Heidi S. Alexander, Esq. is the deputy director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, where she helps manage organization operations...
Sharon D. Nelson is president of the digital forensics, information technology, and cybersecurity firm Sensei Enterprises. In addition to...
Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, Jim Calloway is a recognized speaker on legal technology issues,...
As a lawyer, managing research, marketing, and even organizing your thoughts can potentially result in chaos. In this episode of The Digital Edge, hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talk to Heidi Alexander about Evernote and how it can help lawyers stay organized. They discuss what Evernote is, what sets it apart from other note-taking programs, and examples of how lawyers are currently using it in their own practices.
Heidi Alexander, is the director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (MassLOMAP).
Evernote as a Law Practice Tool by Heidi Alexander
The Digital Edge
Evernote for Lawyers: Manage Your Research, Marketing, and Process
Intro: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway, your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 115th edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. We are glad to have you with us. I am Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cybersecurity and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I am Jim Calloway, Director of The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is Evernote for Lawyers.
Sharon D. Nelson: Before we get started we would like to thank our sponsors.
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We are very pleased to have as our guest Heidi Alexander, the Director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program or LOMAP. LOMAP provides free and confidential practice management assistance, guidance in implementing new law office technologies and methods to obtain healthy and sustainable practices.
Heidi frequently makes presentations to the legal community and contributes to publications on law practice management and technology. She is the author of Evernote as a Law Practice Tool, an American Bar Association ABA publication, a white belt in Legal Lean Sigma Project Management and Process Improvement, and the architect behind the ABA’s Women of Legal Technology initiative that celebrates and encourages women in legal technology.
She also serves on a number of ABA Committees, including the ABA’s TECHSHOW Planning Board. Thanks for joining us today Heidi.
Heidi Alexander: Well, thank you for having me Jim and Sharon. I am excited to be on your 115th episode, I am impressed.
Sharon D. Nelson: It’s actually hard to say that, and I can’t believe it’s been this many years together. There are people who aren’t married this long Jim.
Jim Calloway: I know that. That used to be a part of my law practice Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: I remember that. I remember that. Well Heidi, let’s start right from the beginning, because there are definitely people who will be listening who have no clue in the world what Evernote is, so let’s give them an education.
Heidi Alexander: All right, so I am going to start off with the words of Evernote’s Cofounder and this is a quote, “It’s your brain offloaded to a server. It’s Google for the Web of your life. It’s a spotlight on the dark matter of your universe. It’s a tool for converting your smartphone from a time killer to a time saver.”
So you got it?
Sharon D. Nelson: Yeah.
Heidi Alexander: All right, let me just tell you in my own words what Evernote is. In my own words, Evernote is a memory aid and an organizational tool for basically all of your data. It’s used to take notes, to save articles, to annotate, to collaborate your data stored in the cloud, which means you have access to it whenever and wherever you need it. So that’s about it in a nutshell.
Sharon D. Nelson: That’s good. That was brief and understandable.
Jim Calloway: Well, there’s a lot of note taking programs today, could you briefly talk about the difference between Evernote and other note taking programs?
Heidi Alexander: Absolutely. Now, most people are aware of what I call the big four note taking programs and that’s Evernote, OneNote, Apple Notes and Google Keep.
Now, Google Keep and Apple Notes are quite similar; both are free and they allow you to save content from the web, save photos and audios and organize in some fashion. The features are basic, although Apple continues to develop its product.
All right, so moving on to Evernote and OneNote; these products are more robust and there are more formatting options, organizational and tagging options and collaboration features.
The biggest two differences between Evernote and OneNote is the pricing structure and the organizational structure, so let me just talk briefly about that. OneNote is free, while Evernote has a free version, but you must pay to unlock certain features and increase your monthly upload limit for Evernote users.
So the moral here is that if you use Evernote regularly you are going to pay a nominal sum, usually somewhere between $25-50 a year to do so.
Now, the other big difference is in the organizational structure. At the top of OneNote structure are notebooks, and you can have multiple notebooks and within those notebooks you have sections, within those sections you can have pages, and within pages you can have subpages and you can have up to three levels of pages and subpages.
So Evernote structure is much simpler. At the top level you have got your notebooks and within those notebooks you have notes. There are no additional levels of organization and that’s why Evernote relies so heavily on tags and search functionality.
