Smart marketing by a smart lawyer


Yesterday, I was interviewed live via a new video broadcast service, Spreecast. The interviewer was my friend and fellow attorney, Mitch Jackson. The subject was using Evernote in a law practice and my Evernote for Lawyers ebook. You can watch the replay here.

In the interview, you’ll note my comment to Mitch that his Spreecasts are smart marketing on his part because it allows him to network not only with the experts he interviews but with a large number of attorneys and allied professionals who come to watch. It positions him as a leader and gets his name in front of a lot of people who can either directly refer clients to him or who can lead him to others who can.

Although these Spreecasts are new, I know Mitch has for many years done a great job of networking in this fashion, promoting others’ law practices, books and events to his large network. I also know he gets a lot of referral business.

Smart marketing, and you can do the same thing. It’s called being a connector.

Being a connector can not only help you grow your practice, it is also a great vehicle for learning. I’m sure Mitch will tell you in reading the blogs and books of the experts he interviews, he learns the best ideas and latest techniques, which help him become a better lawyer and a better marketer.

To become a connector you need two things.

First, you need a platform. This can be a blog, a Facebook or LinkedIn Group, a newsletter, your own Spreecast channel, or a local breakfast group. This is where you match up content (writing, speaking, interviews) with your audience. You are the organizer, the master of ceremonies, the interviewer, the publisher. Everything goes through you.

The platform is easy. Just pick something and plant a flag.

The second thing you need might be a little more difficult. It’s not something you sign up for, it’s something you must have within you. To be effective as a connector, you need to truly enjoy helping others. It’s true, the more value you create for others, the more you promote them and champion their practice or product, the more you will benefit. But you must be willing to help others without any agenda, other than the pleasure you get from seeing others succeed.

Mitch has a series of great interviews lined up. Follow his Spreecast Lawyers Group (channel) and invite your friends.


New eBook Shows Lawyers How to Use Evernote to Organize Everything


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how much I love Evernote. I use it for everything: notes, documents, writing, task management, you name it. Today, I’m proud to announce the release of a new eBook, “Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity“.

Lawyers manage an incredible amount of information and finding that information quickly is imperative. More and more attorneys use Evernote for capturing notes and web clips, and initially, that’s all I used it for. I’ve since discovered many other ways Evernote can be used to organize the information in my life, and that’s what this book reveals.

Topics include using Evernote for research and writing, time and billing support, marketing and career development, and managing client files and documents. Other chapters include, “going paperless,” “data security,” “working with email,” and “working with your calendar”.

Attorneys who use David Allen’s Getting Things Done® methodology (or want to), will want to read Chapter 4, which covers this subject at length. I’ve written before about my Evernote/GTD system. Evernote for Lawyers presents my latest thinking on this subject, as well as the latest updates to my gtd system and work flow.

Evernote currently has 20 million users world wide and was recently honored as Inc. Magazine’s 2011 Company of the Year.

Evernote is free and is available for Windows, Mac, on the web, and all major mobile platforms. A premium version with enhanced features is also available.

Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity is available for immediate download in pdf format at


[Book Review] Evernote: The Unofficial Guide To Capturing Everything And Getting Things Done


If you’re a proponent of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) productivity system like I am, you’ve probably tried numerous ways to incorporate it into your work flow, from paper and file folders to web and mobile apps, and everything in between. Many of these are complicated, with lots of bells and whistles and a steep learning curve. Others, like plain paper or a Moleskine notebook are simple but for many of us, too limited.

Enter Evernote.

I’d been using Evernote for a long time, first for collecting information and ideas, eventually, for all of my documents. One day, I decided to see if I could also use it to manage my tasks and projects. Although Evernote isn’t designed as a task management application and it is limited in that realm, I found a way to make it work for me, and today I use it every day for exactly that purpose.

I like having one app for almost everything I do. I like having all of my notes and documents in the same place as my tasks and projects. It’s simple, reliable, and flexible and provides me with a complete system for managing my work and my life.

I went looking for others who use Evernote for Getting Things Done, and my search led me to fellow attorney and blogger, Dan Gold. Dan is a maven in the world of technology and productivity and has tried just about every productivity app under the sun. He used Evernote like I did, for collecting information, but was unable to find the right way to use it for GTD. In his quest to achieve a “mind like water,” he finally found the right combination.

The story of his journey is told in his newly published ebook, “Evernote: The Unofficial Guide To Capturing Everything And Getting Things Done,” (aff. link) now featured in Evernote’s Trunk (store). It’s a great read and provides a much needed lesson for using an extraordinary piece of technology in conjunction with a seminal productivity system, to manage your work and your life.

I read the book and found that to a great extent, Dan’s journey paralleled my own. We both liked the power and ubiquity of Evernote but were frustrated with its limitations as a productivity tool. After trying various apps and workarounds, we eventually found the solution.

