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Using Evernote To Improve Your Practice: The Basics

Managing The Mountain of Information

Attorneys work with fantastic amounts of information everyday. It begins at the very outset of a new matter when a client first sends you a new file. And the information almost never stops coming in. If you are a litigator, you’ll receive notices of hearings, motions, mediation briefs, arbitrations, settlement conference statements, trial briefs, and a host of different forms of correspondence from everyone involved in the matter. And that is nothing when compared to the amount of information you’ll consume while conducting or responding to discovery. With just one case, you could find yourself drowning in paperwork and information. And yet you’ll still have to take all of this information and analyze it, store it, process it, and use it to create new information.

If you want to update your practice and make it more efficient, more manageable and more contemporary, you’ll need to start with a way to manage all of this information in a way that is easy to organize, easy to search and easy to access. Evernote does just that, and it does so in a way that is intuitive, effortless, and straight-forward.

The Basics

Evernote is a cloud-based storage service for note taking and storing information. It’s available for your Mac, PC, Android phone/tablet, Windows Phone 7, iPad/iPhone, and Blackberry. Evernote’s basic element is the “note”.  Your notes can consist of formatted text, a clipped webpage, a picture, a voice memo, or a handwritten note. Notes can also include any form of attachment (from PDFs to Word documents). Evernote can read your PDFs, and by using OCR (optical character recognition), make them searchable. You can create notes using Evernote on any computer or mobile device, or you can email anything to your Evernote account. Your account will automatically sync, and you can then access your notes from any device where you’ve installed Evernote.

Getting Accustomed To Using Evernote

So let’s start with an example of how this works. We’ll say you receive an email from a client or partner assigning you a new matter. The email includes a PDF attachment of information regarding the client’s case (a pleading or contract for example). The first thing you’d want to do is forward that file to your Evernote account. This is accomplished as easily as forwarding any other email, except you’ll be forwarding to the Evernote-specific email address created when you sign up for an account. Now that you’ve done that, you’re able to access that file and the PDF attachment from any of your computers or mobile devices whether you are in the office, at home, or on the go.

If you later meet with your client in person, you can pull up the entire file on your mobile device on the spot. Not only that, you can easily add new information to your file at anytime and anywhere. If you are interviewing a witness or taking pictures during a site inspection, you can send that information directly to Evernote to easily access at your convenience. You can even share folders (or “notebooks” as they are called on Evernote) with the other members on your team, so that they can access the information you are creating only moments after you have created it.

Preparing For Trial

Realizing the benefit of having your information so readily available, you might choose to continue uploading all of the new information you receive to your Evernote account. As a result, later when you are at a hearing, mediation, or at trial, you have the entire file – every single piece of it – available in your Evernote account. And because of Evernote’s powerful searching capability, you can find everything related to your case without having to dig through redwells or by repeatedly thumbing through folders. Instead, you watch, fully amused, as opposing counsel wheels in a half dozen banker boxes of information that they’ll never be able to easily search despite the hours their staff spent creating summaries of each boxes contents.

Evernote In Your Day-To-Day Life

Evernote is good for your personal life, too. You can use it to create shopping lists before you go grocery shopping, put together outlines for your weekend project, and store your confirmation numbers and flight information for your next big vacation. There is pretty much no limit to the possibilities.  Heck, you could even create a blog post or a rough draft of a brief while sitting at the DMV (yup, this blog post was created in Evernote while I was doing just that). When you get home, you could use Evernote on your home computer to put it in final form. Pretty cool, huh?

In future posts we’ll discuss how you can really utilize all of Evernote’s features to thoroughly organize your cases and notes, but for now a good place to start would be by simply downloading and installing Evernote to your computer, smartphone and tablets. It’s free for the basic version. If you like it, you may later want to upgrade to the premium version. To get a feel for the possibilities I recommend creating a note on one device as soon as you download it. A little later try editing on a different device. While you are at it, forward yourself a few emails, and see how easy it is.  If you can’t wait, I recommend Daniel Gold’s eBook and unofficial guide to using Evernote to manage your law practice.

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3 Comments

  1. David Ward says:

    Great summary, Matthew.I use Evernote all day long, in all aspects of my work.

    Dan’s book is excellent and highly recommended. My newly released book, “Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity,” available at http://organizedlawyer.com, details additional ways lawyers can use Evernote in their practice.

    I’m looking forward to the next post in your series.

    • Matthew Hickey says:

      Thanks David! It’s my opinion that every attorney should at least give Evernote a shot. Your guide sounds great.

  2. Andrea Nagar says:

    You made a great point Matthew. One of the major issues is having information scattered all over the place and it takes a huge time to retrieve them.

    I wanted to mention our software PhraseExpander that allows lawyers to quickly retrieve the documents they need by simply typing an abbreviation but also create professional templates that they can use in all their applications, powerpoint, browser, word.