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I have been tasked several times in my career with teaching people how to be docketing professionals without them having any experience. But most employers want and need experienced docketing staff. Or do they? The reason why they want experience is because the manager does not want to take the time to train them. There is the risk issue too but you have to remember that all docketing professionals were trained at some point in their early careers, even the manager. And the cost to hire an inexperienced employee is far lower than the opposite.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is docketing?
- What does a docketing professional do all day?
- The litigation workflow process from start to finish.
- The various docketing software programs.
- The terminology used in litigation cases.
Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; and cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.
What is Docketing?
Docketing is the process of tracking important legal and filing deadlines for designated clients and cases. It is the foundation for risk management for any sized firm and a necessity to the practice of law.
What Does a Docketing Professional Do All Day?
A docketing professional ensures records and deadlines are properly and timely entered into the firm’s calendar. They generate reports detailing action items and due dates and distribute reminders to the attorneys. Most docketers are very busy keeping their firms safe from missing deadlines. They typically receive documents or scheduling orders and input them into docketing software and sometimes the firm’s document management system. Nowadays, most software programs have integrated rules so it makes it a lot easier and safer to calculate the deadlines without having to pull out a rule book.
However, the role of a docketing professional can differ based upon the geographic location. For instance, in most of the country, docketers use software that calculates the deadlines automatically. In New York, some docketers, called managing clerks, still use rule books and manually calculate the deadlines.
The workflow process can look like this:
- The docket department receives documents that were filed in the court, sometimes electronically and other times via paper.
- The docketing professional calculates the deadlines by choosing the correct event in the software and generating the relevant deadlines, enters dates from scheduling orders and other documents, and/or calculates the deadlines manually.
- With pleadings that are filed with the courts and served upon all attorneys involved in a case, the docketing professional will review the document and mostly choose the date and method of service of the document and/or the date it was filed.
- That date is then used to calculate the deadlines promulgated by court rules and statutes.
- The deadlines are typically and automatically pushed to the attorneys’ Outlook calendars and reports are distributed in paper or electronic format.
- Some firms require that their attorneys advise their docketing staff of the completion of the deadline or if it was extended by agreement or court order.
- The document may be stored in the firm’s document management system to create an official record for auditing and other reasons.
The Litigation Lifecycle From Start to Finish.
The lifecycle of a litigation case typically proceeds as follows:
- A complaint, the initiating document filed with the court against defendants, states the parties involved, the cause of action, factual information supporting the cause, includes a prayer for relief, and serves as notice to the defendants that legal action is underway. It must demonstrate that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. A case number is assigned along with a judge.
- With the filing of a complaint, the court clerk will generally issue a summons under seal of court. The summons is used to notify the defendants of the lawsuit and to obtain jurisdiction over the defendant. It is generally delivered to the defendant along with a copy of the complaint. This is known as service of process.
- The defendant generally has 30 days to respond to the complaint, depending on the court. The response can consist of one or more of the following: 1) an answer to the complaint; 2) a demurrer challenging the legal sufficiency of the complaint’s allegations; 3) a motion to strike certain portions of the complaint; or 4) a motion challenging jurisdiction or venue. These are not the only available responses but those most typically asserted.
- In filing an answer, the defendant will admit or deny allegations and raise affirmative defenses. The defenses are new matter that the defendant will bear the burden of proving.
- The parties will then generally begin the discovery process, formally exchanging information that may ultimately end up as evidence in the case at trial or otherwise. The most frequently used forms of written discovery are interrogatories (written questions), requests for production and inspection of documents, other things, and places, and requests for admission of facts.
- After engaging in written discovery, the parties will begin deposition discovery. A deposition is a question and answer session completed before a certified court reporter.
- After the discovery process is completed, the parties either settle the case, go to mediation, or proceed toward trial. Settlement is a common practice as going to trial can be very costly.
- Other types of pleadings filed before trial include motions for summary judgment. One side thinks the other will not be able to establish its case and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment motions are based on undisputed facts generally taken from the discovery process. If a judge agrees with the movant, judgement against the other party is entered in whole or in part.
- If a case goes to trial, motions for limine are typically filed limiting or preventing certain evidence from being presented by the other side at the trial of the case.
- A verdict is then entered by a judge or jury.
- Once a judgement or verdict is entered by the court, post judgement proceedings begin. This includes post judgement motions, citations to discover assets, or garnishment proceedings. The purpose is to discover the losing parties’ assets such as money or property.
The Various Docketing Software Programs
As mentioned previously, many firms use software that automatically generates deadlines based upon the integrated rules. The following software includes, but is not limited to, the most commonly used programs for large and small firms.
- BEC Legal
- Amicus Attorney
- Smart Dockets
- Microsoft Outlook
The Terminology Used in Litigation Cases.
Rather than list all the terms, please see the attached list. It was compiled from various sources including FindLaw and Blacks Law Dictionary.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice and its contents may not encompass all methods and practices by law firms and their docketing professionals. The article is only the point of view of the author and may not reflect the actual practices of the firms where the author was employed.