In his book, Dan credits my blog post about how I use Evernote for GTD (and another blogger’s post on that subject) with providing some of the missing pieces in his set up. I appreciate his saying so but in reality, Dan had most of the pieces already in place. Like I had, he was adding elements–other apps that integrate with Evernote and a more complex arrangement of notebooks and tags. My post and the other blogger he credits simply showed him that Evernote didn’t need anything else, it could be used “as is” for GTD.

The key is not adding elements but subtracting them. Not using more notebooks to organize everything but fewer, and using enough tags, but not too many, to manage everything.

If you are a newcomer to Evernote or GTD, Dan’s book will sell you on why you need to be using them; it won’t tell you everything you need to know about how. What it will do is show you how you can use them together to create a complete system for getting things done.

“Evernote: The Unofficial Guide To Capturing Everything And Getting Things Done,” is a quick read and available for immediate download for just $5. Dan promises free updates and since Evernote is continually being developed, this makes a great value even greater.


Evernote helps lawyers get organized and get things done–Part 3


In parts 1 and 2 of this series I talked about how I use Evernote for collecting and organizing information and for managing my tasks and projects. Today I want to show you the details of my set up and workflow.

Evernote allows you to organize notes in (up to 250) notebooks. Notebooks can also be arranged in “stacks” or sub-notebooks. While this does not provide a complete Windows Explorer-like hierarchal folder set-up (you can only go down one notebook level), it does provide a logical way to organize information. And by hiding sub-notebooks (click the arrow to the left) it makes the left navigation bar less cluttered.

In the beginning, I set up twenty or thirty notebooks. I had notebooks for different areas of my business and personal life, for projects, and to archive notes I probably wouldn’t need soon (i.e., finished projects, receipts, user manuals, etc.) After several months, I found some issues with this set up. For one thing, every time I “filed” a note I had to decide which notebook it belonged in. I have a lot of cross-over in my business and many notes could logically reside in more than one notebook. I had to take time to decide which notebook was best or defer the decision; either way it meant more work.

I could duplicate the note and put it in multiple notebooks. Also not good. If I ever changed or added to a note, I had to find and change the copies.

When you search for notes, you designate which notebook to search in. If you don’t remember, you have to search different notebooks, until you find it, or search all notebooks, and if I’m doing that, what’s the point of having separate notebooks?

Notebooks vs. Tags

I began reading other blogs, to see how others organized their notes. Many people use just a few notebooks and organize primarily using tags. Tags are notebook agnostic–they apply throughout your Evernote database. I’d been using tags since I first started with Evernote, but I didn’t have a system. That soon changed.

The lights went on for me when I read how some people used just one notebook. One notebook! They used tags and Evernote’s robust search function to quickly find things. I was sold. I eliminated all notebooks except two. First is my “Inbox,” my default notebook; everything goes in there first. I review my Inbox at least once a day, assign tags, decide if there’s anything else I need to do with the information, and move the notes to my primary notebook, which I’ve named “My Notes”.

This simplified approach makes my work flow much quicker and more intuitive. I could simplify it even further and use just one notebook, using a “inbox” tag to designate that a note has not yet been processed, but having the buffer of a separate Inbox notebook allows me to quickly upload notes without having to think about them and process them later.

Right now I also have two temporary notebooks. They are both “local” meaning they are not synced to the Evernote server (and I cannot, therefore, access them on the web or from my phone). The first is “Private” and includes passwords, log-ins, sensitive documents and the like. The notebook is temporary because I haven’t yet decided what to do with this information but with an eye towards simplicity, I am leaning towards merging it with all my other (synced) notes. I will probably use Evernote’s encryption function.

The other temporary notebook is named, “To be uploaded”. It is a repository for documents on my Windows hard drive, in queue to be uploaded to Evernote. There is a monthly upload limit (60 mb on the free account, 1 gb on premium) and I simply wait until the last couple of days my monthly cycle to see how much “room” remains in my monthly allotment, so I don’t exceed it. Once I’ve moved everything to Evernote, I won’t need this notebook any longer.

As for tags, Evernote allows you a maximum of 10,000, way more than anyone should need. I currently use less than 100, and, with searches and “saved searches,” another Evernote feature, I think I can get away with even fewer.

Like notebooks, tags can also be nested. Unlike notebooks, tags can be nested to as many levels as you want. You can create a true windows-like hierarchy, using tags like folders. Not only does that allow you to browse your notes, it makes for a very clean left navigation panel. I currently have only seven top level tags, as you can see in the screen shot below.

