This is the next post in my series on how attorneys can utilize Microsoft’s OneNote software in their own law offices. 

My last post looked at why lawyers should use OneNote in their practice to increase efficiency. 

Because at the end of the day, greater efficiency means more cash in your bank account. 

In this post, I’m going to dive into how you can use the software to go mostly paperless in your office. 

Here are some reminders of why your law firm should start making strides to eliminate paper:

  • Document management issues cost attorneys as much as 6 hours per week.
  • Lawyers and paralegals are known to spend as much as 2.3 hours on not being able to find the right documents, and then 2 more hours recreating them.

As any business owner will tell you: Time. Is. Money.

Going paperless will help you to look like this:

Relaxed businessperson

and will prevent your desk from looking like this:

Paperwork overload

I’m assuming you would rather look like the fine chap in the first picture. So let’s get to how to can do just that.

Going Paperless — The First Steps

  • 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 an excellent 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.

Revamping Your File System

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 and then place “tabs” inside each notebook — similar to the dividers you would put in a three-ring binder. 

You can then put as many notes as you like inside 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 find anything you’re looking for quickly. Simply create a notebook for each client. Inside of each notebook, make a tab for your current categories of paper files. 

For example: Let’s say client Joe has separate paper files for pleadings, notes, and correspondence. 

First, you’d create a OneNote notebook called “Joe,” and then create separate tabs for pleadings and notes (again, I wouldn’t use OneNote for paperless correspondence, though)

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 tear off the piece of paper and attach it to a digital note inside Joe’s “notes” tab. And any notes 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 it too. 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. 

Making Life Easier With OneNote

OneNote’s search feature makes finding everything super easy. 

Just think about all the time you spend 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 as a result, make your firm much more profitable.

When I discussed how attorneys can go paperless with Evernote, I also looked at how well software can serve as a paperless correspondence file. And that’s exactly where some limitations with OneNote come into play. 

Evernote has a ton of useful integrations. These integrations allow you 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 with Evernote. 

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 is going to be a few extra steps. 

This makes the whole email experience cumbersome, and I wouldn’t suggest it (Integrations are available for OneNote, but it’s a bit more limited).

The lack of email-compatibility with OneNote is why I can’t suggest it for a paperless correspondence file.

Want to learn how to make your law firm even more paperless? Learn why law firms should switch to G Suite.

Closing Thoughts

Is OneNote a great tool for keeping notes and pleadings? Yes.

Can it greatly reduce the amount of paper in your office? Yes. 

Will this make you more efficient? Yes

If you’re not currently using digital notebooks, will OneNote make your life much easier and more profitable? Yes.

Why do you feel more attorneys don’t use tools such as OneNote to go paperless? Please chime in through the comment form below.

(And while you’re here, why not check out our guide on getting more clients for your firm?)