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organization Overwhelmed trying to organize Evernote -- Using Codes?

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Hello. I'm not new to Evernote as I have used it on and off inconsistently, and partially, for maybe a year now. I have recently become more serious about using it as an organization tool for both work and personal areas of my life. Here is some information that might be pertinent:

 

  • I own my own law practice-- it's small, just myself, a paralegal who is actually my husband :), and a receptionist/legal assistant. We do have a pretty good number of clients, in addition to potential clients, past clients, etc. I need a system that helps me easily organize and pull up client files and documents, as well as one that I can share with the staff so they know how to help me organize. We've been using Dropbox and it's great for some things but I'm hoping that with Evernote I will have better access to my docs on the go (I do a lot of work from home, on the road, at court etc. I have been trying to become a pretty much paperless office). I have a premium account and I would not mind paying for my staff to have premium accounts if necessary.
  • I have also been trying to learn/implement a GTD system on Evernote for both personal and work items, as well as using it to store personal stuff. So it gets hard for me to think about how to best use Evernote for both work and personal purposes, as the organization and methods seem kind of different.
  • I use Evernote on the following devices (I rarely/never use the web version):

    - 2 desktop PCs, one at home and one at the office, that use Windows.
    - An ultrabook computer that uses Windows 7. 
    - My iPhone.
    - My iPad (the hardest part for me seems to be implementing a system that works the best in iPad, as it seems to have the most limitations, and it's the only device I sometimes don't have Internet/phone access on and need to download documents to).
  • I have experimented with both notebooks and tags and I feel like I always end up with way too many. It's a pain for me to decide what notebook something should go in, and to switch a note back and forth between notebooks (for example, from "Active Tasks" to "Completed Tasks"). The only thing I think I need notebooks for is to choose which documents to sync on my iPad before a court hearing or somewhere else where I may not have Internet access, or to share with people-- for instance, a client or colleague or my CPA. I've experimented with note links but it's frustrating because when I move a note from one notepad to the other, the link gets broken. (For instance, if I have all my pleadings for one client nicely linked in a case note, and that client gets moved from "Current Client" to "Closed Client," it's all broken up and I can no longer use it.
  • I also find it frustrating to find documents by tags on my iPad. I seem to have too many tags and there is no way to structure them in a list format based on sub-tags on the iPad. So right now I feel more frustrated and overwhelmed with Evernote than productive, and I wonder if I am just too disorganized to use it well. :( I am definitely not a very organized person, although I'm trying to be!

 

So, here is my current problem. I need a simplistic system that de-clutters everything as much as possible. I have read about GrumpyMonkey's system for titles, and I like it, but to be able to find, say, all pleadings filed in the John Smith case, I would have to add the word "pleading" and "John Smith" to every title. I've thought instead about using codes that I insert into the note after the document itself, and having a master code system that I refer to when I need to search. These would have to unique enough so that not every note referencing any kind of "pleading" would appear in a search, but only the exact pleadings I am trying to call up. For instance, client John Smith would be CLJS and any pleading would be PLD and any order (which is like a sub-set of a pleading... I may need to search for all Orders entered in the case), could be ORD. So if it's an Order I would insert CLJSPLDORD in the actual note portion of any document (within Evernote itself) and the only things that should come up when I search for that are all orders entered in the John Smith case. I don't know if I'd have basic tags or notebooks for client names or general broad categories like "Client work" in addition to this coding system, or if it would just be a free-for-all as long as I or my assistant remember to insert an appropriate code in every document we save to Evernote. (This way would allow me to search for all documents in the John Smith case by searching for CLJS, or all pleadings in his case, by searching for CLJSPLD.

 

That's just an example I'm toying with, what do you guys think? Also, if I implement such a system, what do I do to clear out all my old notebooks and tags? How do I start with a clean slate but not lose the notes I have saved?

 

Thank you for any help.

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Thank you. In a fit of frustration I moved all my notes back to my default "Inbox" and deleted all my notebooks and notebook stacks. Now I have three notebooks: Inbox, Processed (where I move the notes after I have appropriately identified them) and a notebook with my husband's name, which is for notes I share with him or think he might be interested in seeing etc. I will likely add some notebooks for other people I want to share notes with (CPA, clients, etc.), and perhaps some temporary notebooks based on projects I want to make sure I have downloaded on my iPad. For instance, if I'm going to a certain hearing I will move all the notes I might need at the hearing to a new notebook titled with the client and/or hearing name, but I will probably move them back out once the hearing is over. I was nervous about doing this but it felt freeing to let go of all the chaos.

