An attorney's job is to pursue the resolution of court cases in civil litigation or criminal law. A caseload is the group of cases an attorney is working on at the same time. A busy attorney may have a large caseload to manage. When a new case is opened, it is added to the attorney's caseload and the attorney and his staff work on it until the case is resolved. Attorneys and their staff attempt to keep all cases in the caseload moving forward, though the various cases are often at different stages of completion and the attorney must keep track of each case.
There are different types of caseloads, depending on what type of law the attorney practices. A criminal attorney’s caseload could include many traffic ticket cases, and a few felony cases, for example. A personal injury lawyer’s caseload may include several cases that will be resolved through out-of-court settlements and a few that will see a jury trial.
An attorney's caseload size depends on his experience, efficiency, legal specialty, and size of his staff. Experienced attorneys can complete a large volume of routine cases quickly. An attorney who works on large, complex cases might spend a few years working on only a couple of cases. Wealthy clients might prefer to hire an attorney who can focus on their case without being distracted by too many other cases.
When an attorney has many cases, it is important to follow the times and dates of the court hearings and trials carefully. If the attorney fails to show up at court, it is possible that the opposing side will win the case. Court cases also have deadlines that must be followed. For example, in many states the attorney has 20 days to respond to a lawsuit on behalf of a client. Failure to do so will likely result in the case being lost or thrown out, though an attorney who has an important reason to need more time can request an extension from the court.
The importance of caseload management means attorneys often use case management practices to keep track of their caseload. This includes using calendars, lists, and computer software. Paralegals and legal assistants track court deadlines on calendars. Attorneys and paralegals often use checklists to keep track of the status of each case in the caseload.
Case management computer software allows law firms to handle a large caseload efficiently. It has features that help lawyers and staff keep track of schedules, billing, phone calls, e-mails and documents. Some software also includes word processing features and legal form templates that are used to produce documents.