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Using Evernote to manage your case files

By providing a powerful and intuitive method to store, organize and search through large amounts of information on any computer, tablet or smart phone, Evernote provides lawyers with the ability to better organize their law practice. One of the most practical and valuable applications of Evernote in your law practice is in the realm of case management. If you aren’t familiar with Evernote and missed our previous post about it, 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.

As we previously discussed, Evernote’s basic element is the “note”. Your notes can consist of formatted text, clipped webpages, pictures, voice memos, or handwritten notes. Notes can also include any form of attachment (from PDFs to Word documents). Evernote can read your PDFs, and by using optical character recognition, makes 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. With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can use Evernote to manage your case files.

Store an entire case in Evernote.

The more information stored in your Evernote folder, the more powerful it is as a case management tool. I recommend storing every piece of information related to your case in Evernote. Start with the information you send and receive via email. Sending emails to your Evernote is easy. Click on “Account Info…” and copy the email address listed where it says “Email notes to”. Then, when you receive an email, simply forward it to that email address. It will appear in your default notebook on Evernote. If you draft an email to a colleague, client, witness, or opposing counsel, be sure to bcc it to your Evernote account. Do this even when the email has an attachment. After all, many of those attachments, including .pdfs, .jpgs and .doc files, can be searched and viewed in Evernote. If you are sending a motion, brief, pleading or other memoranda to be served or filed, again, bcc your Evernote account. In fact, email is a great way to send all of the digital files you have for your case directly to your Evernote account including discovery, pleadings and motions you receive from opposing counsel.

But email isn’t the only way to send information to your account. You can create notes directly within the app itself. These notes can include type-written notes, dictated audio-recordings, and pictures taken with your camera phone.

If multiple individuals are working on a case, you can share access to notebooks with other Evernote users. Thus, Evernote can be set up so that if you take snapshots using your camera phone via Evernote during a site inspection, for example, those pictures will be automatically saved to, and accessible from, a shared notebook for immediate review by an associate or member of your support staff back in the office. Similarly, if you dictate an audio-note in Evernote while you are in the road, and that saved note is added to a shared folder, it can be quickly accessed by an assistant working from your office.

Evernote also offers a free web clipper utility that is available for your web browser. The clipper tool allows you to clip a section of text found on a website – or even the entire webpage – to your Evernote file. This features provides a great method to save online legal and fact research directly to Evernote.

Using each of these tools, you’ll be able to access your entire case file from your smart phone, iPad, work computer, laptop and home computer. This includes all pleadings, motions, legal research, your notes, and emails to and from the individuals involved in the case. In other words, you’ll have the entire case at your fingertips no matter where you are in the world.

Organize your files with Notebooks & Note Links.

Evernote also makes it easy to organize your separate case files. To differentiate one case from another, simply create separate notebooks for each unique case. To create a notebook all you have to do is click on File and then “New Notebook”.

“Note Links” in Evernote work the same way hyperlinks work on the web and provide an easy method for creating a table of contents or otherwise organizing the contents of a case file. Start by creating a note that will act as your Table of Contents by listing out headings for each of the different notes you want to include in the notebook. Then create Note Links that link to the notes collected in your file. When you click on those links they’ll automatically direct you to the referenced note.

Create a Checklist using Evernote.

Evernote even provides an easy tool for creating checklists to stay on top of your cases. Simply click on the checkbox icon on the tool bar after creating a new note. An unchecked box will appear in your note. Click that box to mark it as completed, or double click to uncheck the box. You can even search for notes with unchecked boxes by running a search for “todo:false”. It’s super easy.

There are countless ways you can use Evernote to improve your case management. What we’ve discussed above just scratches the surface. If you haven’t already, create an Evernote account on your computer and mobile device and start experimenting with the options available. The standard version of Evernote is free. If you fill your free account, a premium account with Evernote is only $45 a year or $5 a month. By the time you actually need to upgrade to a premium account you’ll swear that $45 a year is a steal for the value and increased efficiency it provides your practice.

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7 Comments

  1. Syd says:

    Interesting program however I think this would mostly work for solo attorneys. I do not think that this cloud based model is capable of handling a group practice.

    • Matthew Hickey says:

      Hey Syd. I can see why you’d think that, but I think Evernote would be a great file storage solution for any firm with under 10 attorneys. After all, you can easily share notebooks with other users. With that said, I can imagine how it might become more complicated in very large firms. Nonetheless, I come from a large firm background (multiple offices with 100+ attorney offices) and can say that it is very useful for the individual attorneys for organization of your personal files (as opposed to being used as a firm-wide solution).

    • Eustacius says:

      Actually, when this was written, no, but now, yes. Evernote has an enterprise version to address just this issue. Should also see “The Secret Weapon” for how to use EN for total GTD management using mostly tags. I use both notebooks and tags EN for case management. Can even use your EN tags for ticklers in addition to the ‘to-do” box. Best to be disciplined and visit EN “Pending” notebook every day and sort using time tags to keep it all up to date.

  2. Robert Hagler says:

    A separate notebook for each client makes sense, but in my criminal practice there may over 100 cases active at one time. Any suggestions for archiving closed cases, not to mention the 250 notebook limit in Evernote.

    • Matthew Hickey says:

      Hey Robert. I would recommend creating a single notebook for archived cases. Then once (or maybe before) you’ve created a single notebook for the archived cases, you can use tags to associate notes related to specific archived cases. The tags will keep it easy to find notes related to those cases and free up your 250 notebook limit. Several attorneys I’ve spoken with who deal with high numbers of cases just forego the use of notebooks altogether and just rely on tags. It just depends on how you like to use Evernote.

  3. Cynthia says:

    Just don’t allow web-based syncing or the confidentiality of your records is in jeopardy. This is a great solution, but only if the files are maintained locally.

    • Everyday Law Staff says:

      Absolutely. However, it seems that technology is headed that way.