Trigger Happy

January 21, 2020

Trigger Happy

by Audrey Priolo, Litigation Review Attorney


Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise. – Michael Jordan

Whether you are a seasoned legal veteran or new to the game, it is always a good idea to go back to the basics and remember the fundamental principles behind legal calendaring.  For new legal professionals, fundamentals are the cornerstone and must be mastered before digging deeper into the nuances.  For the more experienced, it is easy to forget the underlying lessons we started with, so it is crucial to revisit basics.  I would argue, the most important fundamental lesson in legal calendaring is knowing your trigger.  A trigger is the action that sets any legal calculation into action.  For example, look at FRCP Rule 33 – Interrogatories to Parties.  FRCP 33(b)(2) says,

(2) Time to Respond. The responding party must serve its answers and any objections within 30 days after being served with the interrogatories. A shorter or longer time may be stipulated to under Rule 29 or be ordered by the court.

The trigger in FRCP 33(b)(2) is service of the interrogatories.  This is the zero date where the calculation will be derived.  While this is a simple theory, this is the step where many docketing professionals go wrong, especially when the docketer is dealing with multiple jurisdictions nationwide.  Each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding triggers.  Some like to use service date, others use filing date, entry date, and occasionally the date received.  Step one must be identifying the trigger.  If the wrong trigger is selected, none of the other details will matter, because the zero date is incorrect making all derivative calculations incorrect.  Ensure you have the proper trigger to safeguard your calculation by building on a firm foundation and not quicksand.  The better you understand triggers the happier you will be with your docketing results.  

Tips and Tricks – Selecting Triggers using the Keyword and Court Rule ID Function

Have you ever felt uncertain about what trigger to choose?  eDockets has a tool that allows the user to find the deadline they know they are looking for, in order to find the corresponding trigger that creates it.  To use this feature, first open a new docket entry window. Next, click on the keyword search (or Court Rule ID to find the authority) radio button located in the middle of the docket window.  Enter a keyword (e.g. motions, response, etc.) that would appear in the deadline you are looking for, then click the rule search hyperlink.  The user will be presented with a list of deadlines that highlight in yellow the keyword you are looking for.  When you find the deadline you want, click on it.  You will then find that the Trigger Type field will automatically be selected with the corresponding trigger.  Click ‘Create Events’ and follow your normal docketing workflow. 

If you continue to struggle with Trigger Type selection, our Court Rules attorneys are always here for you.  They can be contacted at

Audrey L. Priolo is a licensed California attorney with over 13 years of litigation and trial experience, who now works at American LegalNet as a Litigation Procedure Attorney.  Questions may be directed to

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