One of the worst nightmares an attorney can experience is an accusation of malpractice — and that can happen very easily if you make a mistake during the discovery process. Aside from putting your client in a bad position, you could be putting your career in jeopardy as well.
Here’s some well-considered advice about things that every attorney needs to keep in mind when filing discovery motions:
1. Don’t overlook the time limit
If you have a discovery dispute, you have a 30-day limit to bring it to the judge’s attention — maximum. Pay attention to the time limit in your district just in case there are variations. Most judges will not be understanding if the proper paperwork hasn’t been filed on time — and you don’t get an extension for deficiencies.
2. Don’t get your dates confused
There are usually a lot of orders flowing around, and it’s easy to get things like the discovery cutoff date confused with the one for motions. There’s absolutely no substitution for reading the paperwork carefully and keeping track of the dates on a good calendar.
3. Don’t have your assistant call to schedule a hearing date
In federal court, most of the clerks are also experienced attorneys. They may need to communicate something on a level that your firm’s secretary — no matter how experienced — won’t follow in the same way that another attorney would. Make the call yourself, and be ready to discuss how many different discovery motions you need the hearing for, what type of discovery motions they are and whether you’ve already conferred with the other attorney.
These “best practices” will go far to keep you out of the hot seat where the Bar is concerned. If you do have a problem, however, an attorney with experience defending professional licenses may be able to help.