CALENDARING, DOCKET CONTROL,
AND C ASE M ANAGEMENT
Docket control is a law-office-specific term that refers to entering, organizing, and controlling all
the appointments, deadlines, and due dates for a legal organization.
Case management is a legal-specific term. It includes more than just entering, organizing, and
controlling appointments and deadlines. It also includes other features such as “things to do” lists,
contact information by case, case notes, document assembly, document tracking, e- mail, and more.
Tracking appointments and deadlines is extremely important in the practice of law. If this function
is not done accurately and promptly, attorneys can be disciplined, subjected to fines by courts, and
sued for legal malpractice.
Ethical rules require that attorneys adequately and diligently prepare to handle client matters.
Computerized, legal-specific docket control and case management software systems offer many
advantages over manual docket control and calendar systems.
CHAP TER OUTLINE/NOTES
A. Calendaring is a generic term used to describe the recording of appointments for any type of
B. Docket control is a law-office-specific term that refers to entering, organizing, and controlling all the
appointments, deadlines, and due dates for a legal organization.
C. Case management is also a law-office-specific term, but it always means more than just tracking
dates. It usually includes things to do, contacts, case notes, document assembly, document
management, and more.
II. Docket Control and Case Management
1. During the course of a case or legal matter, there will be many appointments, including
meetings with clients, co-counsel, and witnesses.
B. Deadlines and Reminders
1. There are deadlines at practically every stage of a legal matter.
2. A statute of limitations is one of the most important deadlines that exists. A statute of
limitations is a statute or law that sets a limit on the length of time a party has to file a lawsuit.
3. Reminders are forewarnings of a coming deadline. Common reminders include 15-, 30-, and
45-day warnings of an upcoming event.
C. Hearings and Court Dates
1. Hearings and court dates are formal proceedings before a court.
D. Receiving Docume nts, Following Court Rules, and Calculating Deadlines
1. It is important, when documents come in the mail, that response dates and other deadlines are
immediately and systematically entered in the law office’s docket control system.
2. It is imperative that legal assistants know the local rules of the court where cases are filed, since
the local rules set how dates are calculated and when documents are due.
3. When docketing, “calendar days” usually means literal days, counting weekends and holidays.
4. When docketing, “workdays” usually means days when the court is open (i.e., not counting
holidays and weekends).
5. When calculating dates, it is important to know whether the local rules state that deadlines are
calculated based on when a document is filed or when it is received in the law office. For this
reason, each document that comes into a law office should be stamped “RECEIVED,” along
with the date it was received.
E. Ethical and Malpractice Conside rations
1. Ethical Considerations
Failing to perform legal work, neglecting cases, and failing to communicate with clients make
up a large number of the ethical complaints filed against attorneys.
2. Adequate Preparation and Competence
Model Rule 1.1 states:
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires
the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the
Model Rule 1.3 requires that an attorney act with a reasonable degree of diligence in pursuing
the client’s case:
A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.
4. Communication with Clients
It is very important for attorneys to keep clients reasonably informed about their cases.
Rule 1.4 Communication
a) A lawyer shall:
(1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s
informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules;
(2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be
(3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;
(4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and
(5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the
lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional
Conduct or other law.
(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to
make informed decisions regarding the representation.
5. Conflict of Interest
Before an attorney or law firm accepts a case, they should perform a through conflict of interest
search. Many attorneys and law firms use computerized software to perform such a conflict
Rule 1.7 of the Model Rules states:
Rule 1.7 Conflict Of Interest: Current Clients
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the
representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists
(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or
(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially
limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client, or a third person,
or by a personal interest of the lawyer.
(b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a
lawyer may represent a client if:
(1) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and
diligent representation to each affected client;
(2) the representation is not prohibited by law;
(3) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another
client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a
(4) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.
6. Legal Malpractice Considerations
In a legal malpractice claim, the plaintiff must prove that an attorney breached an ordinary
standard of care applicable to a reasonable attorney under those circumstances.
Deadlines and commitments that are regularly missed by an attorney raise malpractice issues.
F. Manual Docket Control Systems
1. Manual docket control systems include:
- Card systems
G. Computerized Docket Control Systems
Computerized Case Management/Docket Control—Computerized case management/docket control
solves many of the problems associated with manual systems, including the following:
1. Perpetual Calendars—Most programs have a perpetual calendar that extends hundreds of years
into the future. Thus, you do not have to keep buying new calendars every year, and you can
schedule things 5 and 10 years down the road if you need to.
2. Time Saving/Recurring Entries—One of the most significant features of a program is that it can
make recurring entries automatically. Thus, if you have a staff meeting every Monday morning,
you only have to make the entry one time and then tell the program it is a recurring entry. The
program will automatically make the other 51 entries for the rest of the year. Also, if you enter
a deadline, you can set most programs to automatically give you 60-, 30-, 15-, 10-, and 5-day
reminders. Using a manual system, you would have to enter a total of six entries (one event
deadline and five reminders); using a computerized system, you only have to make one entry.
3. Date Calculator—Some programs can calculate the number of days between dates. Sometimes
attorneys have 30 or 45 days from an event to file a motion or brief. Some programs can
automatically figure the number of workdays or calendar days to arrive at the accurate due date.
4. Conflict Alert—Many programs automatically inform you if you try to schedule more than one
appointment at the same time. This feature keeps you from accidentally scheduling multiple
events at the same time.
5. Past-Due Report—Another useful feature of computerized programs is that when you complete
an item, you must check it off as being completed. If an item is not checked off as completed,
the deadline or appointment continues to show up on past-due reports until you complete the
item. This is extremely beneficial and prevents deadlines from being forgotten or "falling off"
6. Per-Case Docket Report—Most programs can also produce a report of all entries made
regarding a specific case. This allows you to see where you are in a case (e.g., procedurally,
where you have been, where you are currently, and where the case is going). This also allows
you to keep your client up to date on how the case is proceeding.
7. Calendaring a Series of Events from a Rule—Some programs come with court rule modules. In
this type of system, one docket entry can trigger four or more additional docketing entries.
H. Advanced Case Management Features
1. Case Contacts—Contacts, including names, addresses, and phone numbers, can be produced by
2. Synchronization with Handheld Computers—Many case management programs have modules
that work with handheld computers so they can be synchronized together.
3. Case Diaries/Notes—Extensive notes and information about each case can be entered into the
4. Document Assembly/Generation—Information in the case management database can be
exported into forms and templates.
5. Legal Research Library—Electronic legal research can be maintained in the case management
program according to user-defined topics or categories.
6. Conflict of Interest Checking—The case management database can be searched for possible
conflicts of interest.
7. E- mail—E- mail can be saved and integrated into the case management program.
8. Document Management—Some programs allow the user to save and sort documents by case.
9. Timekeeping/Billing Interface—Some programs allow the user to enter timekeeping
information into the case management program and have it exported to a timekeeping and
I. Computerized Docket Cycle
Most computerized docket systems have a cycle that includes:
1. Centralized Docket Control Cycle
2. Decentralized Docket Control Cycle
3. Combined Docket Control Cycle
American Bar Association site.
American Bar Association site devoted to law practice management.
American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center site.
Home page for Law Office Computing magazine.
Home page for Law Technology News periodical.
Law Technology News site for white papers on technology.
Time Matters site.
Trial De Novo site.
ProLaw and LawManager site.
Amicus Attorney site.
Legal Files site.
Perfect Practice site.
Practice Master site.
Client Profiles site.
Certificate of Service
personal information manager
statute of limitations