CNA, the leading malpractice insurer for Louisiana lawyers, recently distributed to its insureds helpful advice on how to avoid missing court deadlines. See CNA You Missed a Deadline??? How to Avoid that Nightmare (Jan. 2022). According to CNA, “Substantial risk exists for law firms that fail to diligently monitor case dockets, read court orders and adhere to filing deadlines.” Id. at 3. Indeed, “one study revealed that 19% of legal malpractice claims are due to administrative errors including missed deadlines and/or calendaring errors.” Id.
Practice Tips to Ensure Lawyers Do Not Miss a Deadline
According to CNA, implementing the following risk management tools can help lawyers and law firms avoid the mistake of a missed deadline.
- Maintain a reliable calendar and backup calendar system.
- Implement a centralized calendar system which allows the entire team—from lawyers to support staff—to access important deadlines and events.
- Explore whether a system like an Outlook calendar is a sufficient calendaring system for the law firm or whether the law firm needs a case management software that automatically calculates and calendars deadlines.
- Consider a separate email account or inbox dedicated solely to court notifications to prevent court notices from getting lost among other emails.
- Ensure the separate email account or inbox is monitored daily if the law firm chooses to adopt the inbox dedicated to court notifications.
- Immediately calendar the statute of limitations upon intake of any new matter.
- Upon receipt of any scheduling order from any court, immediately calendar all upcoming deadlines during the engagement with the client.
- Synchronize the calendaring system among users and across devices, such as laptops and cellphones, and from any location.
- Employ a “tickler system” to remind the lawyer or law firm of important dates in advance of the actual deadline.
- Periodically check and confirm on the case docket that there is no activity of which the lawyer or law firm is unaware.
- Include vacation time and other non-billable events on the centralized calendar to assist team members in scheduling appropriate coverage for important events.
- Create and implement a plan for receiving and sending communications in paper formats, such as regular and certified mail, so that even lawyers working remotely receive notice of all important communications.
- Develop a method to follow up and confirm that the work due was completed.
- Establish and communicate the expectation that all lawyers and staff members are required to comply with the law firm’s calendaring and docketing system.
- Train the lawyers and staff on the proper implementation of the calendaring and docketing system, as well as the proper use of the docketing system.
Failure to properly record and meet deadlines can be disastrous for a lawyer and a law firm. Such failure can lead to malpractice claims against the firms as well as disciplinary complaints against individual lawyers. However, adopting and implementing these suggested risk management tools can assist lawyers and law firms from making the mistake of a missed deadline and a dissatisfied client.