Delegation: Facebook LIVE Session with Ken Hardison

I’ll be appearing with lawyer Ken Hardison of Law Practice Advisor on Facebook LIVE discussing delegation on May 17, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. If you’re struggling with delegation issues in your practice, tune in!

The Law Practice Advisor Show appears bi-weekly on Wednesdays at 1 pm ET on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

How to Do More In Less Time Podcast

How to Do More In Less Time Cover Image

Having difficulty managing your workload? Think you could be more productive? My newest book, How to Do More In Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line may help. The first part of the book will provide you with strategies to help you manage your day to day tasks, while the second part of the book will give you specific tips on how you can shave time off of everyday tasks by using the software programs you’re already employing in your law practice more efficiently.

Want a preview?

Listen to this podcast interview with me and my co-author, Daniel J. Siegel.

Make Meetings Count

Business MeetingLawyers attend (or host) a lot of meetings. Even solos are involved in bar association committee meetings, networking meetings and client meetings, just to name a few. Meetings can be held in-person, or virtually by video or teleconference. Meetings can be invaluable tools to brainstorm, get input from a number of people at once, develop goals or strategies, discuss a problem or choose an action or outcome.

But meetings can also be huge time-wasters. Many meetings are unproductive due to the lack of a specific objective, unclear agenda or other problems. That lack of productivity is compounded when the wrong people attend or when meetings are unfocused. And just like email isn’t the best tool for all purposes, meetings aren’t the best tool for all communications. Meetings should have a specific goal or intended action outcome.

If you’re tempted to schedule a meeting just to provide an “update” to a number of people, it may be more appropriate to provide that update using another method and eliminate the meeting. In those cases, a more appropriate tool to provide the information might be a project management tool (like Basecamp), email, or a note in the client or project file, unless the update is significant or is tied to an event or celebration.

If you can’t eliminate the meeting entirely, make it more effective and avoid wasting time by avoiding the most common meeting time-wasters and following these steps:

1. Determine your purpose

First, decide the purpose and goal for the meeting. What outcome do you want to see from the meeting? Is this a brainstorming meeting to generate ideas, a meeting to identify and/or resolve issues, an action-based meeting to identify next steps and responsibilities, a task-based meeting to accomplish a particular assignment or a meeting to make a decision?

Once you know what you are trying to accomplish, you can decide on the meeting structure that will work best: will it be a free-flowing discussion (good for brainstorming or generating ideas) or will participants have a set time to speak (perhaps better for check-in or status based meetings)? Does the meeting address a time sensitive issue that must be addressed right away, or is it a future-oriented, planning meeting?

2. Decide who should participate

Attendance can make or break your meeting: inviting too many people can unnecessarily complicate it, but inviting too few (or the wrong people) can hinder progress.

Your knee-jerk reaction might be to invite everyone in the firm or everyone in a particular category of people to participate in every meeting, but we recommend that you give a little further thought to who should participate in your meetings.

The meeting’s purpose will also drive the attendance. Determine whose experience or expertise will be necessary to accomplish the meeting’s purpose. If the meeting is a decision-making meeting, it stands to reason that the decision-makers must be present in the room in order to accomplish the goal of the meeting. But be sure to include other stakeholders and those who might be significantly impacted by the decision so that they may provide their input or perspective on what factors should be considered.

You may also want to consider whether some participants should only be present for a portion of the meeting, rather than for the entire meeting.

3. Set the agenda and communicate in advance

Create an agenda for the meeting with topics to be discussed and persons responsible. Show that you respect the time of all involved and set limits for discussion, with a concrete beginning and ending time for the meeting.

Advise attendees of the date and time of the meeting. Communicate the purpose and expected outcome of the meeting, goals and agenda to all participants well enough in advance of the meeting so they can prepare. Include any supporting documents needed for the meeting, or that you expect participants to have reviewed or to be familiar with for the meeting. Advise participants of their expected role at the meeting. Request that participants respond to confirm their attendance. Send out a meeting reminder the day before the meeting to confirm.

4. Ensure the meeting stays on track

Start on time and stick to your agenda. Make sure introductions are made if you are not certain that everyone participating knows one another or if some participants are attending the meeting remotely. Have each person indicate who they are and why they are there or what their role in the firm or group is.

