Pencil It in: Finding the Right Legal-Calendaring System for Your Firm
Organization is part of the job
Time is money, and this is particularly true when you’re a practicing attorney. Being organized and efficient is essential to scheduling your days for maximum productivity, and professionalism and punctuality go hand-in-hand when dealing with both clients and judges. Organizing your day, meeting deadlines, and allotting the appropriate amount of time for each task is not only a form of risk management but it also helps reduce stress and confusion.
Technology has a wide variety of options to assist you in streamlining your schedule; legal calendaring tools can improve your workflow, protect your reputation, and increase client satisfaction. Find the right calendar management tool for your practice by assessing key features, and understanding which tools are the most compatible with your firm’s scheduling needs.
Save the day
Missing deadlines is one of the most common reasons attorneys find themselves involved in legal malpractice cases, so maintaining a constantly updated calendar is about more than just simple etiquette or day planning. The consequences of a missed court deadline can be severe, and it’s easy to make a scheduling error. Court dates must be accurately determined as soon as a matter goes before the court, which can involve internet searches or phone calls and can change based on extenuating circumstances.
The calendaring process is a challenge for firms of all sizes; large firms have more work to coordinate between multiple attorneys, often practicing in different areas. Small firms often have less staff and more limited resources.
There are a lot of options when it comes to maintaining a calendar – from a simple desk blotter and day planners to sophisticated rules-based legal calendaring software that estimates court dates and tracks schedules. The three most popular categories include:
- Paper calendars: Although it’s inexpensive and requires no training, a paper scheduling method isn’t recommended unless you’re a technophobe. Not only does it require more manpower, but there are also no options to sync, share, or create reminders. If you are the type that remembers and understands more if you write it down, keep a paper day planner as a back-up to your digital scheduling tool.
- General online or software-based calendars: Commonly used calendars like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar are friendly for both budgets and users. The learning curve is low but since these products weren’t specifically designed for legal work, the time investment is high since someone has to be in charge of determining initial court dates and must input that data manually which leaves room for oversight or error.
- Legal calendaring programs: There are numerous advantages to utilizing software specifically designed for the legal industry. Rules-based calendaring systems offer helpful features such as built-in court rules databases and keep track of things like holiday schedules, which makes it easier to calculate court dates with accuracy. However, this is the most expensive option so make sure you choose an option that makes you feel as if you’re getting your money’s worth.
Check all boxes
Because of the importance of maintaining an accurate calendar and the potential consequences for failing to do so, there’s a lot to consider before committing to a system.
First and most important, who is in charge of maintaining the calendar? Responsibilities and workflow need to be clearly defined due to all the different moving parts. Decide who submits the information, who researches the initial deadlines, and who inputs and edits the information. Scheduling needs to be a standardized process that can be easily reassigned if the employee in charge leaves the firm.
Another consideration is how the master calendar will be viewable to all and what options are available to back it up in case the data is lost or inaccessible. A cloud-based service allows all attorneys and employees to view the calendar on their own device, and provides an off-site backup. Look into filtering options so that each can prioritize the dates that are relevant to them personally.
If using a legal-based calendaring system, examine how specific it is to your actual work. Will it include all jurisdictions and practice areas that your firm specializes in? Does it allow options that will help streamline invoicing and managing client information databases?
Making major changes to the way your firm handles scheduling may seem like an overwhelming and risky endeavor. However, the alternative of continuing with a system that’s not efficient or all-encompassing is equally daunting. With the right technology and workflow, your practice can reduce the time spent on calendar management, along with the inherent risk of scheduling mistakes, and devote your time to doing good work.
Looking for more technology tips and tricks to make your job easier? Check the Boss Reporting Blog and upgrade your practice.