The legal profession lives and dies by dates. From discovery dates to trial dates, attorneys live and breathe by their calendars. Each new case has its own set of deadlines for attorneys to keep track of, and depending on the jurisdiction and type of case, an attorney assigned to a case can be responsible for tracking 50+ deadlines.
The old law office environment had one legal secretary per attorney. However, in the years following the 2008 recession, there is an increased emphasis on running “lean and mean,” especially in staff counsel organizations. In this new reality, there is often now only one legal secretary for a group of attorneys ― or, as is increasingly common ― no legal secretary at all; each attorney is responsible for managing their own calendar.
In the insurance industry, caseloads are an order of magnitude larger compared to corporate legal or outside counsel, and workloads continue to grow. In order to control costs and get the most out of your resources, you must constantly be on the lookout for new ways to work smarter.
Falling Through the Cracks
Given all the pressures of this new “lean and mean” model, things can and do fall through the cracks. Docketing and calendaring is a critical function in any legal office, especially claims defense. However, it’s an area under the same pressure the as rest of the organization. When things do fall through the cracks, attorneys, paralegals, and legal administrators end up behind the proverbial 8-ball. Case docket mistakes can result in some pretty unfortunate consequences that cost organizations time and money.
Back when I was a young attorney – and I stress young – I missed the date for expert designation at my very first trial. My secretary thought I had put the date on my calendar. I thought my secretary had put the date on my calendar… and the net result was that my key expert was excluded and we were forced to settle the case, paying more money than what the case was worth.
I’m sure every attorney winces a bit remembering their own similar stories. Calendaring is time-consuming and prone to human error. Add the stress of expanding caseloads, then compound this with working in highly-regulated jurisdictions that can generate numerous court dates per case. Missed court dates can result in court fines, excluded evidence, or worse, unwelcome case outcomes. When you look at all of these factors in context, calendar management is one of the last places where you want things to fall through the cracks.
Turning to Technology
If “lean and mean” is today’s new reality, finding efficiencies and eliminating time-consuming tasks is critical. Technology isn’t always the cure to all ills, but it can substantially affect positive change and save money. The insurance industry in particular, which is sometimes resistant to technological change, can really benefit from the efficiencies and data visibility that claims defense management software solutions offer.
eDocketing is a particular area of claims defense management that can automate a time-consuming task and scale with the large caseloads of P&C claims litigation. eDocketing software draws on a set of federal, state, and local court rules determined by jurisdiction, trigger, and date, and generates all corresponding court dates. Attorneys, secretaries, and calendar clerks can reduce the time it takes to generate calendar events from hours down to a couple seconds with an eDocketing solution.
In addition to being efficient, eDocketing reduces risk by removing a lot of the human error that can result in missed or incorrect dates, and eliminates the need for multiple calendars. eDocketing can make a tangible financial impact by helping cut down on fines and negative or unplanned outcomes due to missed dates.
Missing deadlines is certainly a “keeps me up at night” issue for a lot of attorneys I know. I only have to think back to my first trial and the unfortunate experience of missing a key date to immediately understand the value of eDocketing. Insurance organizations looking for more ways to control costs – both through increased efficiency and reduced risk – should look at eDocketing as a key component of their claims defense management strategy.
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