Lawyers have the sometimes-thankless job of working all year for their clients. And clients trust their lawyers to know what obstacles may be on the horizon: competence, integrity and reputation matters. A missed deadline undermines everything. But what if you missed a deadline or key filing because of an obscure or state specific holiday that precludes you from getting in contact with opposing counsel? Or filing at a courthouse? Try explaining that to a client.
Hopefully, if you’re prepared, you won’t have to.
As we all experienced at the close of 2022, holidays are fast paced and sometimes require a scramble on a good day. And being a country of 50 diverse states with idiosyncratic histories, cultures and traditions, attorneys need to be familiar with several unique holidays recognized in in different geographies.
There are holidays that most, if not all states recognize that close both state and federal government entities. Think Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, Memorial Day or Independence Day.
But what about Pioneer Day? Unless you live in Utah or are a practicing adherent of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, you probably don’t. But in one of America’s fastest growing states, July 24 in Utah means most government buildings, including the courts, are closed.
Likewise in Illinois, Lincoln’s Birthday is recognized. In Florida, Yom Kippur is recognized. Cesar Chavez Day is recognized in California. Many states have begun recognizing Juneteenth, while some states have begun to distance themselves from Columbus Day.
Off the top of your head, without using Google or a similar search engine, could you say for sure if your state does or doesn’t recognize those holidays?
If you don’t know, you’re likely not alone – thankfully, the solution is simple.
If you operate primarily in one state or county, at the start of every new year check the holidays on the websites of county or circuit courthouses. They will commonly list them in an easy to find place.
However, if your work takes you across county or state lines or a case requires filing or working with local counsel in a county or state you are unfamiliar with, start by taking stock of what filings or deadlines are approaching in the coming weeks or months. Then cross reference those dates with the state and local holidays listed on the court websites in the areas where you expect to file.
Missing a deadline can put any attorney into a panicked mindset, not to mention the reputational impact it can have on client relationships. For instance, if you are responding to a discovery request in an out-of-state case in Hawaii, for example, and you didn’t know the state government offices – and opposing counsel – are closed on March 26 in observance of Hawaii’s Prince Jonah Kuhlo Kalanianaole Day, you could open yourself up to a claim of negligence you are beyond the required response deadline. So start the new year off right and familiarize yourself with the local, state and federal holidays that could impact your practice and clients.