 

I'm reading your links and finding further evidence for my gut feeling that notebooks and even tags clog the process up for me too much, and allow me to make it more complicated than it should be. I would like to stick to internal searches, titles, and a coding system I'm making up as I go. Now I just have to deal with my tags as there are too many of them and I only want the necessary ones. My GTD tags are important (and the Secret Weapon link gives me a lot of help in that area), but for me it is useless to have "stacked" or "subset" codes, such as !What --> .ActiveProjects --> .ClientBrief, like I was trying to do in the past, because on my iPad there is no nesting of the tags and they are all scattered around alphabetically. I also had tags and notebooks and all sorts of unnecessary systems for "need to do tasks" versus "completed tasks," and now I'm just relying on the todo:true and todo:false searches to see which checkboxes need checking off. I think that my main tags can just be contexts (I find the "@call" context helpful, and "@errands", etc.), and another one I find helpful is estimating "how long" I think it will take to do something, so that I can knock things out based on time available. I know that the most important tags are supposed to be for "when," but I have great trouble with this... it seems like all of my "to-dos" are urgent and I plan to do them all NOW and then just continue to keep them there in NOW. :( I read about someone's system where they put the to-do in a note titled with the date that they want to do it, but still I feel that all my to-do notes would have today's date as a due date, and then I'd have to change all the dates to tomorrow, when I didn't get them done today, etc. So I am trying to be better at the actual "doing" of things as opposed to trying to plan when I can/want to actually do them.

 

Anyway, other than my GTD/to do-related notes, I have been coming up with a coding system to insert in the actual note and be able to search for things that way without cluttering up the tags and notebook organization. For instance, in my system personal notes have the code "CPERS" (the "C" just stands for "Code" because if I were to make it "pers," I'd get a lot of irrelevant notes coming up in the search, as the letter combination is too generic... so "CPERS" is a much more reliable search. Then, for instance, for notes related to insurance, I have:

 

CPERSINS Insurance

 

CPERSINSCAR Car Insurance

 

CPERSINSH Health Insurance

 

Ideally with this system, searching for "CPERS" will bring up all personal notes, while searching for "CPERSINS" will bring up all personal notes related to any kind of insurance, but if I know I'm looking for something having to do with car insurance, I'll search for "CPERSINSCAR."

 

This system seems to have a lot of set-up involved but I think in the long run it is easier for me in terms of organizing and finding information. I will just keep a master list of my codes so I can remember how I organized things and how to find things. Client files are getting the same treatment, for instance:

 

CLFJS is "Client File John Smith" (brings up John Smith's entire file... all notes related to John Smith).

 

CLFJSAN is "Client File John Smith Attorney Notes" (brings up all my notes on this client).

 

CLFJSPLD is "Client File John Smith Pleadings" (brings up all pleadings filed in the John Smith case).

 

For me, this coding system is like tags, in that if I have a phone message is a "to do" item (call John Smith back regarding settlement offer), I can code it appropriately multiple ways and be able to call it up not only if I'm looking in a to-do notebook but also if I want to see it as an attorney note (where I would add on what John Smith and I talked about when I called him back), or as a reference/ case management item (to show all calls I've made to the client and when), or if I need to add a code to pull it up for all notes related to John Smith settlement offers or negotiations, I can do that too. It frees me up so that I'm not limited to certain notebooks or tags but it is embedded in the notes themselves so I don't always have to look at a mess of random-seeming categories and sub-categories that tend to overwhelm me.

 

This is what I'm implementing but it's taking some work. :) Thanks for the links and I appreciate any and all input and suggestions!

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I've been trying to organize my system too, and some of the things that have worked for me include:

1. Tags rather than keywords. I tried to use some kind of code in the title then couldn't remember them precisely, so I returned to tagging my notes.

2. Limited use of notebooks. The fewer the number of notebooks, the better because you can only search across one or all notebooks, but not two. I use a notebook for each project as a temporary holding place so that I can (a) share that project with a colleague, or(B) avoid using up my offline storage on my android tablet by being selective about which notebooks I set to be offline searchable. When i complete a project, I move all the notes to my FILE CABINET notebook for permanent long term storage and delete the temp PROJECT NAME notebook.

3. Project summary note. I created a template note that I use to summarize the project and tag it with !Planning (using the ! forces that that tag to the top of my tag list on my tablet). This note contains the key items related to this project, such as a list of key people, deadlines, etc. The body has the list of actions required to move the project to completion. The bottom shows the completion date and final outcome. I create individual notes for each action and only one gets tagged with 0-now while others get tagged with 1-next, 2-later, 3-someday, or 4-waiting.

4. Tag organization system. Knowing that there is no nesting of tags on my tablet, I needed tags to sort alphabetically or at least be grouped in a logical manner when I'm away from my pc. So my tags have a keyword as the first word. For instance...Research-project name 1, Research-project name 2, etc. Or Home-remodel, Home-family fun, etc.

I like the TSW implementation of gtd, but not all the tags are useful for me, so I've modified as needed.

Hope that helps.

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Evernote is powerful, but I question the wisdom and cost of spending hours and hours (days and days) trying to mold Evernote to do something that other specialty software already does.

 

I'm sure the reaction to my post will be that this is too expensive, too complicated, too big, etc. but I'll throw it out there anyways.

 

Evernote had a webinar last year that was sponsored by ScanSnap.

Here are my notes from the presentation on how a law firm manages all their documents.

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Paperless WorkFlow webinar notes

 

The case study involved a mid-size legal office.

One key point - keep the $300/hour billable attorneys OUT of the mail room. Lets the trained clerks handle the incoming mail.

