Managing Document Deadlines

Deadlines. A staple of running a law firm and managing client cases. You probably have client deadlines, filling deadlines, research deadlines–and more. So how to manage everything and make sure nothing slips through the cracks?

In this post we’ll explore: How to stay on top of your legal document deadlines.

How Not to Manage Document Deadlines

For the all the acceptable ways to manage your firm’s document deadlines, there are at least as many ways not to. Here are the top three document deadline management methods we recommend be avoided.

1. I’ll just remember. This one starts innocently enough: If you only have a handful of matters or documents with deadlines to manage its easy to fall into the trap of believing that you’ll simply remember them. At first: You very likely could remember to file or send each document before its deadline. But as your firm and your caseload grows: a deadline falling between the cracks is a near inevitability without a good system. Avoid this method at all costs.

2. I’ll calendar the deadline in Outlook. There’s no doubt that Outlook’s calendar is flexible and robust, and a great way to manage your day-to-day agenda. It is not a good tool, however, for managing deadlines. Outlook, like any basic calendaring application, is best used to create and manage appointments, not deadlines. Calendar events with a start and end time: like meetings, appointments and phone calls. Its difficult to get a god’s-eye view of all documents with deadline using a calendaring application like Outlook alone.

3. I’ll calendar the deadline in my Practice Management software. Legal Practice Management software is a great way to manage your firm’s contacts, matters, time tracking, billing and accounting. Robust Practice Management applications, such as CosmoLex, even have calendars that are better than standard Outlook or Google calendars (better in that you can, and should, link calendar appointments to matter in your matter database.) The problem with managing document deadlines in your Legal Practice Management software are that (a) Practice Management apps are usually provide limited or no Document Management, and (b) its easy to lose sight of document deadlines (which may be the most costly deadlines to miss) among the appointments and to-do’s within your Practice Management system.

How You Should Manage Document Deadlines

So how should you manage document deadlines? The answer may be obvious: in your Document Management System (DMS).

With a robust Legal Document Management System you will be able to store and organize documents within each matter. Let’s walk through an example.

Suppose you have a matter: Smith vs. Smith. Within the Smith vs. Smith matter you have multiple top-level folders, one of which is called Discovery Documents, and within that another subfolder called Initial Documents Collected.

About the Author: Dennis Dimka
Dennis Dimka is the CEO and founder of Uptime Legal Systems, North America's leading provider of technology, cloud and marketing services to law firms. Dennis is the author of Law Practice as a Service: How and Why to Move Your Law Firm to the Cloud, and was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 2016. Follow Dennis on LinkedIn.

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