So if you are someone who is tied to the traditional organization of your electronic folder hierarchy system, then OneNote might be a little bit more intuitive to you, but if you have taken the leap to rely on search to find your documents, then you are likely to be more drawn to Evernote.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, you talked a little bit about money, but do you need to pay to use the basic level of Evernote, I mean what are the costs?
Heidi Alexander: So I am going to give you the lawyerly answer, it depends, right; yes and no. So there is a free version that allows you to use many of Evernote’s features; however, you have a 60 megabyte limit on your monthly note upload, and basically everything you do on Evernote will count against your monthly upload limit.
So Evernote then has three other tiers of service. So it’s got its Plus service, which is a more recently added service and that gives you 1 gigabyte monthly limit, plus some other features, such as a unique Evernote email address to send emails into Evernote.
Then the next here up is the Premium level service and that gives you 10 gigabytes of your monthly limit and then it gives you a bunch of other features, including the ability to search in PDFs, Office documents and attachments and also to annotate images and PDFs.
And then the final level is a Business service and this is for multiple users. It’s got higher monthly limits. It has all the Premium level features. It’s got administration capabilities and a lot more. So this is great for an entire firm that wants to use Evernote or maybe a firm department or practice area that wants to use it.
So again, if you use Evernote frequently, you are going to run up against those monthly limits quickly and find yourself looking at the Plus or Premium level and the good thing is that you can upgrade anytime.
Jim Calloway: I have got a question and clarification on that, if you stopped paying for Evernote, everything you uploaded is still there though, correct?
Heidi Alexander: Yes, so because it’s a basic service, there’s a basic service level, you are still going to have all that information there. And plus, if you have downloaded the desktop version of Evernote, you can back up your Evernote notes and you would have them on your computer regardless of whether you sync to Evernote server, so you would always have those notes.
Jim Calloway: Great. Great. Well, let’s lead into talking about our profession, why should lawyers use Evernote?
Heidi Alexander: All right, so if you are a lawyer you understand being constantly bombarded with competing demands, from colleagues, from clients, from staff, from family, and then you also have the actual work that you need to get done, and if you don’t have a way to manage all those demands and information, you are going to be working in chaos and that could lead to malpractice, it might lead to a bar complaint.
There’s actually research out there that shows that when your environment is in a state of disarray, you are unable to focus. And what’s more is that the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day, that’s 49 per minute, so no wonder there’s also research out there that shows that we spend about half our day thinking about something other than what we are currently doing.
So Evernote to me is that place to dump and organize all that stuff that you have going on, in your head, in your office, it’s the inbox for all of your data, it’s the central repository of information for your practice. You can access it in your office, you can access it at a meeting, you can access it in court and everything is right there at your fingertips.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to the next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is Evernote for Lawyers. Our guest is Heidi Alexander, the Director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program.
Heidi, can you talk about how lawyers actually use Evernote in their practice?
Heidi Alexander: Sure. There’s no right or wrong way to use Evernote and every attorney that I have worked with uses it in a slightly different way and for different purposes, but the most common uses of Evernote I find for lawyers fall into the following categories: firm administration, legal research, marketing, case management and productivity and time management. So let me just break that down a bit.
So first, firm management; you need a place to keep all essential firm information, such as office and systems information, policies and procedures, financial management materials, forms and templates, CLE records, meeting notes, travel, and of course there’s more. You can keep that all in Evernote.
Now, for legal research, I think this is probably the most common use by attorneys. What you can do is you can use Evernote’s Web Clipper to save case law from the Internet and then tag it with a case proposition, a fact pattern, jurisdiction, even a client or matter identifier. And then when you later need that case with a certain proposition in a certain jurisdiction, all you need to do is search by tags and you can find that case.
And so that’s a lot easier from when I was in practice, when we would printout all of our cases, annotate them at the top, throw them in a folder and then when we needed something again we had to look through all these files to find what we needed. So, great place for case law repository.
Now, for marketing, lawyers can use it to save research for marketing purposes, save content, so maybe drafts of a blog post, use it for checklist; what do you need to do when you post your blog, you have got to disseminate it to x, y and z channels. You can also keep reports in there, are you doing analytics based on the data you are collecting from Google Analytics let’s say from your website. So you can use it for marketing purposes.
For case management, Evernote wasn’t built for case management. It can be used. It could be used as a primary database or to supplement a legal specific case management system. My only caution is that if you do try to use it as a primary database, and I have seen attorneys do this, you really want to ensure that you do so in a very thoughtful manner and get a good hang of how Evernote works before you do that.
