The 5th Circuit called its recent decision “a cautionary tale for every attorney who litigates in the era of e-filing”.
Providing a broad warning as a relatable situation, a recent story about a lawsuit that was dismissed after a lawyer missed an email notice about a motion for summary judgment — because it was filtered into an ‘other’ email folder. We’ve all had emails incorrectly filtered into spam whether as a sender or receiver, and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent decision not to reinstate the lawsuit provides a basic lesson in diligence particularly when related to critical deadlines, as relayed in a recent ABA Journal article:
In the Home Depot case, the 5th Circuit said Allison “was plainly in the best position to ensure that his own email was working properly—certainly more so than either the district court or Home Depot. Moreover, Rollins’ counsel could have checked the docket after the agreed deadline for dispositive motions had already passed.”
Further guidance for lawyers to avoid a similar situation is offered by Catherine Sanders Reach at the NCBA Center for Practice Management. Read her full article for more on the following recommended steps:
- Set up a unique email account for efiling
- Check the docket (read the full article for tips on services)
- Add important dates to your calendar (more on calculating dates here from NCBA CPM)
- Check ALL of your spam filters
- Scrutinize rules, automations, and filters
- Be wary of ‘smart’ inboxes
- Act right away (add to task list before moving email from inbox)
- Keep your inbox clean
- Use conditional formatting in MS Outlook
To the suggestion of adding important dates to your calendar, our own Mass LOMAP practice management advisor, Laura Keeler recommends to add them on a shared or team calendar. That way, if someone is sick, on vacation, or on leave, rather than having these deadlines solely on someone’s unshared personal calendar, the other teammates working on that matter should still have access to see upcoming deadlines. Further, firms can make it a habit when planning for the week ahead to cross-check said shared electronic calendar for any upcoming deadlines. (These deadlines could even be color-coded to red if it helps catch the eye, with reminders built in to chime 7 days and 3 days ahead.) Hopefully lawyers will think of planning for deadlines like they do for backups — be proactive and yet still plan for redundancies to build a safety net.
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