Begin the substance of the meeting by repeating the goal or purpose. Advise participants of the format of the meeting. If there is a projected (or firm) end time for the meeting, announce it in the beginning so that everyone is aware of it.

If issues arise that are unrelated but must be discussed during the meeting, request agreement of the participants to continue the meeting beyond the originally agreed-upon end time and establish that only those individuals involved in that particular project or issue be required to stay. If non-urgent issues arise, table them for a meeting to be held at another time specifically for that purpose.

Designate one person to be the meeting facilitator to keep the meeting on point and on time, or assign a time-keeper to keep an eye on the clock and remind the facilitator.

To obtain maximum participation, make the meeting a ‘safe place’ for people to express their opinions without judgment or ridicule. Allow each person the opportunity to speak, but don’t let one person take over the meeting. Obtain different perspectives by asking open-ended questions. Increase participant engagement in the meeting is to assign different people to lead the discussion on each agenda item.

When controversy arises, look for points of agreement. (“Can we all agree that the goal is…” or “If I’m hearing correctly, everyone seems to think there is a problem with Y, but we haven’t come up with the best way to solve the problem yet. Let’s see what we can come up with.”)

Before concluding the meeting, develop an action plan based upon your initial agenda. If necessary, recap the decisions that were made, lessons learned, or options identified during the meeting.  Identify next steps, set deadlines for the tasks identified and assign responsibility for those tasks to specific groups or individuals. Determine whether additional or follow up meetings will be required and, if possible, schedule them immediately.

5. Take action after the meeting

Even if you don’t take ‘minutes’ of the meeting, make sure that the main goals and decisions, deadlines, action steps and responsibilities determined during the meeting are communicated afterwards, in writing, if necessary. Consider whether they need to also be disseminated to those who were not present at the meeting to make follow up and future meetings more productive, even for those who were unable to attend. Follow up individually with those who have action steps to complete. If follow up meetings are necessary, add the tasks and responsibilities that were established to the agenda for follow up, or request that responsible parties submit a report of their progress to be attached to the agenda for the next meeting.

Meetings don’t have to be a black hole of wasted time if they are utilized properly. First, you must determine whether conducting a meeting is the correct way to accomplish your objectives. If it is, you’ll want to develop a meeting agenda based upon those objectives and invite only those people who are required to meet those objectives or make decisions necessary to move the project forward. Communicate the objective in advance to allow participants to fully prepare. Then use meeting facilitation techniques to keep the meeting on task and on time. And don’t forget to summarize what was accomplished and document next steps, deadlines and responsibility.

This article is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line,” with Daniel J. Siegel, scheduled to be published later this year.

Improving Efficiency with Your Existing Technology: How to get 90 Minutes of Work Done in 60

This program provides practical, easy-to-use ways in which attorneys can use time management techniques and technology to be more effective — doing so more efficiently and in less time than through traditional methods. The presentation will include a discussion of time management techniques, demonstrations of software, as well as tips on how lawyers can take better advantage of the tools and technology already in use in their offices.

$150 General Public

$125 ABA Members (this rate includes FREE one year GPSLD membership)

$95 Government Attorneys

$85 Government & Public Sector Division Members

$60 Each additional registrant using the same phone line

$25 Law Students

Program Faculty:

Daniel J. Siegel, Principal, Integrated Technology Services, LLC, Havertown, PA
Allison C. Shields, President, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc., Mt. Sinai, NY

Register here. Get more information here.

Don’t Organize – Spring Clean!

A secret to happinessGretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times best-sellers Happier at Home and The Happiness Project proclaims that one of the secrets to happiness is:

Don’t get organized. 

It’s Spring, and that’s the time of year that many of us turn to clearing out the clutter, both at home and at work. Somehow it’s tolerable in the winter months when we’re hunkered down, but something about the warmer weather makes us want to strip down and create some room to breathe.

But for people who have the “clutter mentality” (another of Gretchen Rubin’s phrases), Spring cleaning means simply organizing, without tackling the first the crucial step – eliminating. Rather than evaluating what’s important to keep and what no longer serves, those with a clutter mentality will organize and simply  make things neat, without making the hard choices.

Fancy organizing tools – including technology tools – can be fun to use, but don’t let them become a crutch that you use to avoid making difficult decisions. Keeping things – or information – that you “might” need “someday” can be more of a distraction than it’s worth, especially if you can’t actually find it when you need it.

