One of the most important tasks of any law firm is ensuring that cases are worked up appropriately. This is a more manageable task for a law firm when there are not many employees.
However, when a law firm grows and starts to become larger, it can become much more difficult. It is not easy for others to know what others in the firm are doing when the firm is made up of many employees (and whether it’s up to the standards of the law firm and/or ethical requirements of competent, diligent, and communicative representation).
One-way to help quality control your law firm is to create a case checklist. As work is done on the case, the attorneys ensure that the matters are checked off on the checklist. This can be accomplished with a simple paper checklist that is kept in each file. Alternatively, it can be accomplished through many practice management software programs where matters are checked off electronically. Either way, matters are checked off when completed.
For obvious reasons, a case checklist will have to be tweaked based on the jurisdiction and the areas of law in which a law firm practices. Yet, to give an example of what a basic case checklist might look like in a litigated case, below is an example of some items that might be on a case checklist:
- The Initial Phase Of The Case – Was the fee agreement signed? Did the client pay the initial deposit? Was a confirmation letter sent to the client confirming the representation and explaining the next steps?
- Pleading Phase – Was the initial pleadings in the case filed? Were answers and/or counter-petitions and motions filed?
- Intermediate Phase – Has discovery been drafted and sent? Are there any subpoenas needed? Do experts need to be retained? Are motions to compel needed? Does your client need to respond to discovery? Have depositions been set?
- Settlement Component – Is settlement a possibility in the case? Have settlement offers been sent? Is mediation a possibility and/or required?
- Trial Phase – Are exhibit books put together? Have the necessary witnesses been subpoenaed? Are trial questions outlined? Are there pre-trial motions that are needed? Is the client prepared for the trial itself?
- Post-Trial Phase – Is a post-trial motion necessary in the case? Does the client wish to appeal?
- Closing Phase – Are there any necessary wrap-up matters before the case can be closed? Is a motion to withdraw necessary? Has a closing letter been sent?
A case checklist like the one above helps the law firm management. It also helps the attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, and other staff. As it relates to law firm management, it helps management by giving them a relatively easy way to spot-check how cases are being handled. In other words, management can literally pull a file or check in the case management software to ensure that it is being worked up appropriately.
At the same time, the employees are given a roadmap in terms of what law firm management expects. They can also ensure that they are being diligent, competent, and communicative with their clients. Additionally, this is helpful because law schools, paralegal training programs, and prior jobs do not always adequately prepare employees for what they need to know to be successful in working up a case.
If you have any comments, feel free to share them below.