A Few Notes About Evernote

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 10.46.08 AMIf you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’m a practical technologist — which means that I use technology on a strictly need-to-know basis, learning only those features that support my immediate goals, while ignoring all others. I’m also an impatient technologist, which means that if I can’t figure out how to use a platform in twenty minutes, then I’m likely not to use it at all.

So it’s not surprising that six years ago, when I first heard of Evernote and its functionality as an online repository to save links to websites or round-up ideas for blog posts, naturally, I jumped on the bandwagon and registered for an account. And then…nothing. As it turned out, years of blogging had made me so efficient at cutting and pasting links into text files or simply googling for websites, that I had no reason to learn a new system. And so my Evernote account sat fallow for years.

Fast forward to 2011, when I came onboard a case three weeks before a filing deadline. After reviewing the record, I knew that I’d need to raise and preserve six discrete legal issues, three of which I’d never researched previously. Moreover, since most of the relevant cases involved environmental and energy law, they averaged 40 pages in length. As I started downloading cases, I knew that even if I could find the cases in my files, it would take me more time to go through to cull the necessary paragraphs.

It was then that I remembered Evernote. I figured that I could set up a Notebook for each research topic and create separate notes for individual cases, with tags for a particular topic. I could simply cut and paste the relevant case snippets into the note, and upload the full decision in case I needed to refer back. By titling each note with the case name and cite, I ensured that I had that information handy and intact for inserting into my comments in appropriate blue book format. With my notes organized in this manner, I was able to zip through each section of the comments, topic by topic and insert the relevant case discussion and quotes needed. Ultimately, I churned out a 60-page set of comments in 36 hours (note – because these were agency comments, they did not have the same formalities as an appellate brief, which certainly would have taken longer). What’s more, when I had to brief these issues again and again as the case proceeded through the legal channels, I had easy access to my research and didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.

That’s the experience that sold me on Evernote. I continue to use Evernote for legal research – and even discovered, via solo Ben Carter that I could email cases directly from LEXIS to my Evernote account. Sweet! And I also figured out that I could finally make research libraries of documents available to clients to search and view, without them having to sign up for another service. If you want to see how that looks, here’s the Evernote Library I created for state bar rulings on law firm trade names .

Evernote has also become increasingly important as I’ve tried to get by with just my iPad for conferences and short trips where I don’t expect to have to do heavy duty drafting. I can open a new note in Evernote to take notes, and when I save it, I’ll have access to it on any machine. Likewise, by synching my Evernote account to my iPad, I can review cases or notes locally while on travel without an internet connection.

I have an Evernote premium account (at $45/year, how could I not) Do I use all of Evernote’s features? Of course not – just the ones I need. So I’m not the best person to teach about its functionality. But if you’d like to learn about all of Evernote’s capabilities, you can download Rocket Matter’s free E-book on Evernote or check out this round-up of Evernote resources at Lawyerist . And if you have a favorite Evernote tip, please share it below.