Successful civil litigation requires not only an understanding and appropriate application of the law, but also an ability to think on one’s feet. While television and movies will have you believe that litigators can craft compelling legal arguments on the fly, the truth is that there is a thorough amount of preparation that goes into civil litigation. It is this preparation that allows for effective litigation.

One major piece of this preparation is the subpoena power. A subpoena is a court-ordered demand for either one’s appearance in court or the production of documents. The former is the most commonly thought of. Here, an attorney subpoenas witnesses so that they are compelled to appear in court to testify, and if they don’t, then they will face penalties. Subpoenas for documents, known as a subpoena duces tecum, requires the subpoenaed party to provide documents and other tangible materials.

So why should subpoenas be utilized in civil litigation? To start, it ensures that critical witnesses will actually appear at trial or at a deposition. As important as that is, the issuance of subpoenas during the discovery process can be just as critical. Doing so can lead to the discovery of information that is crucial to one’s case. Documents such as reports, photographs, and even email correspondence can be obtained through subpoena, and so, too, can employee and other records.

Regardless of what type of legal action you find yourself in, the effective use of subpoenas can be a game-changer. This is why it is advisable to work with an experienced civil litigator who knows how to build persuasive legal claims that can stand up on appeal. Before settling on an attorney, though, you should carefully vet them to ensure that they really know the law as it pertains to your set of facts and understand how to utilize the law to your advantage.