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					    Competitive Edge                                                                                 B Y M O L LY G E O R G E


                                   It’s Totally Automatic
                                   Is Docketing Technology Right for Every Firm?
                                        ttorneys in all size firms maintain         When a law firm uses a simple cal-
                                   A    docket calendars that accurately
                                   record the dates for events and dead-
                                                                                endar for docketing, support staff must
                                                                                calculate all the dates manually, enter
                                   lines in any active case. Still, malprac-    them into the program and recalculate
                                   tice exposure from calendar errors is a      the calendar if an important date
                                   significant risk for every lawyer. The       changes. This method allows three
                                   1996-1999 American Bar Association           opportunities for human error:
                                   Survey, “Profile of Malpractice              1) miscalculating dates in the original
                                   Claims,” lists court calendar-related            court calendar;
                                   errors as the leading cause of adminis-      2) inputting dates incorrectly; or
                                   trative malpractice claims.                  3) recalculating incorrectly if a date
                                       Legal administrators play an impor-          changes.
                                   tant role in ensuring their firms are tak-
                                   ing necessary steps to minimize the risk         An automated court rules-based cal-
                                   of court calendar errors.                    endaring program interfaces with court
                                                                                rules databases to calculate the docket
                                                                                for a matter. The docket administrator
            When selecting a program to meet the needs of                       enters a “trigger” date and all other
                                                                                dates are automatically determined and
           your firm, determine if the vendor provides rules                    entered. If a trigger date changes, the
                                                                                calendar software should recalculate all
                  databases for all the jurisdictions in which
                                                                                the other events and deadlines. This not
                                           your lawyers practice.               only cuts the chance of errors, it also cuts
                                                                                down on typically unrecoverable sup-
                                                                                port staff time.
                                                                                    When selecting a program to meet
                                   Simple Automated Calendaring v.              the needs of your firm, determine if the
                                   Court Rules-based Calendaring                vendor provides rules databases for all
                                       Some lawyers and legal administra-       the jurisdictions in which your lawyers
                                   tors are confused about the difference       practice. Your needs may include spe-
                                   between an automated court rules-            cial courts like bankruptcy, family law,
                                   based calendaring program and a sim-         probate, tax, securities and other areas
                                   ple automated calendaring program.           as well as arbitration rules.
                                   Microsoft Outlook and Novell                     A well-informed administrator
                                   GroupWise are examples of simple             understands the importance of auto-
                                   automated calendars. They function in        mated court rules docketing. Most
                                   a similar manner to a hard-copy calen-       automated court rules-based calendar-
                                   dar except that dates can be stored and      ing is highly adaptable to a firm’s indi-
                                   accessed through a PC.                       vidual requirements.

1   November/December 2003   Legal Management
       Competitive Edge

Vincent A. Rhodes AAL, Honolulu              have at least a threshold level of knowl-       system) does everything you need it to do.
    Lyn Hurlbutt, PLS, CLA, RP, CPS, a       edge.” She advocates that all law firms         There isn’t anything you want to know
Senior Litigation Paralegal at Vincent A.    require and financially support month-          that it can’t tell you. Reports are very thor-
Rhodes in Honolulu, accompanied a            ly continuing legal education for all           ough, as simple or complex as you want.”
partner from her former firm when he         legal professionals.                                Allen Price & Padden is looking for-
founded his own medical defense mal-                                                         ward to upgrading to the SQL version
practice practice firm in October 2002.      Allen, Price & Padden PC, Phoenix               of the court rules-based software, which
Hurlbutt reports that her old firm had           When Holly Einspahr, Office                 will accommodate continued firm
initially used Calendar Creator for dock-    Administrator, started at Allen, Price &        growth. Einspahr does not have an IS
eting — the system is designed for small     Padden, the firm had only two attorneys.        department at her firm, so she is pleased
business and home-use software. When         Now, the firm has expanded to seven             that the court calendaring vendor pro-
that program crashed, the firm decided       attorneys. As the firm and its caseload         vides excellent technical support.
to try a WordPerfect table format, but due
to the number of events, they could not
search or manipulate the data efficiently.                  She wanted a software program that was in-depth
The firm performed manual calculations
and input to both these programs.
                                                      but easy to learn. It had to pull out every relevant date
    “I don’t want to miss any deadlines,”                                              for each matter, missing nothing.
Hurlbutt says.“We needed a calendaring
program with a brain. With a court-
rules-based calendaring program, you         grew, it needed more docket manage-             Susman Godfrey LLP, Texas
don’t have to refigure any deadlines. The    ment efficiency. Initially, a paralegal              Susman Godfrey LLP is a 62-attor-
program does it for you.”                    managed the court calendars, manually           ney firm with offices with offices in
    Hurlbutt says, “At my former firm,       calculating and entering dates.                 Houston, Dallas, Los Angles and Seattle.
the partners and I had selected                  While attending an Association of           It is an example of midsize firm that is a
CompuLaw’s Vision single-user version        Legal      Administrators’ conference,          highly effective litigation boutique. As
rules-based calendaring software, and I      Einspahr met one vendor offering auto-          Secretarial Supervisor to the Executive
quickly established the same program at      mated court calendaring. She wanted a           Director of the firm, Loyd Wells helped
Vincent A. Rhodes.” She adds, “The pro-      software program that was in-depth but          set the parameters of the new central
gram is absolutely affordable for my firm    easy to learn. It had to pull out every rele-   docket system that would replace using
and very important to my efforts to          vant date for each matter, missing nothing      their old system for docketing.
ensure deadlines are met and accurate.”      and distributing calendars to each attor-            At first, the firm started using the sim-
    The two lawyers at Vincent A.            ney by a tickler system that prompts            ple Outlook calendar program, with indi-
Rhodes appear in Hawaii State Circuit        lawyers when dates are approaching. The         vidual secretaries manually determining
Court, so the firm purchased the data-       program she was investigating had all of        dates, entering them to a central docket
bases for that jurisdiction. Hurlbutt        these features, so the firm purchased it        calendar and getting out reminders of
runs the program on the firm’s internal      along with the rules databases for Arizona      upcoming deadlines two weeks in
LAN that has four PCs and prints or e-       State District Court (Arizona), the Arizona     advance. However, the firm found it was
mails PDF versions of the calendars to       Superior Court and Bankruptcy Court.            missing some dates using that system, so it
each attorney. They are working to set           Einspahr reports that the lawyers at        moved to a court-rules-based calendaring
up an Outlook link to each PC, which         Allen, Price & Padden have different lev-       software for central docketing system.
will provide an automated link to each       els of technology savvy and individual               All information for a billing attor-
attorney’s calendar.                         working styles. This fact requires the soft-    ney’s schedule goes to his/her secretary
    Hurlbutt adds the caveat: “Vision,       ware to have the capability to print            who must create the calendar on the
or any other automated docketing pro-        reports in different formats. Litigators        program. The system is on a single serv-
gram, does not take the place of a           that use a laptop while away from the           er that staff in all offices can access on
knowledgeable legal support person           offices can access their court calendars        the firm network.
who knows court rules. The docket            over the firm’s network.                             Each regional office is responsible
administrator, as well as all employees          Einspahr says she likes the system.         for purchasing court-rules databases for
working with court deadlines, must           “Something else does all the work. It (the      the jurisdictions in which its attorneys

