New Lawyers Practice of Law Starting a Law Practice

It’s Time to Review Your Calendaring System

Missed deadlines caused by failure to properly calendar matters are the most significant cause of malpractice claims against attorneys. Without a good docket control system, even the most knowledgeable practitioner may miss a deadline or not have enough time to properly prepare. Is your system up to the task?

A basic calendaring and docket control system should have these three components:

  1. A master calendar. All activity associated with client matters is entered on the master calendar that includes all deadlines, court appearances, and other dates associated with litigation, such as statute of limitations filing deadlines (entered in red or another bright color); due dates for filing pleadings or other documents; discovery deadlines and due dates; and expiration dates for judgments requiring renewal. There should be only one master calendar for the entire office. It’s very important that a specific individual be designated to calendar matters in the master calendar. Each attorney should also review dates calendared and add any necessary additional dates.
  2. Secondary calendars. Each attorney should have a secondary calendar that he or she reviews daily and updates with his or her matters that have been added to the master calendar. The attorney may also include appointments and other professional matters requiring attention. As the name implies, a secondary calendar serves as a backup to the master calendar and allows the individual attorney to focus on matters for which he or she is responsible.
  3. A “tickler” system. There should also be a “tickler” system that’s tied to the master calendar that gives those responsible for specific tasks adequate time to perform them. It should also be designed to ensure that files are reviewed on a regular basis so that no file or required task is overlooked. Some law offices also use the tickler system to remind the attorney responsible to report regularly to clients on the progress of the case.

Not only is a good docket control system important to avoiding serious losses to your clients, but it will give you substantial peace of mind. You can get even more peace of mind by following the guidance on many other office procedures in CEB’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial, chap 1.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

3 replies on “It’s Time to Review Your Calendaring System”

For solo/small firm attorneys, missed deadlines often occur when you briefly defer writing down the due date and then forget about it minutes later. Whether you used GTD or just a piece of paper, I’ve learned to IMMEDIATELY write down a calendar date as soon as I learn of it. If I wait two minutes, I’ll likely forget about it. Learn how to use Google Calendar or more powerful systems like Omnifocus to immediately calendar the actual date and a reminder date X days ahead of time.

Learn how to calculate “days between dates”. Many court websites will now do this for you or just use (one of many websites that will help you calculate “X days before hearing” or “X days between Date A and Date B”.

If it’s a hearing, make sure to properly calendar 1) hearing date; 2) date your papers must be on file; 3) date your papers must be served. It’s amazing to me how many experienced attorneys still don’t understand how to add the correct number of extra days for service of papers under the CCP. CEB has courses and books on this. Learn how service days work, develop a simple system that you can stick with and then stick with it. When you (inevitably) miss a calendared item, figure out why that happened and resolve to never let it happen again.

I just finished a 2-week construction law trial with a very experienced opposing counsel who missed numerous critical deadlines and never seemed to learn from his mistakes. He lost a Motion for Summary Judgment because he screwed up the service dates and put his documents into a FedEx box one day later than he should have. If he had just taken off 1-2 days and learned how to use Google Calendar and how the CCP calculates service dates, his client would have been a lot better off.

Thanks very much for this advice, Brian. And for the cautionary tale your recent opposing counsel provides.

Add your comment to the blog post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s