Besides understanding and knowing how to interpret the law, there are three things a law office absolutely depends on to maintain a practice: 1) income; 2) clients (see item 1); and the calendar. While none of the above items are meant to be minimized over another, the importance of the calendar cannot be overlooked or overemphasized. In a law office, the calendar is more than a handy reference to what day of the month it is or what day the next holiday falls on.
Calendars are Unforgiving
It’s safe to say that nearly everything we do in a law office is dictated by the calendar: client appointments; meetings; filing and service deadlines; discovery; court appearances; trials; statutes of limitations, and so on. Calendars are important because most of the dates and deadlines for these occurrences are very unforgiving. The consequences of missing a date or being late can be severe in many instances. Needless to say, the calendar deserves our undivided attention.
Law is Driven by Calendars
Regardless of what practice areas we are working in, the law and the courts are all driven by statutory deadlines, rules of court, and local or standing rules that, in turn, govern or drive our calendars. In today’s fast-paced legal landscape, staying on top of deadlines is more critical than ever. Unfortunately, calendaring errors remain a leading cause of malpractice claims. To avoid costly mistakes, it’s essential to have a centralized calendaring system that everyone in the firm has access to and adopt protocols in place that everyone adheres to.
Reminders, Urges, Warnings and Final Deadlines
While calendaring deadlines themselves is critical, it is equally crucial to set reminders. Create both hard and soft deadlines for the calendar. Hard deadlines are the final due dates for a task, while soft deadlines are spaced-out reminders to ensure that the task is being worked on consistently. This really helps everyone in the office to stay on track and avoid missed deadlines. However, relying on just one reminder for a task is often not enough. A tiered system of deadlines that includes reminders, urges, warnings, and final due dates ensures that all critical dates are met without relying on just one reminder.
Mind Your Own Business Does Not Apply
In law, the term “mind your own business” does not apply. It’s our job to know not only what’s required to manage our client’s cases and preserve their legal rights but to know what’s required of the opposing party(ies) and the deadlines they must comply with. Not paying attention to or tracking responses that are due from other counsel and what court deadlines they must meet is just as critical as monitoring our own. Failure to be diligent in this area can result in grave consequences for our clients and their cases.
The Elephant in the Room
There’s an expression that goes, “Sometimes things get done at the last minute because it’s the only minute we have.” Whether that’s true or not, procrastination and doing things at the last minute tend to be a fundamental flaw within the legal profession. When the American Bar Association started creating statistics about the causes of legal malpractice, problems with the calendar always came up as a top error. However, even when calendaring systems improved, deadlines were still missed. The ABA actually had to add a new category to their studies — failure to react to the calendar. 
According to a recent blog post by FileVine on this topic, “The reality is that even the best calendar system and the most well-defined routine can’t completely save us from our own bad habits, especially when we cavalierly accept those habits as our professional badge, like a medical doctor’s messy handwriting. Therefore, it’s essential to analyze your procrastination tendencies and come up with strategies to overcome them.”
However, if the problem is more general, such as being overworked and under too much stress (you can lower your hands now), then no matter how well your calendar functions, you’re still bound to slip up. In this case, your only options are to take on fewer cases or deal with underlying problems like inefficient work habits, the plague of distractions, or stress and other emotional strain.
Successfully managing and tending to the calendar requires diligence, attention to detail, organization, time management, and the ability to overcome procrastination. By implementing effective systems, creating a daily routine, and analyzing the root causes of procrastination, we can improve calendaring effectiveness, efficiency, productivity, and better manage workload. Ultimately, by prioritizing this essential function, we can better serve our clients and achieve greater success in our offices and legal careers.
 “The Importance of Calendaring and Deadlines in a Law Firm,” Filevine Legal Blog, April 18, 2023.
Categorized in: Legal Procedure