Interesting devices to help the mail-room
- jogging machine to vibrate papers to the bottom of the envelopes. Avoids cutting important documents during the envelope opening process.
- instead of using staple remover, use an edge cutter to cut off the corner. The scanning software will recreate the nicked corner electronically.
- antistatic jogging machine to blow air between sheets to remove static build up before scanning
- OCR everything, but let the software do it after the scanning.

Image everything as it arrives.
bar code everything, except original documents that cannot be allowed to be modified (certificates, licenses and such)

Use a document management system (like WoldDox) to store all the documents.
The users never worry about what folder the documents are stored in. The DMS does it all and finds it for you.
The DMS covers everything, even when creating a new word document or spreadsheet.
Search is similar to Evernote's search.

Gradually eliminate the printers in the office.
Training is critical for proper paperless management.


The webinar was more for advanced office users. It was an interesting learning experience. Here is a description of how Symphony and Worldox work together.

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The basic process for paper documents is they need to be scanned, profiled to Worldox and OCRed so they are text searchable. Symphony Suite provides a workflow to process these documents accurately and faster, while the OCR is performed in the background.
Let’s review how Symphony Suite works:

Step 1. The incoming documents go to the attorney, paralegal, or secretary, who knows how the document should be profiled. She clicks on the Symphony shortcut, fills out a Worldox profile and enters a reservation number which is linked to a barcode separator page. She places the barcode page on top of the document, and goes on to the next.

Step 2. The scanner operator picks up the stack of documents, places them in the scanner, and scans to the Profiler folder. One batch – one button.

Step 3. The Profiler software reads through the documents in the folder, matches their reservation number to their profile and saves them to Worldox.

Step 4. Symphony OCR monitors for new documents and places them in the OCR queue.
Symphony also takes care of Legacy documents, and image or PDF documents that come from other sources (Email attachments, E-fax, CD). All document locations known to Worldox are scanned for documents that need to be OCRed, which are then placed in the OCR queue.

Two other noteworthy features are Layout Correction and Content Preservation. If the document has been scanned upside down or is landscape when it should be portrait, it will automatically be corrected during the OCR process. The OCR engine used is rated as 99.99% accurate, and will not impact, deface, or change the original document in any way.
 

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Thank you for the helpful replies. My responses to your post are in bold.

I've been trying to organize my system too, and some of the things that have worked for me include:

1. Tags rather than keywords. I tried to use some kind of code in the title then couldn't remember them precisely, so I returned to tagging my notes.

 

I have the same problem whether I use tags or keywords.... it is hard for me to remember precisely what I called something. When I used tags and I had a document I might want to use for an unemployment insurance appeal hearing, I would sometimes tag it "unemployment-insurance-hearing," other times "UI-hearing" or "UIappeal" something else, and so I was always trying to remember what I called a certain category of documents when it came time to either retrieve something or tag a new note. So for me I need a "master list" of tags/keywords no matter which one I use. So in the above example my keyword/code might be "CBBELUIA" (for Code--> Brief Bank --> Employment Law --> Unemployment Insurance Appeals), so that the note comes up if I search for CBB (all items in my brief bank), CBBEL (all items in my brief bank related to employment law) or CBBELUIA (those documents specific to unemployment insurance appeals),  and after that on the master list of keywords I would write "Unemployment Insurance Appeals Hearing" and any other related common terms I might be looking for in the future. 

 

There are a few drawbacks to my system, namely, that I have to refer to a master index to see what I've called a certain category. However, as I explained above, I found myself lost with my tagging system and would really need to implement some kind of master index system anyway. In your own example, I agree with you about giving tags "sub-category" names so you can find them on your tablet-- and my mind loses track of the different categories and sub-categories I use, so I would need to refer to a list to make sense of it all anyway. I also find that it's easy to remember the common codes I use a lot/daily (for instance, any client file would be CLF for client file, and then that client's initials), and with the other ones that I may eventually need but don't need on a common basis, I can always refer to the list. To me this is worth it because I hate seeing a huge list of tags--it seems to clutter up my brain--and would rather have a simpler tagging system for only those tags I truly use a lot, and leave the rest to keywords and refer to the detailed list when necessary. I'm trying to save my tags for "action" notes to easily point out to myself things like "do this task" or "record this financial transaction," etc., but to keep most of the "reference/storage" notes in a coded system that I don't have to see all the time if I don't want to.

 

Other drawbacks include the fact that if I decide to change the code/keyword for the category (which I do a lot as I figure out my system), I have to actually go back and change the code in every note, rather than just rename the tag. So this is a huge reason I've thought of using all my codes/keywords as tags instead; however, I am hoping that once I have the system set up and don't need to go back and change things, it will be much easier. If I do decide to make my code system into tags, at least I will have it all set up. :)

 

And finally a possible drawback is explaining to other people how my weird code system works, for instance for my assistant to help me stay organized and know how to code something, or for a client or colleague to be able to look at relevant resources or documents without knowing how to call them up on my system. (I could just put those in a notebook and share it, or give them a copy of my keyword index if they're that interested). It seems to me that no matter what system I come up with, it's personal to me and would be hard to teach/show someone else, and if it's really worth it then I will teach it to my assistant.

