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Refreshing: InstaDocket Automates Massachusetts Courts Updates

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Lawyers appearing in court rely on case dockets to trigger action: to develop workflows for case management, to manage their general calendars and to mold (and reformat) case strategies.  With advances in technology, courts are now making documents attached to case dockets directly available online; and, that’s the case with Massachusetts, too, where courts are pushing more and more case-related documents (including decisions) to (if you maintain a federal practice, think of it as PACER for Massachusetts).  There’s just one problem: you don’t know when the docket’s been updated until you log-in to the site, to check.  Checking back (and back again), refreshing the site, waiting, rechecking . . . It all amounts to a lot of wasted time; and, when you forget to check, or just get frustrated and stop doing it, you’re potentially missing important updates.  Getting those docket updates in real-time would certainly be useful; but, the time and energy cost of doing so probably does not yield a favorable result for the busy lawyer; and, at base, doing it ‘right’ involves some level of guesswork as to the anticipated time frame for release of information.
But, you know what’s really refreshing?: There’s now a solution available that provides automated docket updates from  InstaDocket is the latest project developed by the 2014 American Bar AssociationSuffolk University Law School ‘Hackcess to Justice’ competition winner, Bill Palin.  It delivers docket updates from direct to your email or calendar.  InstaDocket continually checks for updates for your cases at, so you don’t have to.  The first time you use InstaDocket, you’ll receive an introductory email, which will provide a link to subscribe to InstaDocket updates for your cases through your Outlook or Google calendar.  From then on, you’ll receive regular docket updates (the full docket, when new items are added) through your email and calendar, including for posted decisions and rulings.  Calendar updates (meetings, deadlines) will be automatically added to your calendar; digest updates and documents will be emailed to you.  Once you establish the calendar sync, calendar updates will be directly loaded to your calendar without any intermediary action required by you.
While this is a seemingly small upgrade, to think of this tool in that way would be misleading.  Acquiring immediate docket updates places you at a time advantage over attorneys who are not using InstaDocket: if you have a few days’ lead time on a filing, you may have already crafted your response before the other side has even become aware that they will need to make one.  The ability to act quickly is a tremendous advantage in litigation, and almost antithetical to how litigation has traditionally commenced.  From a malpractice avoidance standpoint, acquiring regular docket updates means that you will be less likely to miss important dates and deadlines, which is a common gateway to client complaints and judicial scrutiny.  InstaDocket allows you to engage proactively with your court docket in a way that was heretofore unavailable.
The value of a product like InstaDocket is so obviously clear; but, the system does have some immediate limitations, both of which are solvable.  For one, while all Massachusetts courts have access to the site, not every court is posting information and documents in the same way.  Certainly, that is an administrative issue that the courts must solve; but, in the meantime, and in terms of InstaDocket’s effectiveness: if a docket item is actually added to, InstaDocket picks it up.  Functionally, InstaDocket provides certain updates that download directly to your calendar; however, there is not yet a notification feature available, to inform you that those updates have been made to your calendar; you’ll have to look at your calendar to find out.  Clearly, there are areas in which notifications customization can be built out; and, it’s being worked on, such that this is not a reason, either, to avoid utilizing InstaDocket in the interim.  Truly, there is nothing else like it out there for Massachusetts lawyers; and, because it’s so easy to set up and use, InstaDocket does not suffer from the curse of more bloated softwares, which require a downturn in productivity (while you figure out how to use it), before equilibrium, then a positive net result, are achieved.
InstaDocket is a subscription service, charged at $15/month/user.  Free 30-day trials are available.
Liner Notes
Faster’ by George Harrison
This is all about picking up speed, right; and who gets up to speed faster than the quiet one?

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