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The Trick for Missing Fewer Court Deadlines

Compensation and Performance TrackingLaw Firm OperationsMatter Management
lawyer writing while in a courtroom
 
With organizations’ workforces spread across various locations – homes, offices, and remote settings – strengthening relationships between employers and employees has become an even greater priority.
 

For attorneys, missing a deadline is no laughing matter. Depending on the jurisdiction, rules and the judge, sanctions might be a stern admonishment by the judge, an order to pay some or all the attorneys’ fees incurred by the opposing party or, worst case, dismissal of a party’s lawsuit. If you practice in more than one jurisdiction, the rules may differ, making date tracking even more complex.

A recent Google search for “time management skills for attorneys” brought no fewer than 26.5 million hits! So, it’s clear – if you have occasional trouble tracking court deadlines, you are not alone. It’s easy to imagine that those searches are performed by attorneys who have recently suffered the pain of missing a court deadline for a filing or hearing or responding to a complaint.

Missed deadlines are the leading cause of legal malpractice suits – often stemming from procrastination, failure to accurately calculate and track deadlines or failure to properly mark deadlines in calendars, according to the American Bar Association.

 
Read our recent article on Attorney at Work: The Clock is Ticking: How to Miss Fewer Court Deadlines.
 

Most courts maintain a schedule for submission of new rules and changes to existing rules. Most states implement rule changes in batches, two or four times per year. As a result, lawyers and law clerks face a constant stream of changing processes with deadlines that often involve date calculations.

Common pitfalls on calendaring and date tracking:

  • Statute of limitation for filing a case
  • Deadlines for filing motions
  • Reserving time to prepare for scheduled hearings
  • Deadlines for production of documents in litigation discovery or responding to a summary judgment

The pandemic-driven economic shutdown made the tough job of calendaring and meeting deadlines even more difficult, as courts in many jurisdictions closed some services, thereby preventing lawyers from filing papers at a courthouse or appearing in person for a court date. In many cases, courts made special orders to allow filing extensions and court date rescheduling or to extend restraining orders. The complexity of managing a growing client base and increasing volume of cases – sometimes in multiple jurisdictions – is one of the biggest time management challenges for law firms.

It can happen to anyone. Don’t let it happen to you.

lawyer using a cloud-based legal practice management system to keep track of court datesWe have learned that missed deadlines happen because legal teams are forced to rely on manual and unwieldy processes for keeping their calendars up to date. Sometimes we fail to plug in a calendar reminder. Sometimes the due date is miscalculated because of the convoluted rules for date calculations. Sometimes the deadline alerts come across as cell phone reminders, but they don’t automatically end up on the firm’s calendar. When processes for gathering rules and deadlines and moving them into the calendar are manual tasks, they are prone to error, despite our best efforts.

The solution: integrated court rules

Your law firm runs on rules. Your calendar should, too.

While common firm communication options including shared calendars, smartphone access, virtual meetings and automated alerts from practice management software have eased the problem to an extent, there is another useful tool that largely mitigates risk of missed deadlines, is easy to implement and is available to your firm right now: rules-based calendaring systems.

  • Rules-based calendaring systems are accurate, updated immediately and available for your jurisdiction.
  • Automatic scheduling of appearances, tasks and deadlines saves time and reduces errors.
  • As easy to use as adding one event to the calendar, the key benefit is timelines and date calculations are performed quickly and accurately.
  • Rescheduling is handled seamlessly with a ripple effect through all dependent events and alerts.
  • Instant changes are available globally, whether on a PC, smartphone, tablet, email or text.
  • The value of rules-based calendaring systems has been proven by a discount on most malpractice insurance premiums.

By optimizing your legal calendaring with rules-based calendaring systems, you can automatically schedule court deadlines and secure peace of mind.

Rules-based calendaring tools automatically apply mandatory court procedures and statutory deadlines based on the jurisdictionally appropriate federal, state and/or local court rules to the tasks, appearances and due dates of a particular case. There’s no need to manually calculate and enter every deadline for a litigation matter. Instead, rules-based calendaring systems do this complex work for you and will likewise automatically recalculate deadlines if, and when, key due dates change. Each attorney and paralegal’s calendar synchronizes with the respective tasks and deadlines so that single points of failure are eliminated and nothing falls through the cracks.

As court rules change, the latest effective rules are automatically updated in the system, eliminating the hours legal staff spend researching and deciphering rules changes and editing their case files and calendars. Using these workflow tools not only lowers the risk of malpractice, but also provides peace of mind, increases productivity and enables firms to become more competitive.

Reduce your risk – and your stress level

Missing an important deadline is stressful, embarrassing and can be costly for a firm. In many cases this happens due to data entry errors, failing to accurately put deadlines on a calendar or procrastination. A simple fix to avoid missing events like court appearances or filing dates is adopting an automated calendaring system.

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