2. Limited use of notebooks. The fewer the number of notebooks, the better because you can only search across one or all notebooks, but not two. I use a notebook for each project as a temporary holding place so that I can (a) share that project with a colleague, or( B) avoid using up my offline storage on my android tablet by being selective about which notebooks I set to be offline searchable. When i complete a project, I move all the notes to my FILE CABINET notebook for permanent long term storage and delete the temp PROJECT NAME notebook.

 

I agree with you regarding the notebooks and it seems like we have the same concerns regarding the best way to use Evernote on a tablet, due to the non-stacked tagging and the limited space for downloading documents we may want to see when we don't have Internet connection. I have been doing something similar with my projects, except that I move them from an ".Active-Projects" tag to an ".Inactive-Projects" tag, which somehow seems easier to me than moving them from one different notebook to another. And now I am considering doing away with the active/completed tags all together and just doing a search based on checked and unchecked checkboxes, if I need to see which projects are active and which have been done. I guess I am going for the most simple and minimalistic approach possible because in the past I have way over-complicated and cluttered things. (Although I do realize my coding system is probably unnecessarily complex-- but at least it allows for a simple Evernote interface, which seems to work the best for me).

3. Project summary note. I created a template note that I use to summarize the project and tag it with !Planning (using the ! forces that that tag to the top of my tag list on my tablet). This note contains the key items related to this project, such as a list of key people, deadlines, etc. The body has the list of actions required to move the project to completion. The bottom shows the completion date and final outcome. I create individual notes for each action and only one gets tagged with 0-now while others get tagged with 1-next, 2-later, 3-someday, or 4-waiting.

 

This is a good idea. I have a hard time keeping track of projects, especially when I've done some of the tasks that comprise the project, but not all of them. It is also burdensome for me to create a note for each action (I tend to naturally want to group mine together in a big to-do list), but it does seem to be more productive that way and so I've been trying it.

4. Tag organization system. Knowing that there is no nesting of tags on my tablet, I needed tags to sort alphabetically or at least be grouped in a logical manner when I'm away from my pc. So my tags have a keyword as the first word. For instance...Research-project name 1, Research-project name 2, etc. Or Home-remodel, Home-family fun, etc.

 

Agreed, see above.

I like the TSW implementation of gtd, but not all the tags are useful for me, so I've modified as needed.

 

Agreed, me too. I know that GTD is supposed to be anti-calendaring/artificial due dates and such but I have found that I need to give myself more of a "when" context for when I plan to work on something other than "now" or "later," or else I just let things sit there. I read somewhere that the '!MITs' (Most Important Things) tag was super important and that I should pick around 3 items to do today, and that has helped a lot. But I have no kind of priority system for the other, I don't know, 50 work tasks and some personal tasks hanging out in "now" or "soon" etc., and so I'm trying to figure out how to sort them by priority or dates to work on them. I realize that the daily/weekly review is helpful in this regard and I have not done that enough-- b/c I'm so busy trying to just input my tasks and figure out a system for them that works for me-- and so I should probably try harder to implement the recommended systems before going rogue.

Hope that helps.

 

it was really helpful, thank you for sharing!

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You might find this book helps since it's specific to Attorneys. http://www.organizedlawyer.com/   I haven't read it myself but listened to David during a recent episode of The Productive Life show podcast.

Thanks. I actually read his book and found it very helpful in terms of using Evernote for GTD. (I had never used GTD before reading the book). However he is no longer a practicing lawyer and so I found that it wasn't incredibly helpful in terms of actually practicing law and managing client files and accessing documents electronically for court etc... so those are the things I'm trying to figure out on my own. I did get a lot of good general Evernote tips from the book and learned a lot about GTD. :)

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Hi - that was a lot of question and I'm not sure you can get a proper answer through the forums.  You really need someone to sit down and take a look at the detail of what you do to recommend the best way to handle your data.  It's obviously important to get it right,  because you're going to be standing up in a court depending on the correct information being available to you.

 

I recommend you have a look at Evernote business if you haven't already done so,  because that is designed as a central database (or a set of central databases called 'libraries') that are designed to be accessed by more than one person. 

 

If you use the 'standard' product,  even as Premium subscribers, you're using something that was (I think) originally designed as a personal product accessed only by the owner.  It does sharing,  but not very well - and something you enter in the system now will wait until your iPad can get online and upload the changes before the server has that information.. and then other users have to sync their hardware to get that update.  It's possible for more than one person to edit the same file,  and get a 'conflicting edits' error with the note filed away from its current notebook.

 

I'm not rubbishing Evernote here,  just pointing out that like every tool,  you have to know that hitting your thumb is going to hurt so you can avoid the impulse..

 

From what you've said I don't see why you'd need to go the special codes route - as you kind of suggest,  that's difficult to remember accurately and almost impossible to ensure 100% compliance.  I prefer to keep it simple.  If you have a separate notebook for each case you're running,  separate notes for each individual document or meeting,  and use sensible titles for all the above*,  you'd be able to pull up all letters in the john smith case by going to that case notebook and searching for intitle:"letter"  Likewise use Order in the heading and search for those,  or Meeting etc etc.

