Monday, September 16, 2013

Automating Date and Deadline Calendaring

Allow me to take you back in time. . .  On your desk sits a black plastic box about the size of a quarter loaf of bread.  In that box are tabbed dividers numbered 1 through 30.  They are for the thirty days in a month.  In fact there are twelves sets of those thirty dividers, one for each month of the year.  Next to that box is a stack of pre-printed duplicate forms.  The forms help you to keep track of deadlines.  They are called "ticklers."  When a new deadline needs to be calendared you fill in one of the forms.  You include the date you are  filling in the form.  The name of the case.  The event to be completed, and the date by which it must be completed.  One of the duplicates goes in that box behind the divider for the day and month that is your deadline.  Another duplicate goes into the file for the matter.  To ensure redundancy you also write the deadline down in your calendar book.  You may also give a duplicate to your assistant so she can write the deadline on her or his paper calendar.  Another duplicate may be inserted into the day divider for 5, 7, 15 days before the deadline.  Each day you open the box and see what is due that day.  You also see what is due tomorrow, next week, next month, etc., etc.  As you finish each project by its deadline you check the completed box on all the forms, and put a line or a check through the deadline or to-do on your calendar.

Is this (or something similarly paper based and laborious) how you keep track of your deadlines?  Well, you are not alone.  In fact, this paper based system is probably the default method for the majority of us family law lawyers.  In fact, you may not even be aware that there is a computer based alternative.

Rules based calendaring is computerized and allows you to abandon the paper tickler process.  In the process your deadline calendaring becomes faster, easier, and more accurate.  Isn't that what we want from our practice and our technology?  You betcha!

I first became aware of rules based calendaring about fifteen years ago when I started using Amicus Attorney in my practice.  At that time Amicus had an add-on from a company called Compulaw.  It worked brilliantly!  Let me give you an example.  I would receive a set of interrogatories in the mail.  I would open the particular case in Amicus, then select the rules calendaring module.  Then I would select today's date and check the box for interrogatories having been served upon me.  The software would then insert that event in my calendar for the case.  It would also calendar the date that the answers to the interrogatories were due.  Even more, it would insert a reminder into my calendar for five days before the deadline.  The dates would appear in my calendar and be crossed indexed to the history for the case.  To boot, the dates are are calculated and calendared to comply with California's statutory deadlines automatically.  No looking up the CCP deadline, no day counting.  All that work done in  matter of seconds with only five or six clicks of the mouse.  This functionality took my breath away.  It still does today.  What a time saver.  And the computer calculates the dates far more accurately and reliably than I ever did with my fingers and toes.  I no longer use Amicus Attorney.  I switched to AbacusLaw about five years ago.  When I made the switch I considered many practice management systems.  I chose AbacusLaw because it too had rules based calendaring.  I will never utilize practice or case management software unless it has rules based calendaring.  In fact I would consider any practice management software that does not have rules based calendaring to be incomplete.

The technology behind computerized calendaring is not simple.  There is a ton of programming behind it.  And there is more than just simple procedural savvy required to complete that programming.  California has hundreds of different calendaring events, think discovery deadlines, minimum days to serve a motion before the hearing, time to respond to a complaint or petition, and on, and on.  The right event has to be identified.  The the right dates for the right event have to be calculated.  Those dates then have to be inserted into the calendar and tied to the to-dos for the case.  The investment behind the creation of such a tool is not insignificant.  When the technology works right it epitomizes the essence of technology in the practice of law.

If you have not considered adopting rules based calendaring in your practice, you should.  I know that AbacusLaw has it because I use it every day.  Compulaw is now called Aderant Compulaw, but it is still in business calculating deadlines.  I don't know if Amicus Attorney still has rules based calendaring now that it no longer has a partnership with Compulaw?  Other practice and case management products are developing rules calendaring features, although not as quickly as they are developing other features.  At the very least most practice management software systems have some type of feature that allows you to abandon the paper tickler.  It is a question of whether the system does all of the work for you?  Practice management software vendors, to do your job fully, you MUST include rules based calendaring.  Please, please, please.

Rules based calendaring.  Please check it out, you owe it to yourself and to your practice management.

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Amicus Attorney said...

That’s a great post about the power of rules-based calendaring and how it can save a lot of time. To clarify, Amicus is no longer a distributor of CompuLaw, but the same integration with CompuLaw is still available in Amicus Attorney Premium Edition. (Amicus users now purchase directly from Aderant, rather than through Gavel & Gown). In fact the integration in Premium Edition has many improvements over what was available in the older version of Amicus referenced in this post.

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