The Illinois Commercial Litigation Process

The Illinois Commercial Litigation Process Explained

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 26, 2019

In this article, we explain the Illinois commercial litigation process. Our Illinois commercial litigation lawyers address the following:

  • What is commercial litigation in Illinois?
  • What are some examples of Illinois commercial litigation?
  • What are the steps in the commercial litigation process?
  • How long can a commercial lawsuit last in Illinois?
  • Can a business represent themselves in an Illinois commercial lawsuit?

What is commercial litigation in Illinois?

Commercial litigation refers to any type of dispute that comes about in a business context. This could include lawsuits against companies, partnerships, or individuals, or brought by companies, partnerships, or individuals. If any type of business entity is involved on either side of a lawsuit, it’s considered a commercial litigation.

What are some examples of Illinois commercial litigation?

With over 1.2 million small businesses, Illinois courts see a wide variety of commercial litigation cases. The most common cases involve breaches of contract, partnership disputes, copyright and licensing infringement, shareholder issues, fraud and misrepresentation, and class actions. 

What are the steps in the commercial litigation process?

Every instance of commercial litigation is unique and it’s impossible to say exactly what your process will look like. But the following steps should provide a comprehensive outline of a typical commercial litigation process in Illinois.


  • Complaint is filed — The petitioner, or plaintiff, files a complaint against the respondent, or defendant. The plaintiff must give notice of the suit to the defendant in the form of a summons.
  • Defendant answers — The defendant answers the complaint, either admitting or denying any factual allegations brought forth. If a complaint is not proper for any reason, an attorney can file a motion to dismiss. A defendant may also counterclaim at this time.
  • Discovery phase begins — The discovery phase of litigation refers to the time both parties spend before trial becoming familiar and educated about the case. This could include document requests and subpoenas, interrogatories, depositions, and requests to admit.
  • Settlement is attempted — After the discovery phase, both parties may try to resolve disputed questions of fact before going to trial. Most commercial litigation cases are settled before trial. In commercial litigation, settling is often more affordable, for both bank accounts and brand reputations, than a lengthy and public trial.
  • Trial begins — If parties are unable or unwilling to settle, the trial procedure will begin. This includes jury selection, opening statements, admission of evidence, presentation of plaintiff and defendant cases, closing arguments, and verdict and judgement.

How long can a commercial lawsuit last in Illinois?

Concluding a commercial lawsuit is typically a slow process. It’s not uncommon for a year or longer to go by between the filing of a complaint and the first day of trial. Depending on the depth and severity of the initial complaint, a trial can last anywhere between several days and several months. A verdict can also be appealed and lengthen the litigation process even more. The best way to speed up a commercial lawsuit is to settle before going to trial.

Can a corporation represent itself in an Illinois commercial lawsuit?

Illinois law prohibits a corporation from representing itself without an attorney in a commercial litigation trial. It’s advisable that businesses, no matter the size or nature of their case, work with an experienced Illinois commercial litigation attorney.


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What is commercial litigation in Illinois?

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