This is the next post in my series on how attorneys can utilize Microsoft’s OneNote software into their law office. My last post looked at why lawyers should use OneNote in their practice, as a general matter, in order to increase efficiency. Greater efficiency means a greater amount of ‘da cash in your bank account. In this post I’m going to dive into how you can use the software to go largely paperless in your office. Doing so will help you to look like this:
and will prevent your desk from looking like this:
I’m assuming you would rather look like the fine chap in the first picture. Let’s get to it.
First we’ll look at how you should organize your OneNote files. Then we’ll dive into how you can, and should, use the app to store all of your notes and pleadings. Finally, we’ll look at why I don’t see OneNote as a great option for paperless correspondence files. At the end of the day, going paperless with your notes and pleadings will make life much, much, much (much) easier.
Let’s start with how to organize the file system. As I mentioned in my last post, OneNote takes the idea of a three ring binder and puts it into digital form. You can create a “notebook” devoted to a given subject. You can then place “tabs” inside of each notebook that are similar to the dividers you would place in a three ring binder. You can then put as many notes as you like inside of each tab. This makes creating a file system easy for law firms. Once you’ve created the notebooks you can use the “search” feature to quickly find anything you’re looking for.
Simply create a notebook for each client. Inside of each notebook create a tab for your current categories of paper files. Let’s say client Joe has separate paper files for pleadings, notes, and correspondence. Simply create one OneNote notebook called “Joe” and create separate tabs for pleadings and notes (again, I wouldn’t use OneNote for paperless correspondence). Whenever a pleading comes in you can scan it and attach it to a note inside of Joe’s pleadings tab. Whenever you take a handwritten note on a legal pad you can simply tear off the piece of paper and attach it to a digital note inside of Joe’s “notes” tab. Also, any notes which you can take by typing can, obviously, just be typed directly into OneNote.
You can easily set up OneNote for each employee in your office. The notebook sharing feature makes it super simple for everyone to access the materials contained inside of OneNote. So if your associate needs to look up the notes from Joe’s last hearing all he or she has to do is pull up OneNote. The software’s search feature makes finding everything super easy. Do you get sick of constantly looking for paper notes, information on legal pads, and pleadings? Getting all that information into OneNote can save you quite a bit of time and make your firm more profitable.
When I discussed previously how attorneys can go paperless with Evernote, I also looked at how that software can be used to create a paperless correspondence file. This is where some limitations with OneNote come into play. A great app is available for Evernote called “Powerbot.” This allows one to read an email, send a response, and have both the email and the response go straight into a client’s Evernote folder. This makes keeping a paperless correspondence file pretty easy. In OneNote there are plenty of ways to have an email you read sent to the client’s folder but getting any response you type into the digital notebook requires some extra steps. This can make getting through your email cumbersome and I wouldn’t suggest it (Powerbot is available for OneNote but it’s far more limited). The lack of being able to easily get sent emails into OneNote is why I can’t suggest it for a paperless correspondence file.
Is OneNote a great tool for keeping notes and pleadings? Yep. Can it greatly reduce the amount of paper in your office? Yep. Will this make you more efficient? Yep. If you’re not currently using digital notebooks, will OneNote make your life much easier and more profitable? Yep.
Why do you feel more attorneys don’t use tools such as OneNote to go paperless? Please chime in through the comment form below.