I am amazed at the failure of lawyers to utilize the technology available to them to save time, money and confusion. One of those situations involves attending a mediation or court on a motion, hearing, or trial and then leaving without a typed and signed agreement or order. Attorneys typically leave such situations and return to their offices where one attorney later prepares the document and then sends it to the other attorney for approval. This takes extra time and requires a return to the Judges office after agreement is reached to obtain his or her signature. However, it is not unusual for there to be disagreement about what should be in the order. This takes more time and often results in the loss of an agreement or a return trip to the Judge to obtain the Judge’s guidance in the writing of the order.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Write your decree before you go to Court.” This is great advice. Attorneys should write their proposed Agreement or Order before they attend a mediation or a court hearing and then take their computer equipment with them to revise and print the document on site and obtain signatures of approval before departing. Sometimes this takes a little extra time on the occasion, but it saves incredible amounts of time and confusion in the long run. Many Courts also make computers available, and when this is the case, the attorneys can simply take a flash drive with a proposed order or agreement for ease of revision.
This situation is reflected in the recent case of White v. MDHS, No. 2009-CA-00537-COA (Decided July 20, 2010). In that case, a child support hearing was held in February and the Judge ordered an increase in support to take place beginning “on the first of the month.” However, the actual written Order was not prepared and signed by the lawyers and Judge until April 18. The payor of support contended his increased payments did not start until May 1, which was the “first of the month” after entry of the order. A hearing was held over the disagreement in the start date for the support and the Judge ordered that the correct start date was March 1, not May 1. The matter was then appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge’s ruling. So, a hearing and an appeal and all of the expense and delay that goes with them could have been avoided had an order been prepared on the spot at the February hearing.