2      November/December 2003         Legal Management
             Competitive Edge

     appear. Wells reports that the Los                   the secretaries create the court calen-              • compatibility with the firms’ cur-
     Angeles office uses CompuLaw’s                       dars for the lawyers, but most have a                  rent technology infrastructure (i.e.
     California court-rules databases and                 central docket clerk who is responsible.               if the firm uses GroupWise,
     relies on them for the state’s complex               In the largest offices, docket manage-                 Outlook, MS SQL, Lotus Notes the
     rules. In Texas, many local courts have              ment is under the “Information                         system would need to be able to
     their own rules and procedures. Many                 Resources Department,” which also                      integrate); and
     Texas State court judges will sign a                 includes library, conflicts, records and             • a program that fits the firm’s budget.
     docket control order or scheduling                   knowledge management. If there is no
     order that outlines all important dates              information resources manager, the                       Many attorneys are still accustomed
     on a case. For these reasons, Texas sec-             docket clerk reports directly to the                 to using simple automated calendars
     retaries have a list of instructions on              office administrator.                                like Outlook. For this reason, some ven-
     how to calculate Texas dates and work                    Gates says she is currently looking              dors have integrated their court-rules-
     with individual courts.                              into the Web portal version of Vision for            based calendaring programs with those
                                                          the firm’s court calendaring software.               systems. If your firm uses a simple auto-
     Latham & Watkins LLP, Los Angeles,                   This would allow all users to access data            mated calendaring program, find out if
     Worldwide                                            anytime, from anywhere, by simply log-               the court-rules-based calendaring pro-
          Latham & Watkins, LLP, with 1,500               ging onto the Internet. Latham &                     gram integrates with your particular
     attorneys and offices in 11 countries, is a          Watkins is an excellent example of a firm            program. Such an integrated solution
     truly global firm. This means that the               that has customized its use of rules-based           will help to better protect your firm
     firm must look to a variety of sources for           calendar software as appropriate for each            while reducing the anxiety levels of
     court rules in each jurisdiction where its           size office, using both centralized and              attorneys who don’t want to switch
     lawyers practice. Diane Gates is the                 decentralized data input methods.                    from comfortably using their current
     Manager of Information Resources-                                                                         e-mail/groupware program.
     Records and Docket at the Los Angeles                What to Look For                                         Court-rules based calendaring
     Global Services office, which is separate               When evaluating court-rules-based                 technology now has options that fulfill
     physically from the law office in Los                calendaring programs and databases,                  each of the requirements for every
     Angeles. The Global Services office cen-             the administrators in each of                        firm, regardless of size, from standalone
     trally manages, updates and backs-up all             these four very differently sized law                to enterprisewide and Web-access
     court rules databases and calendar data              firms had some very common views                     solutions. Administrators who research
     for offices all over the world. Gates says,          and needs.                                           and understand these options will help
     “Having court calendaring software and               • databases for every jurisdiction their             their firms take advantage of reduced
     rules databases makes updating quicker                  firm needs, all written and edited by             malpractice risks and reduced support
     and easier.”                                            attorneys, and that include all the               staff time. ✜
          Although each regional office has                  local holidays;
     its calendaring software and court rules             • a user-friendly interface to easily
     installed on its own server, staff mem-                 identify the proper rule to invoke, so            About the Author
     bers and attorneys can access the rules                 that staff members did not need to
                                                                                                               MOLLY GEORGE   IS THE PRESIDENT OF LEGALVOICE,
     databases and the calendaring data on                   learn cryptic codes;
                                                                                                               WWW.LEGALVOICE.COM.    SHE   WRITES WIDELY FOR
     the central server. In each office, the              • a top-level software and court-rules
     court services or docket department is                  vendor support staff (all the firms               LEGAL PUBLICATIONS.   SHE   CAN BE REACHED AT

     also administered differently. In some,                 performed reference checking);                    MGEORGE@LEGALVOICE.COM.




Reprinted with permission from Legal Management, November/December 2003, published by the Association of Legal Administrators, Lincolnshire, Illinois, (847) 267-1252.
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