In terms of productivity and time management, so it’s great for saving items for reading later, so you can save something from Evernote’s Web Clipper through a web browser or you could forward something from your email and then organize it in a notebook, read later notebook, or you could use a tag that denotes your read later items and then you can go back to that at any time.
Evernote can also be used to create checklists, so for example, maybe it’s a to-do list or a template for a certain task, so let’s say you’ve got a certain motion that you file often. You could create a task list for that motion, and then every time you have that motion come up you make a copy of that note and then you’ve got your template of that to-do list for that motion. For those people who are practicing getting things done GTD task management methodology, Evernote can be used with that as well.
Jim Calloway: I have to say I love the Evernote Web Clipper, one of my favorite tools. Can use Evernote to collaborate with others both inside and outside of the law firm, Heidi?
Heidi Alexander: Yeah, absolutely. So you can share content that you’ve stored with others to view or collaborate on, and there is a few different methods of sharing. So you can share by creating a unique public note link, which is great for sharing content with others that may or may not have Evernote. The content is viewed in a web browser with the option to save it to your own Evernote account, and then any updates to the note are actually made in real-time, so if someone goes back to that link they’ll see any updates that you’ve made.
You can also share a static copy of your note via email, you can do this even if the recipient doesn’t have Evernote, and then the content is going to appear embedded in the email. You can also share with other Evernote users in Work Chat and what Work Chat allows you to do is to communicate with other people that are using Evernote within the Evernote platform, so you can share and collaborate on notes, and I’ll tell you that, I know law firms that do this, we actually do this internally as an organization, we share notes, we collaborate on notes, and we use that Work Chat feature basically as a replacement for email.
Sharon D. Nelson: How secure is Evernote, that’s a very big question on lawyers’ minds these days?
Heidi Alexander: Oh yes, I know it is. So I’ll tell you what I tell my clients. No one can tell you whether or not Evernote is safe to use. Okay? It’s based on a number of factors and here are the factors, and I’ll talk a little bit more about each factor.
One, your ethical and statutory obligations; two, the sensitivity of the data you are storing; three, your risk tolerance; four, knowledge and sophistication; and five, the safeguards that you enact. I could probably come up with more, but those are the basic factors.
So with that said, let me tell you what I know about Evernote security and how that fits into those factors, and you can pretty much find everything about Evernote security, on their website, they have a page, it’s HYPERLINK “http://www.evernote.com/security”evernote.com/security and it’s written in plain language, so you can actually read it.
So first, Evernote doesn’t own your data, you granted a limited license to use your data in order to operate the service. Two, its servers are redundant, they’re backed up, they’re audited, they’re monitored 24/7. Three, Evernote doesn’t give or sell your information for advertising purposes and it monitors your data only to perform the functions it needs to. It also — it states that they respond as narrowly as possible if it obtains a third-party request for data, and for any legal requests, you typically require a search warrant and they’ll notify the users.
Now, four, is the big one. Previously Evernote did not encrypt its data at rest, and this was the cause of a lot of criticism; but, Evernote recently moved to the Google Cloud Platform, so instead of hosting its own data they moved to a reputable company that is in the business of hosting data, which is the Google Cloud Platform, and now the data is encrypted in transit and at rest.
And then the other thing to think about is, what’s its reputation and its history, have there been breaches. Okay, there’s two big events, I’ll call them that we know of. In February 2013 there was a breach hackers gained access to usernames, email addresses and encrypted passwords, but there was no evidence that any user content had been accessed, and as a result, Evernote took action, and they informed users via email and by blog to change passwords and they implemented two-factor authentication.
In 2014, there was a denial-of-service attack, which was caused by multiple computers sending large amounts of data to target a server in an attempt to overwhelm it and hackers demanded ransom from Evernote in order to maintain operations with temporarily prevented users from accessing accounts, but again, there was no report of unauthorized access to user data or any loss of data as a result.
So armed with that information, some people are going to choose to use it or not use it for client data, but as with any other provider there is a number of steps that Evernote allows you to take so that you can reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your data, so strong passwords, and I know that you guys talk about this all the time here, two-factor authentication, which you can do with Evernote, you can use a passcode lock for mobile devices, and you can also use text encryption. So you can actually encrypt text in certain notes, and it’s pretty easy to use, and of course, you hold the encryption key, so Evernote doesn’t ever have access to that.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network, today our subject is Evernote for Lawyers and our guest is Heidi Alexander.
