Posts Tagged ‘deadlines’

Another Attorney in Need of a Good Paralegal

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

ABAJournal.com reports on an attorney barred from practicing in the Federal Second Circuit do to missing deadlines and abysmal briefing:

A New York immigration lawyer has been barred from appearing again before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals due to missed deadlines that resulted in the dismissal of at least 12 cases and and substandard briefs.

“We want to make it clear that the deficiencies of [Karen] Jaffe’s conduct, in the aggregate, bespeak of something far more serious than a lack of competence or ability. They exhibit an indifference to the rights and legal well-being of her clients, and to her professional obligations, including the obligation of candor, to this court,” states a per curiam written opinion of the circuit’s 10 active judges. It imposes the practice ban by striking her from the circuit’s roster of authorized attorneys, reports the New York Law Journal in an article that is reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

One reviewing panel described Jaffe’s briefing skills as “abysmal,” the legal publication notes.

Certainly there are attorneys who cannot be saved from themselves by anyone. I’m not in a position to judge this attorney, but based on the statements of this court, I don’t think this is one. Meeting deadlines and seeing that legal documents are “as they should be” is what professional paralegals do. Solo practicioners often balk at the cost of a paralegal, but in cases like this the costs of not having a member of the legal team who can balance out the attorney’s weaknesses with complementing strengths are far higher than the cost of having such a member. In addition to preventing this type of problem a paralegal would likely make it possible for this attorney to serve more clients better, thus providing the income necessary to cover the costs of the paralegal.

Planning on Reaching Goals

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

Attaining goals requires more than wishful thinking. If I want to get to Memphis, I can set off in that general direction and wander around in hopes that one day I’ll make it there, or I can plan.

The first step is to identify goals. This requires some thought and specificity. A goal that simply says, “I want to be happy,” “I want to be successful,” or “I want to be financially stable,”  while understandable, is too vague to be helpful. What will it take for you to be happy? What is success for you? In the academic arena success if often measured by attaining tenure. But even “I want to make tenure” is too vague of a goal. What does it take to make tenure? For many it requires (1) excellence in teaching, (2) service to school and profession, and (3) Scholarly research and publication. These serve better as goals and it gives some framework – one goal, “success” has become three specific goals, each of which can lead to a specific plan for attainment. There are specific ways to measure and improve teaching excellence. Service to school and profession can be accomplished in specific ways, and so on.  So to achieve each of these components of the tenure goal, we can

  1. Make a list of the component parts necessary to meet the component part of the goal. What are the school’s specific requirements for teaching, publication and service.
  2. Record essential time requirements on your calendar. Record not just the dates on which you need to have accomplished the goal, but also the dates on which each essential component must be accomplished.
  3. Make a plan for accomplishing each component on your list. If necessary, break these tasks down into smaller components with their own plan. Again, a plan is more than a vague statement of intent such as, “I will study hard.” What specific acts constitute “studying hard?” What time needs to be allocated to each one of those tasks, in what order should they be done, what materials are needed, what other people must be involved (even if their involvement is simply that I have to see they are taken care of first, e.g., hungry kids.)
  4. Record the date on which you must START each part of your plan in order to complete it on time. Build in time for the unexpected.
  5. Establish reminders for each for each start and end date. It’s not enough to mark the calendar. We all need “ticklers” to remind us as we go along. In fact, we sometimes become complacent about deadlines because they are on the calendar. 
  6. Review your entire calendar and integrate the new plan into the overall management of your life. Look at events before, during and after the deadline.  If the new event will chew up time you had planned to use completing a task for meeting another deadline, you may need to change one or both plans.

Six Easy and Essential Steps for Meeting Deadlines

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

 Deadlines. Dreaded deadlines. Deadly deadlines. Damn deadlines. We could spend the day repeating the many alliterative references for deadlines. 

Deadlines seem to run directly opposite to our efforts to manage our work. Most of them are imposed by someone else – a court, a client, a bank, a boss. We have little or no control over them.  You can control how you manage them and plan for meeting them.

  1. Make a list of the component parts necessary to meet your goal.   
  2. Record essential time requirements on your calendar.  Record not just the dates on which you need to have accomplished the goal, but also the dates on which each essential component must be accomplished. 
  3. Make a plan for accomplishing each component on your list.   If necessary, break these tasks down into smaller components with their own plan.
  4. Record the date on which you must START each part of your plan in order to complete it on time. Build in time for the unexpected. 
  5. Establish reminders for each for each start and end date.  It’s not enough to mark the calendar. We all need “ticklers” to remind us as we go along. In fact, we sometimes become complacent about deadlines because they are on the calendar.  
  6. Review your entire calendar and integrate the new plan into the overall management of your work. Look at events before, during and after the deadline.  If the new event will chew up time you had planned to use completing a task for meeting another deadline, you may need to change one or both plans. 

Client Management: Do Not Assume Understanding

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

In general it is best not to assume that your client understands anything, including the importance of meeting deadlines and following through on commitments.  In most cases it simply is not enough to explain to a client, for example, what interrogatories are and that they must be answered within thirty days.  You will also need to explain to them what that means in terms of the overall scheduling of the timely completion of the Answers.  In order for you and the attorney to draft, review, correct, revise and fill in gaps in the answers, the client must get initial information to you by a date far short of the thirty days. Set dates for completion of each task the client must complete.

It is human nature to delay unpleasant tasks. It is likely that left on their own the clients will treat each deadline as many treat filing taxes. Just as many people rush to the tax preparer on April 14th with a shoebox full of receipts and tax forms, clients will wait until day twenty-nine to start answering interrogatories due on day thirty. When you meet with the client to explain the interrogatories, give them an instruction sheet that repeats your explanation and instructions including the specific dates for completion of any task you assign to them. Write this information down for them before they leave. Again, your office may have or you can develop standardized checklists or forms for this purpose. (Some clients may protest that they came to you to do the work and do not understand why they have to do so much. This can be avoided by a clear explanation during the initial interview with appropriate reminders during the process that they are an essential part of the litigation team with their own role to fill.)

Once the client leaves immediately enter the date for your follow-up reminders to the client on your calendar. Do not assume the client is out there somewhere faithfully doing exactly what you told them to do. Send a reminder in writing and set a date for a follow up telephone call. If you send an email or leave a voice mail message, ask that they respond with an update on the status of their progress so you know they got the message and can make a file note. This seems like a lot work, but much of it can be systematized and it serves several functions which I cover in a later post.