Real organization – and Spring cleaning – starts with clearing out – getting rid of anything and everything that is outdated or no longer useful. As Gretchen says, “If you don’t keep it, you don’t have to organize it.” Clutter prevents you from working efficiently by distracting you, covering up important documents or files, and by adding to anxiety and stress.

Getting rid of “stuff”

Clear away the physical clutter in your office. Most lawyers’ offices, whether those offices are inside or outside of the home, are clutter magnets, in part because they simply have too much to do during the day. But a periodic sweep through the office, keeping these five things in mind, should do the trick:

  1. Your office should only contain paperwork that you’re currently working on, supplies and files that you need on a regular basis, and  a few mementos that are meaningful. The rest is trash or should find another home.
  2. Keep only those items in your office that you need to take action on or that you need to refer to when doing your work – but if the item is for reference on a project you won’t be working on in the next day or two, file it to keep the clutter out of your office – and to prevent distractions from the task at hand.
  3. If you haven’t done so already, now might be a good time to consider going “paper-less.” Instead of worrying that everything might not have made it to the paper file, or playing file tag with others in the office who need access to the same documents, scan everything that comes in and file it right away into the matter’s electronic file. But even if you work with paper files, don’t use your office as a place to store them. Your office should contain on the files you’re actually working on.
  4. Create an automatic deadline for tossing certain items, like bar association publications or section newsletters. Often, they are available online and they’ll be easier to find (and read) that way than by wading through a stack of periodicals to find the article you think you remember seeing.
  5. Get control of the mail and email. When mail arrives, categorize it immediately, and make a place in your office for each category. If it’s mail that has a particular date, make sure the date gets entered into your calendar immediately. Outdated emails or emails that aren’t client-related should be deleted. There’s no need to keep thousands of emails in your inbox.

Eliminating Other Obstacles to your Practice

Clutter isn’t just piles of “stuff” or paper. Clutter comes in all shapes and sizes. It includes the nagging worries cluttering up your thoughts, the “dog” files that you never get around to working on (or that you know will end badly), employees (or partners) who are abusive, nasty, unproductive, or otherwise drag your firm down, clients who don’t listen to your advice or are impossible to please, and more. De-cluttering isn’t limited to physical things or piles of paper in your office. Put a real “spring” in your step by adding these to your “toss” pile:

Bad clients

Do you need another reminder? Bad clients drive out good clients. They drain you of energy and distract you from doing your best work for your best clients. Consider firing some of your worst clients (or letting your staff tell you which clients they think you should fire).

Bad or unecessary employees

If you have motivated employees that contribute to your firm and help make you successful, by all means, keep them – and take good care of them. But some employees are toxic and drag down the rest of the firm. If you  have employees that are abusive to staff, or clients, don’t pull their weight or are otherwise dragging you down, it may be time to bite the bullet and get rid of them.

Tasks and Procedures

Are you performing tasks you don’t need to do? Delegate more. Are some tasks being performed by multiple people, multiple times? Streamline your tasks so that the fewest possible people are involved in any particular task. When is the last time you reviewed your office procedures? Have some of your old procedures become redundant?

To-do list items

While I’m all for using lists, they need to be productive for you. A to-do list that contains too many tasks is overwhelming and unproductive. Make a “don’t do” list to help you drop unnecessary or unimportant items off of your to-do list. If you’ve been carrying a particular item on your list for a long time, reconsider whether that item is a priority for you. Instead of piling things onto your to-do list, schedule specific times to accomplish them and put them on your calendar.

Outdated services or practice areas

Re-visit your services: are there some services that have become outdated? Are you out of date or in need of a refresher course in your area of practice? Are there new areas of practice emerging that you would like to focus on? Are your clients’ needs being met with your existing services?

Keeping Up

Now that you’ve cleared out, I give you permission to organize what’s left. But don’t forget to do a periodic purge. Before you leave the office at the end of the week, take 15 minutes to do a quick pick up of your office – move out files or paperwork that doesn’t belong, get rid of any unnecessary mail or junk flyers, etc. Take a few minutes to review your calendar and tasks for the following week, and make a plan.

