In Louisiana and across the country, many Federal and State Courts have issued orders governing how court business will be conducted in light of shelter in place orders and social distancing. Here in Louisiana, many of our courts have completely closed for weeks at a time. However, even in this unprecedented time of global pandemic, lawyers are not relieved of their ethical and professional obligations to their clients. One such obligation is to ensure that they are meeting all deadlines promptly.
The most recent National Survey of Legal Malpractice Claims promulgated by the American Bar Association’s National Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability found that single activity most likely to generate a legal malpractice claim was the preparation, filing, and transmittal of documents. This is because almost one third of all errors alleged in the malpractice claim survey had to do with missed deadlines, including the: 1) failure to calendar a deadline properly; 2) the failure to file a document; 3) the failure to react to a deadline on a calendar; 4) the failure to know and/or to ascertain a deadline; or, 5) a planning error.
In Louisiana, all legal deadlines applying to Louisiana State court proceedings have been suspended from March 16, 2020, the original date Governor John Bel Edward supplemented his emergency proclamations to legal deadlines, until “at least Monday, April 30, 2020” under Governor John Bel Edwards' recent April 2, 2020 Order, extending the Stay at Home Mandate. The suspension of legal deadlines under Governor Edwards' Orders includes deadlines relating to prescription (akin to common law statute of limitations) and preemption (somewhat similar to a statute of repose) deadlines. It also includes the deadlines associated with pending cases, such as briefing deadlines. The extension of deadlines applies to proceedings in all Louisiana State courts, administrative agencies and boards. However, it is important to note that this extension of filing deadlines does not apply to cases proceeding in federal court where federal procedural law applies.
Louisiana lawyers should bookmark and frequently check the Louisiana Supreme Court’s COVID-19 information page. Here, the Court has created a dedicated page that posts all of the orders issued by the individual Louisiana Courts, including some of the orders issued by Federal Courts located in Louisiana.
Thinking proactively, if you have not switched to a fully electronic calendar, now is the time. You want to make sure your calendaring system has built in redundancy in two important aspects. First, you want to make sure that more than one person is aware of all deadlines. Second, you want to make sure that there is more than one copy of the calendar – there must be a backup in place so that if your computer crashes, you do not lose your entire calendaring system. And, of course, the most practical solution to time-based malpractice is obvious – don’t procrastinate. Use this weird time, to the best of your ability, to proactively get ahead of your deadlines.
N.B. This is an incredibly stressful time. Our profession is already plagued by high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Do not be ashamed if you are struggling. JLAP, a confidential program, has put together a list of resources for Louisiana Judges and Lawyers: https://louisianajlap.com/covid-19/.
 American Bar Association Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability, Profile of Legal Malpractice Claims 2012-2015 (2016).
 The April 2, 2020 Order can be found here: https://gov.louisiana.gov/assets/Proclamations/2020/41-JBE-2020-Stay-At-Home-Extended.pdf
 See, https://www.lasc.org/COVID19. The Louisiana Supreme Court website provides a complete listing of all Court Orders issued to date from the various district and circuit courts around the State.
COVID-19 Response Resource Team: