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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Calendaring Your Discovery Plan
- Should You Be Using Client Intake Forms?
- A Client Shouldn’t Be Just a Number to You, Except in Your Filing System
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