The practice of law is a veritable minefield of deadlines and rules. Deadlines probably cause lawyers to lose more sleep than anything. Lawyers should purchase case management software to help them monitor deadlines and prepare properly for motions and hearings. Another technique for taking the worry out of practice is to file a Motion for Additional Time the very second a complaint or counterclaim is received. For example, the lawyer receives a complaint for divorce against one of his clients. Rules of procedure require an answer within a certain time frame or a default judgment might be entered against the client without further notice. The first action should be to calendar a reminder for when the answer is due. The second action should be to file An Entry of Appearance with a Motion for Additional Time to Answer. We usually ad a “general denial” just for extra protection. This form can be generated in moments by trained staff and filed immediately.
Once this is filed, the worry about the deadline is significantly diminished because the rules of procedure require notice of all proceedings to all parties who have entered an appearance. Of course, steps should be taken to file a timely answer, but this process relieves a significant amount of worry. This procedural matter was revealed in the recent case of Burnsed v. Merritt, NO. 2009-CA-00051-COA (Decided June 22, 2010). The Court reversed a decision where no notice was served on a defendant who filed a Motion for Additional Time. The only caveat to this technique is where there are jurisdictional questions. If there are such questions, the filing of the Motion for Time could negate the jurisdictional challenge. This technique and the form Entry of Appearance will appear in my next book: Forms, Checklists and Procedures for the Family Lawyer which is to be published this summer by the American Bar Association.