Believe it or not, something as simple as missing deadlines is among the Top 10 reasons for legal malpractice claims. Remembering when something is due seems like such a simple task, but it's so simple that practitioners -- especially solos and small firms, who may not have dedicated support staff to monitor calendars -- often overlook it.
If you don't have a calendaring system, it's time to get one. If you do have one, it's time to do an audit to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Can you improve your calendaring system? Here are a few suggestions that may work for you:
1. Use One Calendar, Not a Bunch Everywhere.
Whatever method you use for calendaring, have just one calendar. Multiple electronic calendars -- having one calendar on your home computer and a separate one on your work computer -- will only ensure that at least one calendar is missing something. Use the power of The Cloud to create one calendar that you can access from all your devices. If you have other staff members, share this calendar with them.
2. Start Managing Your Time at the Beginning of a Case.
Here's the real tragedy: Most of the time, you know exactly when something is due. Court rules or statutory deadlines are fixed, or in the case of a proceeding with case management orders, the deadlines are provided. In other words, there are no surprises. As soon as you get the case, or you get the order, put a list of milestones in your calendar at the very beginning so that they're actually in your calendar. Successful case management involves a lot of this up-front work to make everything operate smoother.
3. Put Information in a Prominent Place.
It's not good enough to put everything in a calendar and then forget about it. When deadlines are months away, it's easy to lose track of when that brief is due. Consider making a list of deadlines and placing the list in a place of honor near your desk so that you don't have to flip through February and March in order to see the deadline in April: It's right there, starting you in the face every day.
4. Set Intrusive Reminders.
Just in case you need a Plan C, and you probably will, use your calendaring system to send you intrusive reminders at those times when things absolutely, positively have to be done. For example, two weeks before that motion is due, have your software email you to let you know; then have it send you the same reminder a week later. This will catch all of those "Oh, crap! I forgot about this!" situations.
5. Loop in Other People.
This doesn't necessarily work if you're a solo, but if you have at least one other legal employee, make that person aware of weekly and monthly deadlines as well. One person may be able to forget something, but two people? Well, they can still both forget something, but at least it will be less likely.