Your electronic filing cabinet
April 2016 - Tad Thomas
When I started my first law firm job as a runner for a small Louisville, Ky., firm, at least 10 large filing cabinets lined the walls of a small room—containing years of case law, statutes, professional journals, and anything else that would help a lawyer navigate cases. However, those same filing cabinets were also a nightmare: They took up a lot of space. If something was misfiled, it was lost forever. And they certainly weren’t user-friendly.
Evernote, a cloud computing app that lets users organize almost any type of document, audio, or visual file, is my electronic filing cabinet. I use it to maintain not only legal research and form files but also medical and scientific files, an expert witness database, opposition research, and even travel documents. It is probably the most useful program I have ever tried.
Multiple platforms. Because Evernote’s databases are synced to the cloud, users can access their files from several devices. Evernote has desktop applications for both PC and Mac, and it has apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Droid platforms.
Numerous ways to input data. There are many ways to transfer information into Evernote, which accepts pdfs, Microsoft Word files, video and audio clips, and various image formats. You can drag and drop existing files into the program, or you can create a text, video, or audio file and save it as a “note” directly in the app.
You also can send email and messages from other programs to your Evernote database. For instance, if you see a list server message that you want to save in your legal research file, you can forward that email straight to your Evernote database for future review. To save helpful Web pages, right click and choose the “Send to Evernote” option. If viewing the Web page from a mobile device, choose the “Send to Evernote” option from the browser menu.
Simple organization. You can develop multiple customizable notebooks—for example, one with expert witnesses, one for legal research, and another for medical or scientific research. You also can “tag” notes, which allows quick access to notes on a particular subject. For instance, if you’re researching a premises liability case, you can save and tag all the relevant cases or statutes that you find with that particular case name.
Users also can tag each saved note with one or more descriptions—such as “premises liability,” “slip and fall,” or “open and obvious”—and find them easily for future cases by asking the app to “call up” all notes that are tagged with a particular case name or phrase. Searching for a particular phrase or calling up notes in multiple notebooks with multiple tags is simple: Each note that is added to Evernote is made searchable with optical character recognition.
Easy sharing. You can share notebooks with others, post specific notes to social media, or email notes directly from Evernote. A firm, for example, can use Evernote to maintain a group-wide legal research notebook. Or, if cocounsel would like to see your research on a particular issue, you can call up all notes tagged with that issue and email them to that attorney.
Although Evernote may take some getting used to, you can use it in many ways. It is inexpensive—costing $5 a month or $45 a year—for a monthly upload allowance of one gigabyte and seemingly infinite storage.
Tad Thomas is the founder of The Thomas Law Offices in Louisville, Ky. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not constitute an endorsement of any product or service by Trial or AAJ.