Getting Things Done with Evernote–My GTD Work Flow

As noted in my previous post, I manage my tasks and projects using David Allen’s “Getting Things Done(TM)” methodology, also known as “gtd”. If you aren’t familiar with gtd, I recommend you buy his book. You may not “get” everything the first time you read it (I didn’t), but with a little effort, I think you’ll find this to be the system that finally allows you to get organized and get things done.

I’ve set up Evernote with tags that allow me to utilize gtd. Below is a screen shot of my Windows desktop client, which I use about 95% of the time. (I occasionally use the web app and when I’m out, I use the iPhone app.)

I’m still tinkering with the names and nesting of my tags because as I use Evernote each day, I learn more about how I work best. Like you, I have different roles in life and many projects for each of those roles, as well as single “next actions” (as Allen describes them). So, by the time you read this, my tags may be different from what is now depicted, but the changes are likely cosmetic rather than functional. And yes, I know that some of what I do isn’t pure gtd.

My tag list shows the top level tags (think “parent”) and some nested ones (“children”). The “Projects” tag, for example, is used to organize “Active Projects” and “Inactive Projects” which are nested under them. Each of those tags has nested tags; to get to them, I click the arrow to the left of the parent tag.

The numbers to the right of the tag indicate how many notes have that tag. You’ll see I have 7 Active Projects and 17 Inactive Projects.

The !!Today tag is for tasks I want to do today, or as soon as possible. It is pre-pended with two exclamation marks to keep it at the top of the list. Below that is my !Next list; these are tasks I want to get to, well, next. As I complete today’s tasks, I find other tasks I want to move to the front of the line. I remove the !Next tag and replace it with !!Today.

I spend most of the day working in !!Today. That keeps me focused on doing what I’ve already determined I want to work on before I work on anything else. But I can also dip into other tags and find other tasks to do.

“Contexts” are preceded with the @ character, representing location or the tool (@Computer). Since I work from home, my context menu is pretty simple; you may have contexts for different locations and areas of your life: @work, @home, @calls, and others. The more I use gtd, the fewer contexts I’ve found necessary but they do come in handy when I want to, say, find tasks @computer, @15 Minutes, and tagged “personal,” or when I’m out and I need to find @Errands.

“Lists” are items I use regularly (e.g., my “weekly review checklist,” another gtd concept, or frequently referenced conference call numbers).

“Musing” is something I came up to tag things I’ve got floating around in my head that I need to think about. Once I’ve done that, they will be tagged !!Today or !Next or @Someday/Maybe, or they may be deleted altogether.

“Reference” is a catch all for all non-actionable items. It is my repository of notes and drafts and ideas, web clips and documents and everything else. I have nested tags in Reference for my two businesses, one for Personal, and a few other “top-level” tags. Each of these tags has tags nested within them. For example, for the attorney marketing business, I use a top level tag “am” and have nested tags for “am-blog,” “am-products,” “am-consulting,” and so on.

How I handle Projects

Each project has it’s own tag. I use a period in front of project tags to designate them as projects instead of single tasks. My project for setting up Evernote and my gtd work flow has the tag .Evernote/GTD. All notes related to that project get that tag. They will usually have other tags too, for context (@Computer, @Errand), Reference (e.,g. am-blog), and, if it’s actionable, !!Today or !Next. If I’m not sure if it’s necessary, I’ll use @Someday/Maybe.

Each project has a primary note tagged with “Active Projects” (if I’m working on it now) or “Inactive Projects” (to be done later). In this note are the objectives for the project and a checklist of tasks and/or “note links” to other Evernote notes. Thus, the main note becomes an index for the entire project with each task usually having it’s own note. That way, as tasks are done, they can be marked with a “Done” tag (or deleted) and the primary note can be updated to show that the task for that project has been done.

Evernote also has check boxes which can be used for checklists or for designating actionable tasks. Check boxes are also searchable, so you can find all tasks in Evernote that are done (checked) or not done.

Calendar: Appointments and Tasks (Ticklers)

I use Evernote to manage time-oriented tasks and projects by linking notes to my Google Calendar. (This may change once Evernote introduces a “Due Date” field which has been promised “soon”.) Each note in Evernote has a unique link. By right-clicking and copying that link, you can paste it into your calendar, either as an appointment (date and time) or as a task (“All day” event).

Every day I review my appointments and tasks, click the link and it opens the Evernote note I need for that appointment or task. (Actually, on gCal, the link isn’t currently clickable; I have to cut and paste the link into a browser window and that opens the note in the desktop app.) I also assign a “Tickler” tag to notes that have been tickled so I can browse those notes if I want to.

The Weekly Review

Every night, I go through Evernote and my calendar and decide what I want to work on the following day. Those tasks get tagged !!Today. Some days I get through the entire list, often I don’t. Tasks not done get carried forward to the following day or, if I decide there are other things I need to do first, I might remove !!Today and replace it with !Next.

