Man sitting at cluttered deskYou’re halfway there. Yesterday we looked at how attorneys can better manage their email to save time and make clients happy. Over the first half of our 30 day challenge we’ve done several things to increase revenue while decreasing expenses, such as investing in video content rather than spending on advertising. Given that we’ve already increased business it’s important that we keep your overhead down, and prevent you from having to hire unnecessarily, by improving efficiency and allowing you to do more with less. Today’s we’ll further improve efficiency by reducing clutter with Evernote.

Attorneys have information stored everywhere. You have information in your email. You have more information written on paper that is sitting around your office (which you spend quite a bit of time looking for). Even more information is spread through various electronic client files. Over the rest of this series we’ll take baby-steps to get all of that information consolidated together in one place by using Evernote. This will give you one central, digital, and easily searchable place to keep a large chunk of the information your currently have spread around and cluttering your office.

You’ve probably heard of Evernote if you’re not using it already. It’s a great tool for keeping notes, records, etc. In my experience many firms try Evernote and quickly abandon it because they don’t go about trying to use it correctly. Our goal today is going to be reducing the number of hand-written notes you are taking as well as getting rid of those post-its all over your desk. Ask yourself how much time you spend shuffling through notes you’ve written looking for a particular one. Now it’s time to eliminate that process. I’m not going drone on about what Evernote is or what it does, instead I’m going to focus on making better use of it. For those unfamiliar with the program, here’s a video about it.

Now let’s look at how to best use this awesome note taking app. This article assumes that your office currently isn’t using the app at all.

Lawyers need to take a “less is more” approach with Evernote

Evernote logoI’ve seen lawyers who sign up Evernote accounts and then immediately add an excessive number of notebooks. They create notebooks for every client, notebooks for every vendor, etc. This makes using the app cumbersome, less productive, and may lead to deciding that it is more hassle than it’s worth. Understanding how to better organize the information in Evernote will supercharge your productivity.

The key to using Evernote effectively is to have as few notebooks as possible and to make better use of tags. Don’t have a notebook for every client. Instead, have one called “client notes” for example. Then when you take a note regarding that client simply tag the note with the client’s name. This reduces the number of places in which you are storing information and will make your searching easier when you have to pull up your old notes (which is much faster than looking for those hand-written notes in your file or on your desk).

The next key to maximizing Evernote, which attorneys get wrong, is to clearly define what you will and won’t use the program for. Any time you have something, and aren’t clear what the use of it is, then it will be used in inconsistent ways and it becomes hard to see the value of it. So let’s define a few quick things you’re going to do in Evernote. You should be saving your “post-event notes” in it. By this I mean notes you jot down after a court hearing or a meeting with a client. I understand that many of these notes will initially be handwritten. Simply tear them off the legal pad and attach them to a note in Evernote. You will now have a paperless version of all these notes which is easily searchable and accessible from all of your devices. If you have multiple people in your office then you should be using “Evernote For Business” so everyone’s notes are going into shared folders and then these notes are accessible instantly by all your attorneys and staff.

This is going to be the first step in going mostly paperless (which will save you many hours of time in efficiency gains). We’ll be taking additional steps over the coming weeks to go paperless in terms of storing your correspondence records, pleadings, and other documents. The benefit of this approach is that all of your firm’s information can be easily accessed from multiple sources. No more looking for documents/notes/records. You’ll be able to reduce the amount of time your file clerk (or the attorney in many small shops) spends filing documents away. The amount of time spent looking for things (which costs you money) will also be greatly reduced.

Getting in the habit of storing your notes in Evernote will take just a little getting used to. It will save you massive amounts of time and resources in the end. It’s important that you recognize that devoting time to embracing Evernote is an investment that will yield many saved hours in return. Investing minutes on the front-end, to save hours on the back-end, will boost your firm’s profits.

Day 15 action items for attorneys wishing to increase profits

Sign up an Evernote account and install the application on your computers, smart phones, tablets, etc. If there are multiple people in your office then sign up Evernote Business so you will be able to share notebooks.

Make sure all post-hearing notes and post-meeting notes are saved in Evernote. Make sure you keep the number of notebooks to a minimum and utilize tags instead. If your notes are handwritten then tear them off the legal pad and scan them into Evernote so you can quickly access them with a simple search.

Just this one step, once you spend a week or so getting used to Evernote, will save you a massive amount of time and reduce clutter in your office.