finding evidence, including written questions (called interrogatories) requiring written answers, requesting documents (called requests for production of documents), and taking depositions. Depositions are out-of-court questioning of witnesses who must appear at an agreed-upon time and location (usually a lawyer’s office) to be questioned under oath. The questions and answers are recorded by a court reporter. The witness is allowed to have an attorney present to object to certain questions.
During discovery, parties may ask for things not strictly related to the legal claims. Depending on the type of case, the other side could be allowed to gather information about your school records, social media accounts, text messages, emails and private correspondence, or diaries. Other witnesses – including friends, family, co-workers, or neighbors – could be asked about information relating to the lawsuit.
Of course, not everything about your life will be available to the other side. Some information is protected (“privileged”). For example, conversations between lawyer and client or priest and minister can be protected. It is forbidden to hide evidence during discovery, so your lawyer needs your help in finding all the information that’s asked for. If a party refuses to provide information, the court may impose a “sanction,” or punishment.
Your responsibilities: Tell your lawyer(s) about all the facts, produce documents or physical evidence, and prepare for and testify truthfully at your deposition if one is requested. Keep information about the lawsuit confidential and don’t share information with friends or family or post anything on social media.