I also do a weekly review, (Sunday mornings), to plan the following week. The daily and weekly review are key to making the gtd system work because you’re regularly looking at your lists and making decisions on what to do next.

As you can see, this is a very simple system. It works because it is simple and because I don’t keep anything in my head, everything’s in Evernote, which means I can focus on getting things done.

Read part 1 and part 2 of this series.


Evernote helps lawyers get organized and get things done


Thirty years ago, if you asked lawyers what they thought about all the information they had to manage in their practice, I’m pretty sure you would hear words like “swimming,” “drowning,” and “SOS!”. I know that’s what I would have said.

Our files and file cabinets (and desks, and floors, and side chairs. . .) were bursting with information: client data, research, pleadings, discovery, notes, correspondence, memos, briefs, inventories, photos, receipts, transcripts. . . It was a constant challenge to keep up with everything.

Then, we’d come into the office on Monday morning to a pile of mail, phone messages, and a new stack of files, on top of all the unfinished work from the week before. We had to keep up with our reading–case summaries, newsletters, magazines, memos–and we had to make sure our library was current. Law books were updated monthly or quarterly with inserts (remember “pocket parts”?) or loose leaf pages and sometimes, we’d get the latest updates only to find the previous updates unopened in a box on the floor. We had to insert the previous update first, even though many of those new pages were themselves replaced by the most recent update.

The amount of information in our lives was daunting and we often felt overwhelmed.

Wimps! Yes, wimps, I say!

Seriously, look at our lives today. Not only do we have so much more information, it’s everywhere. In our files, on our computers at home, in our email, and on our phones. It follows us, mocking us as we attempt to keep up with the never-ending flow. Just when you think you might be close to ALMOST catching up, another thirty “must read” articles, emails and Google alerts appear and you know there will be another thirty before lunch. Oh, and let’s not forget text, instant messages, tweets and status updates.

Technology has damned us. And technology will save us.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the information in your life, relax, take a deep breath, exhale, and repeat after me: “I will never get caught up and I don’t have to.”

Because you don’t have to, even if you could. What you do have to do is become a better librarian.

Librarians manage vast amounts of information. They read a lot but they don’t read everything. Instead, they know what they have and where to find it, and if you want to gain control over the tsunami of information that washes over you every day, you need to do the same.

Librarians have a system for processing, storing, and retrieving information. They

  • Collect,
  • Categorize,
  • File, and
  • Find.

They had a system for doing this in the non-digital days (remember card files?) and today, they use technology. You can, too.

. . .if you took away every piece of software I own and left me with Evernote (and an Internet browser) I could run my two businesses, blogs, and personal life without missing a beat.

I don’t practice any more but I still have an immense amount of information I need to manage. After many attempts at other software solutions, today I use Evernote for everything. In fact, if you took away every piece of software I own and left me with Evernote (and an Internet browser) I could run my two businesses, blogs, and personal life without missing a beat. (Actually, I could be 100% cloud-based and use only the Evernote web app instead of the desktop client.)

Evernote allows me to collect, organize, label, and access information (notes, docs, task lists, audios, photos, etc.) at any time from anywhere. My Evernote account syncs my laptop (windows), my iPhone, and “the cloud” (web app). I enter information via my desktop application, via email, and via a web clipper that allows me to capture entire web pages or any portion thereof. With my iPhone (Android and other platforms are also supported) I record audio notes, take photos of a whiteboard or paper notes (or anything else), and enter text notes, and send them directly to my EN account.

Notes are organized via notebooks and tags. I can quickly find whatever I need by browsing or by searching tags and/or key words. I can also share notes and notebooks with my wife or business partners and I can make designated notes (or notebooks) public.

I store everything in Evernote: notes, web clippings, ideas, checklists, pdfs, photos, my copy writing “swipe” list. I’m moving all of “My Documents” into Evernote. Then, I’ll start scanning the mountain of paper notes I have collected over the years and go 100% paperless. In addition to having ubiquitous access to my information, Evernote provides an extra layer of back-up protection. If my computer goes down, my information won’t go down with it. (I also back-up my local EN database via an external drive and via Mozy.)

But I don’t just use Evernote for storage and retrieval, I also use Evernote every day as part of my work flow. I write everything in Evernote (this post started out there) and I use it all day long as (part of) my task management system. (I’ll share my gtd system in a later post.)

Evernote won’t let you jettison your time/billing or document assembly applications and it won’t let you edit videos. It doesn’t create spreadsheets or Powerpoint slides. But for managing large amounts of information, I’ve found nothing better. I’ve used OneNote (and loved it) and before that, InfoSelect (and loved that, too) but Evernote stands in a class by itself.

Evernote is free and there is a paid version with additional capacity and features. Download it and fall in love with it today.

Read Part 2 of this series.