General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division
Deadline Planning-from Paper to Digital
By Arthur D. Mouton
Those of us who remember calendar planning-the paper kind-also recall those Monday morning calls from the judge's secretary asking why we weren't in the courtroom for a hearing, followed by a frantic office search to figure out why the hearing was not properly "calendared." We learned to break down a day into 15-minute increments with deadlines entered in the lawyer's and the secretary's books. It was a problem, though, to enter all the dates correctly and remember to check daily.
Our first networked calendar system was Microsoft Schedule Plus. It was easy to install (part of Win 3.11) and to network with Windows for Workgroups. When a case arrived, the prescription date (statute of limitations) was entered in the lawyer's, secretary's, and receptionist's "legalduedates" calendar feature. It also included monthly and/or weekly reminders. The system worked if correctly monitored, but it had a problem-it would suddenly die, taking everything with it. It was finally eliminated in Windows 98, so I went looking for a substitute and found something even better.
Solosez members suggested Time Matters (TM3), which works with our PC Law, Jr. data files. We can now set a due date on the calendars of all pertinent staff members, along with interim reminders about tasks that need to be completed before the due date. The basic information is linked in a client's data files, which displays each staff person's calendar and "to do" list.
The program's best feature, though, is a date calculator (daycalc), which allows the entry of a start date and the inclusion or exclusion of weekends and holidays in order to arrive at a true end date. The end date is entered as the due date on staff calendars. We've also continued the use of "legalduedate" in order to have a backup system.
TM3 provides for a chained event list with interim reminders and "to do" lists. I did such a list when preparing and filing a federal estate tax return. The date of death was the start date and the end date was nine months later. Interim reminders included "get appraisals", "get bank valuation letters," "get 712 forms."
Time Matters has proved a very dependable system, despite some problems with the newest release. It preserves the best of the paper calendar while making interim reminders possible and ensuring all concerned staff are in the loop.
We can also link and synchronize the calendar information to our palm organizers. I can bring my organizer to any meeting, check the availability of dates, and return to the office to enter the new dates into the main calendar. To be certain of data security, we daily do a dual backup to tape.
Arthur D. Mouton's practice includes estate and successions, wills, trusts, commercial law, loan closings, title work (both commercial and residential), oil and gas law representing oil corporations, landowners, corporations, and other business entities. The fourth generation to practice in south Louisiana, he works in the three-person firm of Wm. H. Mouton Law Office in Lafayette.