 

Planning for Law Practice Improvement

Failure and SuccessThe first month of the New Year is already more than half over, but even if you haven’t started, it’s not too late to plan to make this the best year yet. You can still set things in motion to move your practice to the next level, work more effectively and attract the clients you want this year. Here’s how:

Do a year-end review

First, take inventory of your practice. The only way to make changes, to grow or to move forward is to first accept what is; before you can start thinking about making improvements, you need to know where you stand now.

Take stock of last year’s goals:

  • What goals (whether written or not) did you have for your practice last yer? Did you want to finally get some systems in place? Explore a new practice area? Create better relationships with clients or attract a higher caliber of clients to your firm?
  • How well did you meet those goals?
  • What benchmarks or other documentation do you have in place to determine whether or not you met your goals?
  • What made you successful or unsuccessful in meeting this year’s goals? What do you need to continue doing, and what do you need to change?
  • What resources do you need to make those changes?

A general review of the past year can help you to see areas ripe for improvement:

  • What clients/practice areas were the most/least profitable over the past year?
  • Who are your best/worst clients, and where do they come from?
  • What new strategic alliances/referral sources have you cultivated in the past year? What new relationships would you like to create?
  • How many new clients retained you over the past year? How much new business did you receive from existing or former clients?
  • How well did you follow up with new contacts this year? Did you use a system for keeping in touch with potential, existing and former clients? How effective was that system?
  • How up to date and effective are your marketing materials (business cards, website, blog, newsletter, brochure, email campaigns, seminars/presentations, etc.)? Do they accurately reflect who you are and what you do for your clients? Even more importantly, do they accurately describe your clients and their needs, wants and concerns?
  • How large are your receiveables and what can you do to reduce them?
  • How often did you convert prospects into clients over the past year?
  • Are you using staff, outside sources and vendors effectively, or could you delegate better?
  • What improvements have you made in your practice over the past year for the benefit of your clients? What can you do to knock your clients’ socks off in the future?

If you already have good systems, records and documentation in place, you may be able to obtain reports containing this information from your computer system in a few clicks. If not, you may want to consider a systems overhaul to make this information easier to obtain in 2014, as it can be invaluable.

For example, if you know where your business is coming from and you aren’t getting the kind of business you’d like, you may want to explore where the ‘less desirable’ business is coming from. If all of your “bad” referrals are coming from the same place, you may need to re-educate those referral sources; if your referral sources don’t know what your ‘sweet spot’ is, they can’t refer you the best clients. Similarly, if your marketing materials are not effective, accurate and timely, if they are attracting clients that you don’t want, you’ll want to revisit your marketing materials.

Choose three main goals

Now that you know where you are, you can start setting the wheels in motion to make improvements by setting goals. But don’t make the mistake of setting too many goals or goals that are too large. Although you may have a long list of things you wish you could do in your practice, a long list can quickly become overwhelming. Instead, choose three main areas you’d like to improve in your practice over the next year.

Choose the three goals that you think will have the most impact, or that are the most urgent, and focus all of your time on those three goals. Even with only three goals, there are going to be lots of little action steps to be taken in order to reach them. Anything that doesn’t work toward those three goals should be sidelined or put on a list for the future so that it doesn’t distract from your focus.

When you set a goal, estimate how long you actually think it’s going to take to accomplish that goal. Then build in some additional time for unexpected obstacles and inevitable delays.

Write down the list of your three projects and keep it posted somewhere you can see it and be reminded every day.

Create a plan

Write down the purpose of the project, the principles (why?) behind the project, and your vision of the outcome. Brainstorm ideas for strategies to achieve the outcome. For example, if one of your goals is to increase your client base by 20% over the next year, your strategy might include targeting a new industry and/or increasing your online marketing efforts.

List the steps required to pursue each strategy. These might include identifying industry needs, researching potential clients, or developing online content. Be as specific as possible.

Armed with all of this information, you can create an action plan. The action plan should identify specifically what you are going to do, who will be responsible for doing it, how will it be done, how you will follow up, when each item should be completed, who will supervise each action, and what mechanisms will be put in place to determine compliance.

Schedule time now

Intentions don’t create results – only actions do. But some of the most important actions never make it to your schedule because they don’t have built in deadlines or aren’t directly tied to client matters or revenue. Often these are the very actions needed to achieve your goals. To avoid this problem, once you’ve outlined the goals, strategies and action steps, take out your calendar and schedule time now to get moving on your plans.

