Sunday, August 11, 2013

Time, Time, Time

Sugarland covered a song years ago, Time, Time, Time. They said that they "Never thought I'd slow down I'm glad I finally know now."

I impatiently waited in the drive through the other day. They were slow, though I had ordered a basic menu item. They were not prepared for the volume of business and so there I sat. For six minutes! An entirely intolerable delay. I stewed, I fussed with the radio, and I waited.  Six minutes! 

After I was back on the road, I found myself reflecting n the delay as I happily devoured my breakfast. Is six minutes really that long?  Reflection is good for the soul. I found myself concluding that I was not realistic in my expectation of greater speed. Whose fault was it? I am reluctant to blame myself. In this instance, I will elect instead to blame the establishment. They, after all, are the ones that trained me to expect that I can drive up, order, get my food, and be back on the highway in two or three minutes. 

I spoke at a meeting recently. An attendee told me of concern about the processing of a settlement motion in a district office. The paper work, I was told, had been sitting there for four days. The attendee expressed consternation and surprise at this delay. It was described as "ridiculous." We discussed how most settlement orders are processed in a day, two at the most. Four days! 

It reminded me of a conversation I had some time ago regarding a trial order in a case. The record had been closed for some time, but in my conversation they would not tell me how long. They wanted to prompt an order from the judge, but would not tell me which judge. I made several suggestions. You see, the judges want to get those orders out in a timely manner. I know of their efforts in that regard. I close all of my trials with a prediction of when a final order can be expected, and a request that the parties contact me if they do not receive an order by that prediction. Most of our trial orders across the state are published in under fifteen days, some take a bit longer. 

I was at the annual meeting of The Florida Bar in June. I shared some thoughts with an acquaintance that does not practice worker's compensation. He explained that many days more than 30 may be required for a final order in a contested bench trial in his practice. That said, our statute says 30 days, and we should live up to that absent some circumstance that precludes compliance. 

These various conversations came back to me as I reflected on my exasperation 6 minute wait for my breakfast sandwich, I reconsidered timeliness. Sure, I would hope we could get out settlement orders out within 24 to 48 hours (that is one to two business days). We often do. But expecting that on every case is likely not realistic. Judges and staff take vacations and become ill, just like everyone else. Sure, I would hope that our trial orders get published within 30 days of trial (the vast majority do, see the OJCC Annual Reports), but that is not realistic either. Things can delay those orders.

More important than the timing, I would hope that we get the job done right. I would hope we remain conscious of the statutory parameters,  but that we remain focused on the real goal, getting the job done right. When time is needed to get it right, I hope we take that time. Even if it means that the order comes out a few days after the statutory 30 day period. 

Perhaps we have created the expectation of speed, much as that restaurant has trained me to expect the three minute sandwich (often even quicker). That is not necessarily a bad thing.  Promptness is a blessing in litigation. So when the service is great, say so. when it takes a little longer,  realize that we are doing our best, with diminishing resources, staff turnover, training, and more; but that we are focused on doing a great job for you and your client.

Try to remember how things used to be, "in the good old days," when we would try a case, wait months for an order, and tell our clients "this is just the way it is, we will have to be patient."  I know of lawyers that spent more than a year post-trial trying to be patient as they awaited an order. I know personally of cases where years passed. I know of situations where the years of waiting led to nothing but having to retry the case. These are all in our OJCC history. But, I wager that kind of delay has not happened to you in the Florida OJCC lately. 

Things are relative. I have resolved not to expect my fast food in two minutes, just because they often hand it to me that fast. I am also going to try to remember to compliment them when they do get it that fast. If you get a chance to tell one of our judges or mediators that you noticed something worthy of a compliment, I hope you will do the same. 

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