Minnesota Judicial Branch defines caseload as “the total number of clients registered with probation/parole department or officer at a specified point in time”.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines caseload as “the number of cases being handled as by a court, social agency, or welfare department, or by a caseworker, probation officer, etc.”
The lawyer handles three personal injury cases as part of his caseload for the month.
The American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI)published the results of the National Workload Assessment Project entitled “How Many Cases Should a Prosecutor Handle?” According to APRI, it is difficult to establish a national standard for case load. The study also identified the external and internal factors affecting the case load of a lawyers. The interplay of these factors can dictate how fast or slow a case will be decided by a court.
Norman Lefstein, author of “Securing Reasonable Caseload” discussed the negative impacts of excessive caseload. Clients have certain rights and privileges when it comes to the attention given by a lawyer to the case. The clients expect that motions are filed on time and that the lawyer will work diligently on their case.
Other Important Information
Lawyers are making use of case management concepts to manage their caseloads. This includes using technology to better monitor the status of their cases and implementing client-lawyer protocol on meetings such as scheduling, deadlines or appointments.
APRI identified the internal factors affecting caseload that are within the control of a lawyer. These are:
- Staff resources: the number of attorneys, investigators, victim/witness personnel, and other support staff;
- Staff skills: staff experience level and appropriate training;
- Physical resources: availability of office automation, vehicles, and office space;
- Office organization: use of specialized units/staff, vertical prosecution, supervisory structure; and
- Office policies and procedures: screening and charging decisions, proactive involvement in problem-solving and crime prevention (e.g., community prosecution), and coordination with law enforcement.
The internal factors are good indicators on how well a lawyer handles a caseload. The presence of senior or experienced lawyers and the over-all competence of the lawyers in the law firm are also good parameters in choosing a good law firm.
External factors may be generally categorized as follows: 1) legislative and operational factors, 2) criminal justice system factors, and 3) crime and demographic factors. These factors are beyond the control of the lawyer. The amount of time spent on a case and the number of cases that the lawyer will handle are affected by the external factors.
Photo “Legal clinic – case files” copyright by Pravnikliniky.