According to the American Bar Association (“ABA”), roughly 13% of malpractice claim errors are related to improper calendaring (See The Most Common Legal Malpractice Claims by Types of Alleged Error). If you’ve worked as a paralegal for very long you have almost certainly missed a deadline and your boss has probably missed a hearing or two as well. It happens. But it doesn’t have to. Good calendar management takes the right calendaring software and a proven system for tracking appointments, deadlines, and court appearances – and you can have both by the end of the day!
Calendaring Solutions for Law Offices
When it comes to calendar platforms, there is certainly no lack of available options; from Microsoft to Google to software made just for law firms, the choices can be overwhelming. However, one of the following five platforms should do the trick for most offices without breaking the bank.
1. Pen and Paper. While it may seem a bit archaic, there is something to be said for a good old-fashioned over sized desk calendar. This obviously would not work well in a large law firm or for an attorney who attends court frequently, but for a solo practitioner who has one paralegal and not very many court appearance, it can work beautifully and is very inexpensive. You can share one calendar or match up individual calendars throughout the day.
2. Google Calendars. Google allows users to create several different calendars, share them with others, set reminders, color code events, invite guests, and sync calendars with mobile devices. The service is free and only requires a Google account and internet access. There are a couple of problems that you might encounter using Google Calendars however, including client privacy issues and the requirement of internet access. Since information entered on Google Calendars stores appointment information online, it is subject to hacking, so you will need to be careful what type of information you include along with each scheduled appointment. Also, if you find your office without internet access, even for a little while, it can be quite inconvenient, as you will be unable to access Google Calendars. But, for the price, Google Calendars is a great calendaring platform for any size law office.
3. Microsoft Office Outlook. Microsoft Office comes with Outlook which is a calendar, e-mail reader, task management, and time keeping program suitable for any type of professional who needs to share a calendar with other staff members. Outlook allows users to calendar appointments, events, meetings, and tasks, so that you know in a glance what your schedule is like for any given day. You can also calendar recurring events such as client billing dates, set reminders for any entry, and color code entries according to categories that you choose. In order to share Outlook calendars, you will need a 3rd party software program such as syncing.net, Outlook Sync, or slapstick. For a quick, free, Outlook course, see Microsoft’s Outlook Calendar Basics.
4. MyCase. MyCase is a software solution developed just for attorneys that allows users to manage client files, calendars, contacts, to-do lists, and e-mails all from within one program. It also includes an invoicing and payment acceptance module. Just as with Google Calendars, MyCase is on online platform that may create some security risks and is only accessible when the internet is available. MyCase is $39 per month per attorney user and $29 per month per non-attorney user. Sign up for a free 30 day trial here: http://info.mycase.com/mycase-free-trial.html.
5. Clio. Clio is another software solution for attorneys. It, like MyCase, features a full suite of client management tools such as shared client files, calendars, task lists, as well as a complete billing solution. Just as with Google Calendars, MyCase is on online platform that may create some security risks and is only accessible when the internet is available. Clio is $65 per month per user and is also available for a free trial by signing up here: https://app.goclio.com/signup.
Best Practices for Law Firm Calendaring
Even the best calendaring platform is worthless if you don’t have a good system for utilizing it. Some best practices for law office calendaring include having concrete rules in place for:
Calendaring events listed on docket sheets received from the Court. When you work in a busy law office, you might receive several notices from the Court each day about new filings, deadlines, and scheduled hearings. So having a system for dealing with these notices in order to ensure that newly schedule events are accurately placed on the calendar is a must. You should have a clear, office wide policy regarding who is authorized to open mail from the Courts, what they should do about any deadlines or hearings mentioned in the correspondence, and how to accurately provide a check on the system. For example, having the person who opens the mail add items to the calendar, initial the correspondence as calendared, and then drop the notice in some else’s inbox to double check.
Calculating and calendaring deadlines. Deadlines, not calculated for you by the Court, must be figured by someone familiar with the laws concerning the number of days provided in each particular situation and how to count those out, considering relevant exclusionary days such as weekends and holidays. Anyone who calculates and calendars a deadline should include their initials in the entry, so that everyone can be held accountable for their math and calendar entries.
Scheduling appointments with clients, potential clients, and other attorneys. Appointment scheduling in some offices might be easier than in others, but when you work for an attorney who goes to court a lot, like in family law or litigation, you might want to consider setting aside specific days and/or times for appointments, as well as other times for the attorney to work in the office without interruption.
Calculating and scheduling travel time to out of county meetings and hearings. Because out of county meetings generally take much more time than hearings a few blocks away, you should have a system in place that provides plenty of travel time to and from other counties, when the need arises. For example, requiring all out of county appointments or hearings have the county listed clearly on the calendar and that nothing be scheduled for an hour before the meeting or two hours after its expected end time.
Synchronizing firm calendars. When using more than one calendar in an office, there should be a clear procedure for matching them up. Everyone in the office should know whose responsibility synchronizing the calendars is, when it should be done, and who will do if the elected person is out of the office on any given day. If your office is using software to synchronize calendars, the software should be checked regularly to ensure it is properly doing its job.None found at this time.