Rookie Mistakes to Avoid: Missing Important Deadlines

Rookie Mistakes to Avoid: Missing Important Deadlines


"I was served with requests for admission in a commercial litigation case.  I didn't calendar the response date, which came and went.  Our opposing counsel threatened to move to have the requests deemed admitted, which would have caused us to lose our case.  The case ultimately settled, but I felt like a fool in front of the partner.  The partner also had to tell the client about my mistake, which was incredibly embarrassing."

How to avoid this disaster:

As a new lawyer, deadlines are your responsibility.  To take this a step further, as a new lawyer it is your responsibility to demonstrate that you are a reliable, diligent, and organized professional.  There are a number of ways to organize your practice so as to stay on top of all of your deadlines.  

1. Organize Your Office

Maintaining an organized physical space will help you stay on top of your work and your deadlines.  To keep your office organized: clear your desktop; go paperless where possible; clear the floor of papers and boxes; and organize your office routinely so you never get behind.  

2. Organize Your Practice

There are several key ways to keep your substantive practice organized: hoard legal pads (and use a separate one for each project, case, or deal you are assigned to); file and label obsessively; make lists of daily, weekly, and monthly to-dos; put every deadline on both an electronic and portable written calendar as soon as you are made aware of it (this is the key to avoiding this week's disaster); and organize your email inbox by deleting, filing away, and turning emails into action items, as appropriate.

By keeping your office and your practice organized, you are ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks and nothing is left unattended

Desiree Moore is the President and founder of Greenhorn Legal, LLC. Greenhorn Legal offers intensive practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices.  Ms. Moore is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was an associate at the law firm of K&L Gates. She can be found on Twitter at @greenhornlegal.