Decide now when and how often you’re going to work on each of your goals and block the time on your calendar, keeping in mind the amount of time you’ve estimated to complete the goal. Schedule the individual action steps as appointments just as you would schedule client appointments.

Don’t leave another year to chance. Make a plan now to take action on your goals, but stay flexible. Regardless of how well you plan, obstacles may arise, the market may change or new opportunities may come to light. Keep your plan flexible by building in time to periodically review your goals and the progress of your action items and make any adjustments necessary.

(A version of this article appeared in the January 2014 issue of The Nassau Lawyer.)

Two Time-Saving Apps for Lawyers

HourglassI hate wasting time, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to accomplish more in less time, to eliminate unnecessary steps, and generally to make my life easier so that I can concentrate on what’s most important. In this article, I cover two more of my favorite time-saving apps that help me to do just that. Those apps are LastPass, a secure password manager that lets me create strong passwords and gives me peace of mind, and SlideShark, the app that lets me easily view and present PowerPoint presentations seamlessly from my iPad.

 LastPass

Passwords. They’re necessary, ubiquitous and frustrating. The more we do online or through mobile devices, the more we need them. Some sites require a change in your password every few months.

Security experts advise that we should create unique passwords for each site, and that they should all be ‘strong’ passwords, containing numbers, letters (both upper and lowercase) and symbols. They’re not supposed to contain common words, significant dates (like your birthday, anniversary, your children’s birthdays, etc), or names of your children or pets, since (especially with social media), those are easy to figure out. And I don’t know about you, but a quick check of my various accounts, apps, etc. reveals that I would have over 200 unique passwords I would have to remember.

Yeah, right.

So what do most of us do? Use the same password over and over for several different sites, leaving ourselves vulnerable – if one site gets hacked and our password is compromised, it may compromise a lot of personal information – or use easy to remember passwords that would also be easy to crack if anyone tried.

I finally had enough of all of these passwords and getting concerned every time there was a news story reporting that some online service or platform where I had an account was hacked (like LinkedIn was last year), and I decided to do something about it.

What I did was get myself an account with LastPass. LastPass is a free service that you can download and set up in a matter of minutes, and it will free you from remembering passwords forever – with the exception of ONE password that you’ll need to access your LastPass vault which will contain all of the information about sites you log in to and the passwords associated with each.

When you log into a site, LastPass will ask you if you want to save the site’s information into your vault. You’ll also have the option of generating a new, strong password for the site (or for any new site you log in to). After the site is saved to your vault, you never have to remember the password. You can even set LastPass up to log you in automatically when you arrive at that site. Alternatively, you can simply log in to your LastPass vault to obtain login information for each site individually.

LastPass also alerts you to weak and duplicate passwords as you’re logging in to your accounts, so you can generate new ones immediately and update your online security for sites you’ve been using for a while (and that have those old, weak passwords that are easy to remember but leave you open to potential problems).

In your LastPass vault, you can organize your site and login information by putting sites into different categories that you create. For example, you might want to categorize some sites as personal and others as business, or some sites as shopping and others as social media. You can even make online shopping and ordering easier by creating Profiles within LastPass for your credit cards, or for different billing and shipping addresses.

When you register for an account, or are ready to check out and make a purchase, choose the Profile you want, and LastPass will complete the form in a single click. And LastPass uses the latest encryption technology, so your data is secure.

In addition to the free service which you would install on your main computer or laptop and that sits in your browser, LastPass has a premium option that costs only $12/year. The Premium service allows you to use LastPass across all of your devices by giving you access to all of their mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, whether you use iOS, Android, Windows Phone, or a combination, so you’ll always have the passwords and other information you need, wherever you are. And LastPass includes multi-factor authentication, providing you with even more security.

Of course, LastPass isn’t the only password manager out there – a recent New York Times article discusses LastPass and other password apps here.

SlideShark

Many lawyers don’t operate solely in the Windows or Mac worlds; instead, they use a combination of devices. Perhaps they have a Windows desktop, an Android phone and an iPad (like I do). Although I have a laptop, it isn’t always convenient to travel with the laptop, and sometimes I prefer to just carry my iPad. In the past, I felt that if I was doing a presentation, I had to bring my laptop because my presentations were all prepared in PowerPoint on my desktop computer. Although I could transfer those programs to Keynote to try to present them on my iPad, they didn’t always transfer properly – and my images would always have to be loaded onto my iPad separately in order for them to appear properly, making extra work for me — something I try to avoid whenever possible.

