Missing litigation and other deadlines remains one of the leading causes of claims against law firms. Such claims become malpractice cases in which often the only disputed issues are causation and the amount of damages, since breach of the standard of care will likely be established per se by missing the deadline. A strong, effective calendaring system is thus one of the single most essential tools for reducing the risk and expense of claims (and their impact on insurance rates).
An important component of any effective calendar system is using a designated Docketing Clerk to oversee and run this critical component of the firm’s risk management efforts.
The benefits of using a Docketing Clerk are many:
- It helps centralize the system, providing more consistent, regular, and accurate calendaring, as well as consistency in providing regular ticklers/reminders;
- It identifies the person responsible for the overall system, including tracking its correct use by everyone at the firm, that all critical calendaring data is being regularly entered and backed up, and that the latest version of the firm’s calendaring software is in use;
- It provides an in-house expert in calendar issues and calendaring software, someone who gets regular training in the field to keep abreast of litigation and other deadlines, calendaring best practices, and calendaring technology;
- It provides all attorneys and staff with a go-to person for any calendar-related questions;
- It frees up time of attorneys and staff that would otherwise be spent in calendaring functions for which the Docketing Clerk is made responsible;
- It provides the firm with a person to provide regular training to attorneys and staff on calendaring generally, on the firm’s own calendar policies and procedures, and someone who can provide regular recommendations for improving the firm’s system;
- It is a positive risk management factor to E&O carriers evaluating the firm for malpractice coverage. Since missed deadlines so often lead to claims, carriers generally want to know details of a firm’s calendaring system. Using a Docketing Clerk to oversee and run the system is a positive indicator that the firm is serious about having the most effective system possible to reduce its risk of claims. Strong risk management policies and procedures reduce the incidence of claims and, thus, have a positive effect on premiums.
A firm’s calendar system is critically important to reducing the risk of claims. It is an extremely detail-oriented system, involving a large number of matters and every lawyer and many staff members. Dates and deadlines are constantly changing. It is inherently susceptible to errors that can morph into potentially serious claims. Having a designated, trained Docketing Clerk can greatly strengthen the firm’s system by centralizing responsibility and creating an in-house expert and resource, thereby reducing exposure for the firm.
By Daniel W. Hager | Corporate Counsel | Ahern Insurance Brokerage
A recognized expert in lawyers’ malpractice prevention and legal ethics, Daniel has provided consultations and risk management services to law firms for more than 20 years. Before joining AHERN, Dan was a partner at AV-rated Roeca Haas Hager LLP, where he defended lawyers against malpractice and other claims for more than 25 years.