Here at Claims Prevention & practicePRO we often talk about “baby steps”. The big idea is that taking baby steps can help make you a more effective lawyer. There isn’t necessarily One Big Thing that will magically turn you into a great lawyer.  The  elements of a habit are explored in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. The book explains that a habit is made up of four key elements: (1) a cue that triggers a response; (2) a routine that is the same response every time; (3) a reward that is a consequence of or follows after the routine; and (4) a belief that the habit will help you achieve your goal. We can take this idea and explore some of the habits that can help you practice “automatically”and evade malpractice claims. In this post we take a look at one simple habit to avoid missing deadlines.

Discover a deadline, Tickle a deadline

The simple habit to avoid missing deadlines is this: when you discover a deadline (cue), tickle it (routine), and revel in the knowledge that you have taken the first step to protect yourself from a malpractice claim (reward). You better believe it’s worthwhile – for plaintiff litigators, missing deadlines is the top source of malpractice claims.

Don’t let anything get in the way of building this habit. Take this scenario: You walk into an intake meeting and bring a notepad or laptop to take notes. In the midst of the meeting, a deadline is discovered – whether it’s a filing deadline, a limitation period, a notice period, or a client-imposed deadline. You understand the deadline is critical and you then write it down on the notepad or in a document on your laptop. When the meeting is over, you walk back to your office. As you sit down, your intention is to tickle the deadline, that is, to mark the date down in your calendar and set staggered reminders leading up to it. However, you are interrupted by a phone call. You pick it up, only to discover it’s an urgent matter. When you hang up you proceed to work on the urgent matter. By the time you’re done working on the urgent matter, you’ve forgotten to tickle the deadline.

A good habit is a routine that is always done. No exceptions. If you discover or think of a deadline while you’re in a coffee shop, take out your phone and email instructions to your assistant to tickle it. If you’re in an interview or a discovery and find out about a deadline, email instructions to your assistant tickle it. And if you don’t have an assistant, then email yourself so you can tickle it when you get back into the office. Develop this simple habit – when you discover a deadline, tickle it – and take a big step to avoiding a big source of malpractice claims.