Then I heard about SlideShark, a free mobile app that lets me show my PowerPoint presentations from my iPad with no change in formatting and with all of the images intact. Even hyperlinks, video, graphics and animations work seamlessly when presenting with SlideShark. Now when I’m creating a presentation I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll be presenting from a laptop or from my iPad. I can simply create the presentation in PowerPoint and know that it will look the way I want it to look regardless of the device I’m presenting on.

Getting started with SlideShark was easy; I just installed the app on my iPad, and when I want to present to a client or at a conference, I upload the presentation into SlideShark and present. I can even annotate slides in SlideShark on the fly as I’m presenting. And if you’ve got remote attendees, you can even broadcast your slides on the web through the app.

Although I can’t edit a presentation in SlidesShark, that’s OK – if I find that I really need to make a change before a presentation and I don’t have my laptop, I simply log in to my computer in my office (I use the LogMeIn app for that purpose), edit the slideshow, and then re-upload it to Slideshark.

Although I use the free version, Slideshark also has upgraded options for individuals as well as businesses. A comparison chart of their products can be found here. The paid versions of SlideShark include options such as larger file uploads, secure data backup and ability to track views of shared slides. But since I’m not concerned about confidentiality of my presentations or sharing online (if necessary, I have other outlets available to me for sharing), the free version works just fine for me.

No more getting locked out of a site because I forgot my password, no more frustration trying to remember multiple passwords or fear that my passwords will be guessed by ne’er do wells, and no more needing to lug around my laptop to do a presentation (or manipulating a presentation so that I can show it on my iPad)…these two apps have increased my peace of mind and made my life a little easier — and all for free (or very low cost). What more could I ask for in an app?

Goodbye Google Reader, Hello Pulse?

LinkedIn and Pulse

By now you have probably heard that Google is de-activating its RSS feed reader, Google Reader, effective July 1, 2013. For those of us that rely on RSS to keep up with current news, to follow blogs or websites, this is a huge problem, whether you use Google Reader as your RSS reader or not. Why? Because many RSS readers were using Google Reader to power their own feed readers (FeedDemon is one example).

There are alternatives feed readers to explore, some of which are free (just as Reader was), and some work through paid accounts. The ones being recommended most across the web seem to be Feedly, NewsBlur and The Old Reader. You’ll want to decide which you want to use, and part of your decision may be based on whether there are apps available for you to consume your content across different platforms (desktop, smartphone, tablet, etc.)

But while Google is shutting down its reader, LinkedIn has made an announcement this month that it has acquired Pulse, a “leading news reader and mobile content distribution platform.”

As you can see from the presentation below, LinkedIn wants to “be the definitive professional publishing platform where all professionals can:

  • Publish: Updates,comments,presentations
  • Discover: Influencers, Groups, news, Company Pages
  • Share: Share, like,comment

Here  is LinkedIn’s short slideshow announcing the news:

It remains to be seen how LinkedIn will integrate Pulse into its platform and what this will mean for both Pulse and LinkedIn users. Perhaps it will integrate into LinkedIn’s LinkedIn Today feature, which aims to deliver news daily to LinkedIn users, tailored to their interests.

Pulse has an interesting, tile-based layout that may appeal to those who respond to visuals. See below for an example:

Pulse screenshot

It’s important to me to stay up to date on industry news that affects both me and my clients, so I rely on news aggregators or feed readers to push me content that’s relevant and that I can skim through or bookmark to read offline.

As you can see, I’ve signed up for Pulse just to see what it’s like – I’m still exploring my own alternatives for Google Reader, and I’m a LinkedIn user, so I thought I’d try it. It was easy to import my existing Google Reader feeds, and I can add new ones easily using the Chrome extension (I use chrome as my web browser).

Google Reader probably won’t be the last free web application to bite the dust, and there are sure to be more changes on the horizon for LinkedIn and other social media applications. I’ll keep trying to update you as I see changes coming.