 

*I'd suggest date of document [yyyymmdd] - topic - details,  which might look like "20110129 - letter - John Smith to Supplier re fault" (Note here that date is the date of the letter, not your date of entry - that's automatically part of the note)

 

Since this is kind of vital stuff for you and your clients I hope you are planning some proof of concept trials - choose ONE very small case and (presumably with your client's explicit agreement) run it via Evernote in your paperless environment.. but always carry a sealed envelop with you containing all the case papers in a good old fashioned dead tree format.  Doing it for real will show you how well (or otherwise) this is going to work,  and will probably suggest the sort of tags you should add to notes.  And if it all goes sadly wrong at any time you can rip open the envelope and carry on!

 

Hope that helps.

 

Being a long-time devotee of Perry Mason (sorry) I can imagine forinstance that you'd want to flag documents or evidence you want to ask questions about - tag those with the date of the meeting/ hearing so you can pull up all your notes with a simple search - and save those searches if you can so you don't have to do too much thinking when on your feet.

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Consulting companies such as this one might be more useful.

They specialize in the problems you are trying to solve.

http://www.affinityconsulting.com/index.php

 

Thank you for this and for your prior post regarding the document management software systems.

 

My issue is definitely cost, as I am a one-lawyer operation and need to keep my overhead low in order to remain profitable. In the future I would love to be able to pay consultants and buy software (we used things like that at the big firms I used to work for, but they were costly). Right now though I am rather limited with resources. I use MyCase for billing, invoicing and credit card payments, and it also has case management features such as document storage and notes for client cases, and calendaring, but I'm not sure it's worth it to pay the extra monthly fees for my assistants to be able to access all of that, which they would need to do in order for it to work well, and which we are doing for free right now with Dropbox and Evernote. (Well, close to free... low monthly rates). I use Gnucash for my finances and MyCase helps with that in terms of tracking the client's trust accounts and individual expenses that can be billed to each client etc. I use Outlook for email and calendaring and did use it for tasks before I started trying out GTD with Evernote. I have issues with Outlook not syncing to my mobile devices/iCloud and am looking into other options such as paying for Exchange or IMAP or using G-mail instead. We have some systems in place that work well but that Evernote could still help me with-- for instance, I usually keep track of my daily time and then my assistant enters it into MyCase, so Evernote helps me keep track of the time better on the go and quickly etc. I do something similar with receipts-- scan or take pictures of them and then save them to a financial information file, and my assistant or I will then enter them into Gnucash or the client's file etc. So with Evernote it seems easier to keep them all in one place and/or on the go.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that I already use different programs, some free and some paid for, but of course there is no one program that does everything and so I'm using Evernote as a system to me do things faster and better. For instance we use Dropbox to store files and if I have Internet access in court I can access any document there (or use my phone) but Evernote helps me organize and recall the documents a lot better. So it may be unnecessarily duplicative but right now I continue to have my assistant save my incoming mail, emails, etc., to the client file in Dropbox but I'm also trying to figure out the best way to organize everything (ex. pleading index/case note in Evernote, tagging or coding related documents that may be from, say, the Correspondence folder and the Client Documents folder, or the Discovery folder-- Evernote allows me to tie them all together and find them easier than the traditional heirarchical organizational system, which the big firms I worked at still used despite their fancy scanning and document management/coding software. I was still left wondering, okay, what is a good way for me to link and find this document and this other document and this other document, when the firm model is stuck to this old-fashioned "folder" system (both hard copy and electronically) that has one document here, and another there, but it would be easier to do some kind of search that could pull them all up based on topic no matter where they're at. I have used programs like Summation where technically you could index and tag and mark as "hot docs" important documents, and create a timeline out of documents, etc., which is all similar to what I'm trying to use Evernote for now, but it had its own limitations and was ridiculously expensive... not to mention that to be able to accurately tag and find all the documents, they had to pay paralegals, and associates like me, to do doc review and coding, and figure out which documents were important and why, and I don't have the time or money for that (my clients are everyday people, not insurance companies or big businesses like they used to be, so there are less resources to put towards throwing everything at a case, and sometimes I honestly wonder if all that stuff was worth it, or just a waste of time/excuse to bill and generate busy work!).

 