Heidi, tell me about some of your favorite Evernote features, and also, I think I kind of stepped on one of your questions earlier asking about lawyers’ use of Evernote; so, go ahead and answer both if you’d like.
Heidi Alexander: Okay, thanks Sharon. So let me first talk about a few of my favorite features and then I’ll go back and talk about specific attorney uses of Evernote.
So, the first feature I want to talk about is the Web Clipper, and Jim, you made mention to this, I mean, this is, the Web Clipper is what Evernote I think became very well-known for and it’s probably an unparalleled tool, even OneNote’s Web Clipper isn’t as robust as Evernote’s Web Clipper, and basically what you can do with this, is you can clip web pages, articles, anything from the Internet and save it to Evernote. You can also highlight and annotate web pages before you save it to your Evernote account, and it’s also a great tool for capturing resources and information for reading later.
Another feature I like, is the ability to save my emails to Evernote. We tend to communicate these days primarily by email and we end up having a lot of substantive information there, so Evernote provides you the ability to better organize and sort those emails.
Another feature I like, is their internal note links, your notes in Evernote, they don’t have to live in a vacuum, you can connect them to one another with internal note links, so maybe I’m creating a deposition outline and I want to reference an exhibit I have stored in Evernote. I can actually create and Evernote link to the exhibit and then copy that into my deposition outline. So it’s very, very helpful.
And then the last feature I want to mention is handwritten notes. Evernote can actually recognize text and handwritten notes, so if I take handwritten notes, which is very rare these days, I can save the notes into Evernote by snapping a photo, and then if I later need to find something related to the information contained in the note, I can search and it’ll return those notes as long as my handwriting isn’t too terrible, but whatever note does is called Optical Character Recognition. It basically allows you to search the text of anything that goes into Evernote.
And then, following up on Sharon’s question, just a couple of brief examples of how lawyers use Evernote, and one in particular that a ton of lawyers use Evernote for is by using the mobile app you can take a picture of a business card and Evernote will automatically recognize the format and extract the content and create a contact, and with one click you can save that contact to your phone and connect via LinkedIn, and that’s all through the Evernote app.
I also found that an attorney who I actually featured in my book uses Evernote as an evidence database and a trial notebook by using tags and search to organize and find evidence when needed, and then finally, I recently gave a presentation at the Mass Bar Association with the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts probate courts, Justice Ordoñez who uses Evernote to store relevant case laws, colloquies, court information such as data on each division and county, their probate court and the judges, and then she also uses Evernote with her staff, for example, to create checklists for her administrative assistant.
So as I said people use it in all different ways, but I’m continually finding people out there that are using it daily in their practice, which is great.
Jim Calloway: Well, here’s a difficult question for you, Heidi. How can your book help lawyers use Evernote?
Heidi Alexander: So, I know many lawyers who have downloaded Evernote and then they let it lay dormant because they didn’t really understand how to use it? I come across them all the time, and so, my book is really meant to serve as a guide for attorneys already using Evernote to help you get the most out of it and for attorneys also who are just starting to dabble in Evernote, and it’s become more familiar with the tool, you can take advantage of the power tips that I’ve included as well.
In the book I lay out the core features and then I discussed in detail how it can be used to increase efficiencies in your practice, and I’ve also included as I mentioned before, real-life examples from attorneys that are using Evernote in their practice, which should help all of you as well.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, that sounds great and this has been just one of the most useful podcasts in terms of describing a specific application that I can ever remember. So we thank you for being so comprehensible, I mean, you really brought it down to a level where I think somebody who’s never used Evernote certainly could see its value and others who may have a little experience with it, I think will go back and try some of its features that maybe they haven’t tried before. So, thank you very much for being our guest today, Heidi, and taking the time out of your busy day.
Heidi Alexander: Well, thank you for having me, and I’m glad it was helpful.
Sharon D. Nelson: That does it for this edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology, and remember, you can subscribe to all the editions of the podcast at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com”legaltalknetwork.com or on iTunes, and if you enjoyed our podcast please rate us on iTunes.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails cowboy.
Outro: Thanks for listening to The Digital Edge, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway for their next podcast covering the latest topic related to Lawyers and Technology. Subscribe to the RSS feed on HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com”legaltalknetwork.com or in iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries, none of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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