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Calendaring and docketing software assists lawyers manage files, tasks, deadlines and appointments surrounding cases & trials. Missing deadlines has serious legal consequences, having a transparent, collaborative and redundant such as backed up or duplicated, system in place to manage calendaring and docketing is an important part of a risk management strategy.
The tools automate a very manual and tedious process surrounding case file maintenance and management. A significant percentage of legal malpractice gives stem from calendar and docket issues as told by Data gathered by the American Bar Association (ABA). Together, the following add up to roughly 25 percent of malpractice claims:
These claims are hard to dispute. You either made a deadline or you didn’t. Any firm can’t afford to put themselves at risk for a malpractice suit from something easily preventable. Before brushing off the statement, over 440 legal malpractice claims in 2015 resulted in claimants receiving over $1 million dollars in payment by ABA’s study of Legal Malpractice Claims from 2012 to 2015. Many firms use calendaring and docketing software to provide early warnings and reminders of due dates for filings, court dates and case-related tasks to combat the risk and to create an audit trail for compliance and regulation review.
The dated index card is called a “tickler.” A due date on a tickler was used to simply remind the attorney to review a case and check on it’s status rather than completing a specific action item. On a recurring basis, office staff was responsible for reviewing the tickler box to ensure cards weren’t misfiled or hadn’t been overlooked. This was how firms handled files. There was a separate, but related, procedure for managing schedules for court appearances, appointments, and client meetings.
Docketing software assists firms in create an automated process to manage tasks, files and deadlines associated with cases and ensure reminders are set and schedules are accurate. Generally, one person or more, depending on the size of firm is responsible for inputting dates into the system for each case and assuring compliance with court rules and deadlines.
A person is responsible for managing calendars, both the individual calendars of the attorneys and shared calendars between the organisation. The person reviews faxes, email, mail, etc. for dates and deadlines and adds to the good schedule. The system acts to provide checks and reminders of impending due dates and case-related tasks. It provides attorney and office staff organized and audit ready, but it promotes a better attorney-client relationship. There are less mistakes as well as missed deadlines.
Calendaring and docketing software are available as best-of-breed solutions (BoB), or as an application within a bigger practice management suite. Firms looking for highly collaborative solutions should consider cloud-based tools as they’ll provide the highest degree of transparency and to-the-minute updates.
Maintaining strict rules and protocol with calendaring and docketing is important for risk management and permits compliance with regulations. Workflows dictating adds to tasks and due dates which are helpful with “read” receipts in the system for when the attorney receives them. There’s a saved history of auto-generated reminders for deadlines were sent out and when the task was completed with relevant documentation.
Expect to get the following capabilities to evaluate calendaring and docketing software:
Email integration : Integrating with common email platforms, having Microsoft Outlook and Gmail. Users create calendar events or tasks directly from email and give view appointments throughout the devices.
Task management : Reviewing cases and creating task lists encompassing action items to be completed by the attorney and firm staff and bringing the case to a close. Assigning to users and scheduling due dates. Saving task lists for easily loading workflows.
Calendar management : Viewing tasks, appointments, meetings and docketing items by day, week, month or year. Scheduling due dates in accordance with court rules. Filtering by attorney, case file or client. Linking related events and whether there is rescheduling, where due dates for related events will shift.
Document management : Uploading, sharing and attaching files to cases in a secure format. Using versioning to view and wherever necessary, restoring previous versions. Accessing controls to dictate who can access, change and help in sharing files.
Case management : Storing and retrieving case information having documents, contact information, tasks and schedules, in a centralized and easily searchable database. Checking for conflicts of interest and limitations.
Court rules/ rules-based scheduling : Importing court-specified due dates for different tasks relating to cases by jurisdiction from a database. Setting up rules for events or category for dates are auto-generated when event is selected.
Automatic reminders : Scheduling notifications for reminding assigned users of upcoming deadlines for case-related tasks. Setting up alerts with enough lead time so the task can be completed and logged.
Audit Trail : Saving a history of calendaring and docketing action-items, a history of reminders sent out about tasks and “read” receipts for tasks. The audit trail protecting firm and attorney in the event of a malpractice case and keeping users compliant with regulations.
Solo practice : Looking for email integration with task management, a shared calendar tool, and matter management.
Small practice : Everything that comes with solo attorney plus look for case management software including calendaring, docketing and document management.
Midsize practice : Everything for the small practice with time keeping and a legal billing solution.
Large law firm : Large law firms will require a comprehensive practice management software, geared toward their specific practice area.
Legal management software user report found that the number one function law firms automate with software is calendar and docketing. It’s not hard to see why based on the percentage of malpractice claims resulting from calendar and docket issues. Specific calendar and docket requires of firm may vary based on practice area. Common case-related calendar and docket tasks for various practice areas have:
Litigation: Court filings, court dates and appearances, discovery dates, pleading deadlines and opposing party deadlines.
Patent, copyright or trademark: Deadlines for dates of annuity, filing applications, and maintenance payments.
Real estate: Deadlines for loans, contracts, inspection dates, closing dates and notification dates.
Corporate/commercial: Annual meetings and deadlines for tax returns, regulatory filings and financial statements.