On that note, I should add that most of my cases are not complex and do not involve huge volumes of documents or files, like I was used to in bigger law firms. I have electronic file keeping clauses in my client agreements and I tell them straight up that I try to do everything electronically to save costs, time and paper. They usually email or fax (which for me is an email-based service) me their documents, or bring them in and my assistant scans them and returns their copy to them, and if it's a limited matter like one hearing or one demand letter, the client's file has very little documents. It's not a hard task (at least I don't think, based on what she says) for my assistant to scan the mail every day, route it to the appropriate client electronic file, and send me an email with that day's mail attached. I'm thinking it may be even easier with Evernote but I haven't wanted to change up the process on her without being sure what I'm implementing and how to explain it. The biggest amount of documents I get comes from discovery responses in employment law or sometimes foreclosure cases, and also client financial documents in divorce or bankruptcy work, and those are the ones I'd consider Bates-stamping each page individually, but Adobe Pro (which I also use, and pay for my assistants to use) can do that included in the price and has a good bookmarking/ indexing system too. In my cases that are more document-heavy, I find that rarely are most of the documents even ever used. I used to keep hard copy files, but I'd have like 3 or 4 accordion files marked "client documents" or "financial statements" or whatever for each client, and they'd just sit in my spare office for months until the case settled or the matter was resolved. I think it's more useful to go through them upon receiving them and figure out which information is actually necessary and "tag" it, and the rest are scanned electronically into the computer in case for some reason we do need them, which I find is rare. Most cases have a few key documents, and the pleadings, and that's it. So for me the cost of a scanning/document coding system would not match the benefits, and I think my time spent reviewing and classifying documents is useful because it lets me know everything about the case and what is important and what is not. I do struggle to find ways to have my assistant help me organize documents and know what is important and how to mark it as such-- I guess I'm a control freak who would rather just do it all on my own, although that's probably not the best use of my time. 

 

Anyway, I am always open to a system that would be worth it monetarily to help my practice and so I will check out the links and consulting company. I'm just explaining why I think/hope Evernote can tie together or replace some of the systems I already use, and at a very reasonable cost. Hopefully I'm right... but I'm not sure yet.

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Ah! Two posts...

 

 

I think I merged the two threads.

 

Lawyerlady, it's best to keep everything in one thread for not only you but those posting replies as well as other users who may benefit from the questions & answers on the topic.

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Hi - that was a lot of question and I'm not sure you can get a proper answer through the forums.  You really need someone to sit down and take a look at the detail of what you do to recommend the best way to handle your data.  It's obviously important to get it right,  because you're going to be standing up in a court depending on the correct information being available to you.

 

I recommend you have a look at Evernote business if you haven't already done so,  because that is designed as a central database (or a set of central databases called 'libraries') that are designed to be accessed by more than one person. 

 

If you use the 'standard' product,  even as Premium subscribers, you're using something that was (I think) originally designed as a personal product accessed only by the owner.  It does sharing,  but not very well - and something you enter in the system now will wait until your iPad can get online and upload the changes before the server has that information.. and then other users have to sync their hardware to get that update.  It's possible for more than one person to edit the same file,  and get a 'conflicting edits' error with the note filed away from its current notebook.

 

I'm not rubbishing Evernote here,  just pointing out that like every tool,  you have to know that hitting your thumb is going to hurt so you can avoid the impulse..

 

From what you've said I don't see why you'd need to go the special codes route - as you kind of suggest,  that's difficult to remember accurately and almost impossible to ensure 100% compliance.  I prefer to keep it simple.  If you have a separate notebook for each case you're running,  separate notes for each individual document or meeting,  and use sensible titles for all the above*,  you'd be able to pull up all letters in the john smith case by going to that case notebook and searching for intitle:"letter"  Likewise use Order in the heading and search for those,  or Meeting etc etc.

 

*I'd suggest date of document [yyyymmdd] - topic - details,  which might look like "20110129 - letter - John Smith to Supplier re fault" (Note here that date is the date of the letter, not your date of entry - that's automatically part of the note)

 

Since this is kind of vital stuff for you and your clients I hope you are planning some proof of concept trials - choose ONE very small case and (presumably with your client's explicit agreement) run it via Evernote in your paperless environment.. but always carry a sealed envelop with you containing all the case papers in a good old fashioned dead tree format.  Doing it for real will show you how well (or otherwise) this is going to work,  and will probably suggest the sort of tags you should add to notes.  And if it all goes sadly wrong at any time you can rip open the envelope and carry on!

 

Hope that helps.

 

Being a long-time devotee of Perry Mason (sorry) I can imagine forinstance that you'd want to flag documents or evidence you want to ask questions about - tag those with the date of the meeting/ hearing so you can pull up all your notes with a simple search - and save those searches if you can so you don't have to do too much thinking when on your feet.

Thank you for all the help, this has given me a lot to think about. Last night after reading it I was thinking of checking out Evernote Business because it sounds like from what you said it will suit my needs a lot better. 

 

I also get what you mean by just using titles to do what I'm trying to do with codes. However in your example I would also have to add "Correspondence" (or an abbreviation/shortcut) to the title in case I need to see John Smith's entire correspondence file... not just letters. Sometimes I know I sent something (or received something) by email or fax or letter and I search for it that way to quickly find it but other times I know there was a correspondence but I am not sure which method was used, only that I want to read what was said, and so then I would need to see the entire correspondence file. Still other times it's for purposes of record-keeping/proof that I was keeping up on the case or whatever, or to go back and look at everything that was done when, and for that situation I don't care whether things were communicated by letter, fax, or email, but I just want to see everything that was communicated in the case (sometimes this also includes phone calls or meetings, other times it doesn't-- which makes me wonder if I should have a "communication" category in addition to "correspondence." So my issue is that I would still need to make sure the correct words went into the note title or I would not be able to pull up the information I needed that way. 

