A Quick Guide To Running A Law Practice – Records, Calendars, And Dockets
Calendaring and docketing help you to keep track of time. Records management helps you to keep track of paper. Many state bar associations often report negative audit findings related to attorneys properly tracking records and time.
Malpractice insurance carriers expect attorneys to have two calendars minimally. One, a calendar that is typically on a computer (stored and backed up digitally), and, second, a manual (written) calendar. It makes a lot of sense for attorneys to make calendar entries themselves or, at least, have someone they entrust do it. The latter will require a consistent stream of communication and adequate knowledge of court rules and deadlines. A standardized, accessible, decipherable system should be used.
Calendars should include key dates relating to quarterly taxes, payroll, licenses, statutes of limitation, and any event of significance relating to a client. Tickler systems and even the incoming mail are good sources of important dates or deadlines to include on calendars. For any important deadline, use regular reminders leading up to it. Commit to writing the important points in telephone conversations and meetings and transfer them to calendars efficiently and expeditiously.
A popular way to organize and manage records and files is to use a sequential numbering system such as 100-001 where 001 is the first client, the next client is 002, and 100 is the category or type of matter, which should mean similar actions. A number such as 100 could indicate “DUI defense” while the number 200 could mean “record clearing will” based on practice, service, and preference.
The key is to use a numbering system that is consistent so that it is easy to retrieve this information as your client base grows. This will enable you to gain an overview of your practice and specializations, the latter as they emerge over time. These files should be kept along with a master log that lists each new matter by date opened and include a column for date, client, matter type and date closed. This log is also an excellent overview of all current and not-so-current matters and can provide a quick reminder of any necessary action required on a client matter.
It is customary to have subfiles for correspondence, research, drafts, etc. within each matter file. What many attorneys often forget to include within the file is a log recording the events of the file such as record receipts and requests, client phone calls, client meetings, notices of hearings, and anything that can quickly provide the file’s current status when necessary.
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