Monday, May 3, 2021

Date Calculator Tools & Rules

In law practice (and life), sometimes you'll need to calculate a future date, especially for filing deadlines. While it may seem like a quick and simple task, any miscalculation could result in at least an embarrassing conversation, if not more severe consequences like a barred claim or even formal discipline. Some law practice management systems have this feature built in (like Thomson Reuters Firm Central Deadline Assistant), but others do not (for example, Clio's help page notes that while this feature is not yet available, users can request it). What should you do if your employer doesn't have such a tool built into its practice management system? As it turns out, there are a lot of options.

On social media last week, Chicago attorney Brad Romance went viral for his "Next Level Lawyer Pro Tip" video of the future date calculation feature in Microsoft Outlook Calendar, in which users can type "today+45" (or any other number) in the date field of an event to determine the date that many days into the future. The Court Deadlines website describes this process in more detail with screenshots in a post from 2018.

Microsoft's help pages also note that the built-in Windows Calculator includes a date calculation feature, by clicking on the navigation button in the top left corner. Select "Date calculation" from the menu of options (which includes a number of other calculator and converter tools that you may be more accustomed to web-searching) in order to calculate the date x days in the future.

In replies to Romance's Twitter tip, other lawyers chimed in with their own recommended approaches to date calculation. Many voted for the website, a popular calculation and conversion web resource; Clio recommends its users try this site on its help page about date calculation. Other attorneys admitted that they still calculate the dates by counting on a paper calendar, whether as their primary method or as a backup to electronic calculation; still more expressed eternal gratitude to their firm paralegals who already knew the Outlook calendaring trick.

Other replies flagged the important considerations of excluding official holidays, or whether the needed calculations should count calendar days or business days. It's critical to know the specific applicable rules for computing time (such as Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or more specific instructions in local rules or court orders). Since non-legal calculator tools will not account for those additional specifications, a free legal deadline tool like Casefleet's Legal Deadline Calculator may also be a useful bookmark. This site includes options to include or exclude the "trigger" date, clarify whether to count calendar days or only weekdays, and determine how to handle rolling over in the event the future date falls on a weekend or holiday.

In short, lawyers have many tools at their disposal to calculate future dates with confidence. For more tips on handy features within Microsoft Office products, check out Lawyerist's overview of Microsoft Office for Lawyers, which includes an in-depth review of Microsoft Word for Lawyers.