Most lawyers feel overwhelmed with information – it’s part of the job description.
“Attorneys are bombarded from every direction,” says Heidi Alexander, presenter of the ABA webinar Evernote for Lawyers. “You’ve got demands from clients, from staff, from family … and oh, by the way, you’ve got work that needs to get done.” Alexander is author of “Evernote as a Law Practice Tool” and the director of Practice Management Services for Massachusetts Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, where she advises lawyers on practice management matters, provides guidance in implementing new law office technologies and helps lawyers develop healthy and sustainable practices.
Without a way to manage all that information, the resulting overload leads to stress, which leads to chaos. For many people, the answer is Evernote, according to attorney Katie Floyd of the Law Office of Katherine L. Floyd, PLLC in Gainesville, Fla. “Everyone is different, but for me, the first thing I have to do is clear off my desk,” she says. “If there are too many things on my mind, it’s hard to focus and concentrate.” And that’s exactly what Evernote does.
There are competitors to Evernote, such as Microsoft OneNote and Google Docs, so Floyd recommends investigating each one to find the right fit. Most systems have a free version so you can check them out before migrating to a paid service.
With Evernote, the basic service is free for up to two devices, which is its biggest limitation. The Plus version is $24.99 per year, Premium is $49.99 a year and Premium for Business is $12 per month per user. The upgrades offer more upload capacity per month, more search features and security options, more sharing options and more offline access. Floyd advises researching each tier to decide which is right for your business.
When you download Evernote, you’ll see your workspace in a customizable display. This is where you’ll access your notebooks. “Everything in Evernote goes into notebooks, with content that’s tagged for better organization,” Alexander says, adding that tags also make it easy to sort and organize research.
The Evernote search function is very robust, with built-in ocular character recognition, which converts almost anything – such as handwritten notes or images – into searchable text. You can save clippings from the web with the internet toolbar. You can take photos or screenshots of what you’re browsing, then organize it with tags.
A work-chat function lets you share documents with colleagues, so everyone is seeing and working on the same document.
For lawyers, Evernote is useful for everything from firm administration, marketing, case management, legal research, productivity and time management – regardless of the size of your firm.
“The administration notebook keeps all our important information in one easy, accessible and organized place,” Alexander says, such as policies and procedures, CLEs and financial services. “You can track everything your firm needs to be tracking.”
It’s a useful system for unexpected absences or emergencies, to provide your clients with continuity of service. Evernote stores templates, and is also a legal research repository.
For case management, Evernote can be used as a primary system, or as a supplement. Cases are organized into closed, open and pending matters stacks.
“You can do a client intake in Evernote, include a draft fee agreement, then move it to open matters if the client hires you,” Alexander explains.
Evernote also helps with time management issues. You can save anything for later reading by making a “read later” tag, then catch up on reading during downtime or travel, for example.
Evernote also is great for using checklists. For each document template, you can create a checklist for tasks so you never forget what information is needed.
As far as security, you should research your jurisdiction on using cloud services. See the Evernote site for their policies on content ownership and encryption.
“I strongly encourage the use of a password manager, and use unique passwords on all devices,” instead of variants of the same one, Floyd advises. Evernote also allows you to encrypt text to manage sensitive client information, such as social security numbers.
“Evernote is really your offloaded brain,” Floyd says.