 

What I've been doing since reading your post is trying to incorporate better titles along with my coding system and have two methods and see if the title one is sufficient. I was really excited half an hour ago because my assistant emailed me from vacation wanting to know if I had any time entries for her to add into the online software we use for invoices and billing... I had been saving them to Evernote since she was on vacation and trying to input them when i got around to it... so now that she had time to enter them I could easily find and send them to her simply by searching "CTIMETE" (my code for time entry - related notes, which I remembered without having to look up :)), on my Evernote app in iPad, and there it was, and I emailed it to her. However now that I am on my desktop computer the note disappeared along with many other notes. :( They are on my iPad but not my PC. I posted a new thread about this in the products/Windows section because it is very frustrating. I feel that either I am incompetent at Evernote and manage to lose 2/3rds of my notes somehow, or Evernote is not reliable at keeping them  for me! Either way, as you pointed out, this is a huge problem because I need to be able to call up this information quickly on my feet. (I do plan to do some practice runs with some small/easy cases, and feel that I have done that pretty well so far just by putting the pertinent notes in a notebook for that project so that it can be accessed from my iPad... so far, so good, so that's why I was trying to do even more with Evernote in my practice). It does no good to come up with a reliable search method that I am confident in, only to search that way and see that there are missing notes that I cannot find! That would be a disaster in court or even in front of a client at an office meeting where we were referring to one of their case documents or correspondence received from the other side etc. At this point I am really thinking of just giving up on Evernote because I had some methods that were working for me and now many of my notes are just gone. 

 

Sorry to vent but I'm very frustrated. Also sorry and sorry to BurgersNFries for the double post. I thought I posted it in the wrong section (for the Evernote product) but couldn't figure out how to move it to what I figured out may be the correct section (general discussion) and so I started a new one over there and then couldn't figure out how to delete the first post. See, perhaps I'm just inept. I always thought I was pretty good with computers and technology but maybe not. I plan to ask my husband about the Evernote missing notes problem when he is here... he introduced me to Evernote and really likes it, and is much more knowledgeable about computers than I am), and hopefully I can get some help on this forum, otherwise it may be a lost cause. Luckily I have all my client docs and important documents on Dropbox (for one reason because I have to save them there before moving them over to Evernote as I don't have a way to just save straight to Evernote, and for my client files it's because I was only experimenting with Evernote to see if it was a reliable and good system for me to use... luckily I have backup!) So I may have lost some web clippings and notes about what movies I want to see etc.-- things that I sent straight to Evernote-- but no original documents of major importance. Still, I had spent a lot of time trying to work with Evernote and it's disappointing.

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Regarding your 'missing' notes - remember what I said about notes being synced from one platform to another?  If some notes are in your database on machine A, it doesn't follow that they'll be present on machine B - unless first A, then B have synced with the server. Log in and check on Evernote.com to see if your notes made it to the server; force a sync on your tablet both before and after you make any changes to ensure you're working on the current version of a note,  and have saved it back to the server afterward.

 

Use the link in my signature to raise a support ticket if you have any issues though - the support team work weekdays and Pacific Time and Prem users get priority on support requests.

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Thank you! My notes were on the web and I got my sync problem fixed (or, my husband did LOL). I can't say it wasn't extremely frustrating but hopefully l'll get better at this as it goes along. I'm glad all my notes were safe and are back in all the right places. I'm continuing to organize them based on titles and codes and see what works best. I also keep trying to save everything to Evernote (for example-- yesterday during previews at the movie theater I made a list of movies I want to see... and today when I dropped some things off at Goodwill, I saved the receipt to Evernote). I've read that the more notes I add, the more useful it will be. And it is nice to know that all my thoughts and plans go into one place. :) Thanks!

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I'm glad all my notes were safe and are back in all the right places.

 

I hope you are backing up your files for your law business on a nightly basis.

That requires the desktop version. The cloud version cannot be backed up.

Relying on the cloud storage is setting yourself up for a fall.

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I'm glad all my notes were safe and are back in all the right places.

 

I hope you are backing up your files for your law business on a nightly basis.

That requires the desktop version. The cloud version cannot be backed up.

Relying on the cloud storage is setting yourself up for a fall.

 

Of course. :-) As I explained earlier, I've been experimenting with Evernote as a way to organize and access my documents on the go but all the original client documents are stored on Dropbox (cloud and desktop versions). One of the things I find annoying about Evernote is having to save everything to Dropbox and then drag it over to Evernote because there's no "save to Evernote" option in Word, Adobe Pro etc. (at least that I know of). However, for work documents I still store them elsewhere anywhere as backup, and good thing due to events like these (I read a whole bunch of other posts where similar stuff had happened to other people so I know it's not just me!) Dropbox has never failed me in the year and a half that I've consistently used it, and I also make periodic backupts to my work PC just in case Dropbox experience something funky.

 

The notes I was worried about losing were the web clippings, personal notes such as lists and to-do's etc., and just all the time I had spent organizing them and going through them in Evernote etc.

