laptop with paper files

This is a continuation of my series on why lawyers should use Evernote in their own law firms. 

My last post served as a series overview and gave a few examples of how attorneys can save time with Evernote

This post is going to look at how to organize Evernote for maximum efficiency — and the most common Evernote-mistakes see attorneys making. 

This is an important part of the discussion because, like with most things in life, if you get off on the wrong foot, you’re likely to have problems down the road. 

Starting in the right direction will help ensure your efficiency increases, which leads to more profit.

Now, let’s get organized.

The Right Way To Use Evernote in Your Firm

Evernote is a digital filing cabinet & note-taking system where you can create “notebooks” to hold data and then “tag” notes with a designation to find them quickly at a later date.

A lot of law firms start using Evernote and immediately save everything imaginable into it without really thinking about organizing.

If you were starting a law firm, you probably wouldn’t just start throwing all your documents into one giant box with sticky notes attached. 

Or at least, I hope you wouldn’t.

You’d likely sit down and make a methodical plan for filing items so that they can be quickly retrieved. 

Evernote is a filing system, so before you even start using it, you need to come up with a plan.

Why Your Law Firm Should Take a “Less is More” Approach for Evernote

less is more

By less is more,” I mean that you should avoid making tons of notebooks and make good use of the tagging feature instead.

For example, let’s say you keep notes after every court hearing or important case development. 

You probably wouldn’t want to have a separate notebook for each client. Instead, you could just have one to save the notes on all your cases in one spot. Then all you’d have to do is tag each note with the respective client’s name.

When you want to view the notes for a particular client, you could select the “notes” folder, filter the folder by the client’s tag, and voila, all your notes on that particular client. 

With just a two-click process, you’re already keeping your filing system much tidier. 

Most attorneys make the mistake of over-using notebooks and under-using tags in Evernote. They create a notebook for every client, or worse, create multiple notebooks for every client.

Evernote organization

The reason attorneys do this is understandable; they’re setting up a system that mirrors a paper filing system. Paper files are, after all, the system all of us already know.

My suggestion is to use the following notebooks — along with tags for each client (in other words, tag every note):

  • Correspondence
  • Pleadings
  • Discovery
  • Notes (for everything that doesn’t fit into one of the notebooks above)

I consider myself a power user of the service, so I have all of four notebooks. 

My work-related notebooks are “notes,” “correspondence,” and “client leads.” I also have one notebook titled “personal” where I keep things that aren’t work-related. 

In the first year that I used the service, I made the mistake of using way more notebooks than I needed. But now that I’ve got my organization skills in order, I haven’t looked back since.

Seeing Evernote as a Re-Imagined File System for Your Firm

creative solutions

One of the biggest mistakes attorneys (and most people in general) make with technology is trying to hold on to past habits.

Have you stopped to consider the extent that digital solutions are modeled after their non-digital predecessors? 

For example, why does the file system in Microsoft Windows resemble the folder structure you would use in a filing cabinet? 

The answer is that people are used to filing cabinets and want something to equate it to. 

The problem with this is that modeling a digital solution on a non-digital approach can carry over the same inefficiencies that modern software is meant to solve. The above-described problem of too many notebooks is a perfect example of this. 

So to sum it up, if you want to supercharge your productivity — avoid the trap of modeling your digital solutions on non-digital methods.

Rather than saying, “this is how we organize our paper files,” and setting up Evernote to mirror that method, you should recognize that paper files and Evernote are very different things. 

Your goal should be to create a file system that allows you to retrieve needed information as easily as possible. Using fewer notebooks and more tags will get you there.

In my next, we’ll look at how you can easily use Evernote to create a paperless law office.

And while you’re at it, why not learn how you can start moving your marketing towards the digital space too?