For more of my recent posts on social media changes, see:

Is the “Professional Network” Becoming More Social? (slaw.ca)

LinkedIn Endorsements 101 (Law Technology Today)

New on Facebook (Legal Ease Blog)

Using Evernote to Boost Productivity and Stay Organized

Evernote Logo

Evernote is online archiving and note-taking software (Evernote Web) that also has an app (iPhone, iPad, Android, iPod touch) and a desktop component for Windows or Mac.

Essentially, Evernote helps you keep your notes, links and information in one place, accessible from anywhere. But it’s different than programs like Dropbox which allow you to simply store documents – in Evernote you can create notes directly within the program or capture web pages (or emails) and then add annotations, tag for easy categorizing, sync across multiple devices and easily search – the program even lets you search text within a photo (especially handy for one of my tips below).

Sync and Offline Access

For me, sync and offline access are two of the best features of Evernote. I do a fair amount of traveling and I like to use that time to catch up with my reading. I often come across web pages or email newsletters that I don’t have time to read when I first find them.

I used to bookmark these items in my browser to read later or for reference for article ideas, blog posts, presentations, ideas for clients, etc. Now, instead of bookmarking them in my browser, I clip them to Evernote. Then I don’t need internet access to read them – I just sync the Evernote files on whatever device I’m taking with me (laptop, phone and/or iPad) and I’m good to go. I can even catch up on my reading in ‘no internet’ zones, like on the plane.

Notebooks

In Evernote, you can create as many notebooks as you want. You can even create shared notebooks and create or join public notebooks if you want to collaborate with someone else on a project or share ideas.

Tagging

I’ve found the tagging features in Evernote make it easy to sort and find what I’m looking for, regardless of which notebook I’ve placed the note in.

Adding Notes

There are many ways to add notes to your Evernote notebooks.

When you want to remember something, instead of emailing yourself a reminder, email it to Evernote using your own Evernote email. Use the @ symbol to identify which notebook you want the note to be saved in (or don’t identify, and it will save in your default notebook). You can even tag your email by including the # symbol and the tag. (Both the @ and # symbols need to be in your subject line). For example, send yourself an email to @John notebook #to do and the note will be added to your “John” Evernote notebook and tagged to do.

Create notes directly within Evernote by clicking on “new note.” Add a typed note, handwritten (ink) note, record an audio note or take a photo.

If you use checklists in your practice, you can create and save them in Evernote and easily keep track of where you are on a project and what your next step should be.

Have you ever done a brainstorming session or had a meeting using a whiteboard and wanted to capture all of the information there to review and refer back to? Take a photo of the whiteboard and save it into Evernote; not only will you capture an image of the whiteboard, but the words in that image will be searchable.

Evernote Web Clipper sits in your browser’s toolbar and lets you save anything you see online—including text, links and images—into my Evernote account with one click. Save whole web pages, only selected portions, or just the page url. Add tags and your own notes.

I use this feature for both personal and business pursuits – when I find a recipe I like, I clip it to Evernote and save it with tags for the main ingredients, occasion or whether it’s a main dish, side, appetizer, etc. I clip and tag articles I want to read, pages from clients’ websites and more.

If you have a small firm, you might consider using Evernote Business, which can help you to organize your firm’s information and give employees a central place to find information. You decide who has access to what notebooks, while your Personal notebooks remain private.

If you like writing with a ‘real’ pen and paper, Evernote has a special Moleskine Smart Notebook you can use to take handwritten notes. Then take a picture of the page with the Evernote iOS or Android app and it automatically becomes a new note in Evernote, and all of your handwritten text will be searchable.

(Note: you can do the same thing with the free Evernote app, but their Smart Notebooks are specially formatted so Evernote can more easily recognize your writing and what’s on the page.)

According to Lifehacker, Evernote Smart Notebooks are especially worthwhile if you’re interested in Evernote’s Premium service, which provides more upload capacity (the free version allows you to upload 60 MB of data/month; Evernote premium increases that to 1GB/month) and has some additional features. Each notebook ($25 for the small and $30 for the large) comes with three free months of Evernote Premium, which alone costs $15/month.

Although there are Premium versions of Evernote, there is also a free version (which I use) that has plenty of functionality. What’s not to love about that?!

Do you use Evernote in your practice? Let me know! Come on over to Legal Ease Consulting on Facebook and join the conversation!

EVERNOTE, the Evernote Elephant logo and REMEMBER EVERYTHING are trademarks of Evernote Corporation and used under a license.

Return to March 2013 Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter