By Heidi N. Beachy, Paralegal Manager – Docket Control, Standley Law Group LLP,

Docketing is one of the most important aspects of any law firm. There are a variety of systems available to law firms to manage the docketing process. Some law firms may create their own system using resources already accessible to them, such as a spreadsheet, database or calendar. Other law firms may choose to purchase their system from a third-party vendor specializing in programming electronic software specific to an area of practice. Regardless of what the system looks like, it is essential for a law firm to invest in some kind of docketing system.

The main purpose of a docket is to alert attorneys and paralegals of upcoming deadlines. Docketing systems have developed over the years to be more than deadline tracking. Systems can now store case information, notes, documents, images, etc. The amount of information kept in a docketing system varies depending on the area of law and what works best for the law firm.

Some may think docketing is simply data entry. It is true that the act of docketing requires data entry; however, it is much more than that. The person receiving incoming correspondence and subsequently entering data in the system (“docketers”) should be experienced in the area of law to know what information needs entered into the system. Without this knowledge, the system will not perform properly.

Intellectual property (“IP”) law is very complex with several types of matters, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, domain names, litigation cases, etc. Each practice area has its own set of procedures and rules. Having a quality docketing system with experienced docketers is vital to the success of any IP law firm. Missing a deadline can result in expensive fees to revive the matter or, in a worst-case scenario, abandonment and loss of rights for the client.

Understanding the importance of docketing, our firm, Standley Law Group LLP, has invested in one of the best docketing software packages available to IP law firms. Our system helps us manage thousands of matters. Some matters may take just a few weeks to complete but the majority of matters take months to years to complete. Many of the matters we handle are more than a single document filing - they are complex with several documents, forms, fees, etc. due throughout the prosecution, maintenance or litigation process. So having a docketing system that can handle our workload is crucial. It is also crucial that our system monitors and updates federal, state and foreign matters as the diversity of our clients’ IP portfolios span worldwide.

Docketing involves daily attention. Incoming correspondence and actions are received, reviewed and then entered by managers/docketers, and double-checking may occur by others at the firm. The process may include the following:

  • enter application or case details (such as serial numbers and/or file numbers);
  • review of incoming correspondence and actions;
  • add notes and images associated with a matter;
  • maintain database with deadlines and reminders;
  • prepare docket reports with upcoming deadlines;
  • create status reports; and
  • correspond with clients to update them throughout the process of their matter.

Law firms should be well versed with the procedures and rules pertaining to their practice area. Docketing is the best tool for law firms to organize and manage case information and deadlines. A good docketing process in conjunction with a good docketing system provides peace of mind to firms and clients.

This article is for general information purposes to permit you to learn more about our firm and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.