Copy of Copy of 2020 Vision - Changing Bad Habits to Good Habits


This is probably one of those rare years in our lifetimes where every time we look at the year, we can always draw a positive connotation.  You see 2020, and you think to yourself, “perfect vision, clarity, clear view, balance.” You take those positive affirmations and try to apply them to your daily life.  It’s kind of like a new year’s resolution, only this year is better because 2020 lasts for 366 days (yep, this year is a leap year) and doesn’t fade away after three weeks like new year’s resolutions.

With that said, here are some common bad habits related to calendaring and docketing that we all can work on to make our practices better this year; avoid those embarrassing “sorry client, I made a mistake” calls or the “sorry it fell through the cracks-please don’t fire me” discussions.


DOCKETING – EVERYONE’S FAVORITE THING TO AVOID

Seriously, in today’s time, there is absolutely no reason why we are not calendaring events, hearing dates, stipulations, continuances, deposition dates, etcetera.  Between compliance, malpractice insurance requirements and a gazillion business productivity software and apps, there should be no reason to miss dates or forget to calendar dates in 2020.


Attorneys, after a court hearing, several things generally happen:

1) you leave the court room and talk to your clients about what just happened

2) you leave the courtroom to go to another courtroom for another hearing or

3) you head back to the office or to another appointment.


Your mind is racing a mile a minute because you either have to: explain to your client on the fly why what you just heard isn’t as bad as it seems (damage control); prepare for your next hearing while walking the halls, using the bathroom and riding the packed elevators to the next courtroom; or you are off to the next appointment.


Gone are the days of telling your legal assistants or paralegals, “I forgot to tell you this happened at the hearing, please calendar this.” Business productivity/calendaring apps have voice recognition built into it them. Just open the app and talk into it. Simple. Done. Forgetting to calendar a date is avoided.  Missed dates are no more.  There is no valid reason to say you cannot speak into your phone after a hearing and verbally calendar a new date, or worse, voice text your legal assistant or paralegal what just happened.  If you can demand lunch at 12:00 p.m. for five people, and it’s 11:55 a.m., then you can speak into your phone to calendar a date after a hearing.


Remember learning how to use emails on your firm’s blackberry before an app store or using your first iPhone to send an email to a client?  Yeah, you remember.  You’ve come a long away since those days, so it’s not that hard to spend a couple of seconds to add a new event to your calendar while it’s still fresh on your mind, or text your support staff to calendar a new date.  I mean seriously, what’s worse, explaining to your client you missed your opposition filing date, or explaining to your E&O, malpractice insurance carriers and your equity partners why you missed the opposition date and now you and the firm are getting sued?  I don’t know, but if it were me, I’d press the microphone button and tell Outlook to add a date to my calendar.


Legal assistants and paralegals, you are the backbone of your respective practices, and you’re not off the hook.  We all have calendar meetings; we all assist our attorneys prepare for their hearings, mediations, arbitrations, client meetings and depositions; we have access to their calendars and our own calendar.  You know what’s going on.  You know there are statutory deadlines and trigger dates. You know which hearing important and which hearing is not.  If you don’t hear from your respective attorneys after a hearing, you can send a quick email asking, “Did the Judge give you any dates?”  “Did the parties stipulate to anything or were there any continuances?” It’s also a CYA email so if your attorney forgets, you can forward that specific email saying, “I asked you about it.”


I can hear the excuses, complaints and feel the death stares as I write this.  “I have too much to do.” “I support too many attorneys.” “I’m in the middle of preparing for four trials, and I have no help.” I understand, I’ve lived it and continue to live it, but a couple of simple steps quashes all of those objections. Ok, bad joke, but understand where I’m going with this.


First, if you are responsible for calendaring any dates, you should create two reminders at the same time you are calendaring the event date.  The first reminder should be set a couple days before the event date.  Lord knows we never get told when something is off calendar, rescheduled or vacated.  This reminder puts your attorney on notice, reminds you or refreshes your memory about the event that is about to happen, and you can prepare for that event accordingly.


The second reminder should be set for a couple of hours after the event date.  This reminder is to say, “Hey you just came back from the hearing. Anything important I should know?” Again, this puts the attorney on notice and helps you remember that you need to follow up with your attorney.  Creating these reminders adds a couple of seconds to the calendar entry but can seriously avoid additional work and headaches in the future.


These calendaring tips apply to docket departments and any support staff using docketing software as well. There should be no reason why you or your firm is not using docketing software.  It’s part of the firm’s malpractice insurance requirements; it decreases malpractice insurance cost; it adds to firms’ and practice groups’ efficiency, and you should Google all the reasons that not using a docketing software is a bad idea.  It’s an industry standard and best practice.  Additionally, if your firm doesn’t want to pay for a docketing software because they’re fiscally responsible, *cough cough* cheap. I suggest you create a free account with smartdockets.com.  It’s a free online docketing software that will help you calendar events and trigger events to avoid manual counting. It just makes life easier if you are still in the dark ages still counting 75 days from a trial date as the last day to file and serve your Motion for Summary Judgement.  It also provides the corresponding CCPs and CRCs per event date.  It’s free, so don’t expect all the bells and whistles, but it’s a tremendous tool to know about and use.  So now there is no excuse to not use docketing software.


So let’s recap some habits we need to adopt:

  • Attorneys adding dates or important information to their calendars immediately after a hearing.

  • Legal assistants and paralegals should follow up with their attorneys after a hearing.

  • Add a reminder for a couple days before the event date.

  • Add a reminder for a couple of hours after the event date.

  • Become more efficient by using a docketing software, even a free software.

  • Minimize malpractice insurance cost by using docketing software.

  • Create better time management with docketing software.


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