 

Ironically the cloud version of Evernote was correct (on evernote.com, and on my iPad), but it was the desktop (and laptop) versions that were showing the notes as missing. My husband and I had a debate about this b/c he said he always uses the web version b/c he doesn't like another program running on the computer, and I said I always open the program on my computer b/c it is right there as a shortcut and easier for me than going online and logging in. I will have to let him know that an additional reason for using the desktop version is the backup option. ;-p

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I'm glad all my notes were safe and are back in all the right places.

 

I hope you are backing up your files for your law business on a nightly basis.

That requires the desktop version. The cloud version cannot be backed up.

Relying on the cloud storage is setting yourself up for a fall.

Of course. :-) As I explained earlier, I've been experimenting with Evernote as a way to organize and access my documents on the go but all the original client documents are stored on Dropbox (cloud and desktop versions). One of the things I find annoying about Evernote is having to save everything to Dropbox and then drag it over to Evernote because there's no "save to Evernote" option in Word, Adobe Pro etc. (at least that I know of). However, for work documents I still store them elsewhere anywhere as backup, and good thing due to events like these (I read a whole bunch of other posts where similar stuff had happened to other people so I know it's not just me!) Dropbox has never failed me in the year and a half that I've consistently used it, and I also make periodic backupts to my work PC just in case Dropbox experience something funky.

 

The notes I was worried about losing were the web clippings, personal notes such as lists and to-do's etc., and just all the time I had spent organizing them and going through them in Evernote etc.

 

Ironically the cloud version of Evernote was correct (on evernote.com, and on my iPad), but it was the desktop (and laptop) versions that were showing the notes as missing. My husband and I had a debate about this b/c he said he always uses the web version b/c he doesn't like another program running on the computer, and I said I always open the program on my computer b/c it is right there as a shortcut and easier for me than going online and logging in. I will have to let him know that an additional reason for using the desktop version is the backup option. ;-p

Just a couple of things to note here.

First, you may have figured out by now that you can save to Evernote by setting up an import location on your computer. I use this all the time to save documents straight into Evernote rather than into dropbox.

Second, when I did a major overhaul of my tags and notebooks recently, my web version and my tablet notes were correct but my desktop got messed up somehow. I think that I made way too many change too quickly that I wasn't syncing frequently enough. After working with the support folks, I was able to rebuild my desktop from the web version and all is well again.

Finally, I've been very grateful that I had backed up when I messed up my notes. Now I back up Evernote and my dropbox folders frequently just in case I botch something up and can't get to it quickly enough to fix it before the messed up files sync across all my platforms.

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I use 4 more or less integrated, cross-platform programs for organization: Evernote, Dropbox, Priority Matrix, and Sunrise calendar.  Evernote is for Evernote- the most versatile program for collecting case information and developing a case.  I've tried using TSW technique for EN, but it takes more discipline than I have, and I prefer visual thinking.  I use Dropbox for collecting all scanned documents, which I try to scan everything.   Even my scanner file is on DB.  In DB, I have a file for each client.  I have a folder template that mirrors the paper file cabinet.  Comm, Discovery, Evidence, Pleadings, etc.  The SCAN file is the equivalent of an INBOX for DB.  DB gets every scan.   Using OS X, as soon as I scan a file, I tag it with a green dot to represent that I've sent it to EN.  In EN, the file goes into the INBOX but then is sorted into a client project folder.  Each scanned file is also sorted immediately to actionable or reference.  If it is actionable in a SOL sense, pleadings, discovery, etc.,  I assign a TODO date that is automatically sent to Sunrise Calendar that is linked to EN.  I also tag actionable items with a PM tag (Priority Matrix).  Priority Matrix is an Eisenhower matrix application for sorting things into relative urgency.  The PM tag in EN then sends a file link to PM's INBOX.  Clicking on the item in PM opens the EN link to view the item.  Each case is a PM project.  PM is more visual than EN and has an easier way to conceptualize TODOs than EN I think.  It allows one to view TODOs by project, whereas EN makes you work to get that view in my experience, even using TSW, which is a great idea, but just too much work IMHO.  PM does sync to Google Calendar, but that is unnecessary as PM has an app that runs cross platform, so there it is.  I limit calendar to appointments and SOL items.  While everything stays in EN, PM is more temporal-just what needs to get done stays in the matrix.

 

So, to sum, I use Dropbox as the master document/evidence receptacle.  EN refines DB by enabling notes and strategies on the case file and assigning limiting dates, on-the-fly recordings of ideas, etc.  EN is used for case development.  The actionable EN items are sent to PM to manage the TODO list where all the subactions can be assigned and tracked.  PM is the TODO manager app.  Sunrise is the only calendar I have found that integrates across platforms with EN due dates, so it is the only calendar that can take my action sorts I assign when the note is created.

 

With this, one still must GTD on schedule.  Everyday, begin with a review or end with one.  Work those todos.  But get them done.  Once the system is set and you trust it, process the work through it so that working on the system does not become an end in itself.

 

I can conceptualize a better system, but there is no software that can deliver what I can see in my head.

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Thanks for your explanation of your system - the most important thing is that it works for you;  but I like the fact that you have four separate apps playing to their respective strengths in one (more-or-less) cohesive system. 

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