Evernote for Business: Is it right for your law firm?


Evernote has launched Evernote for Business, which promises enhanced sharing capability for the workplace. For lawyers, the idea is that your firm would have it’s own business account, with a library of shared notes (documents) which employees (with permission)  can access. You and your employees can also have your own personal Evernote notebooks which are private.

Does your firm need this capability? I’m not so sure.

Personal Evernote accounts already allow sharing. You can set up one or more notebooks in your account and share those notebooks with others in the firm. Sharing basic firm documents such as email templates, checklists, and blank forms is pretty straightforward. Where things get hairy is with sharing client files or other non-public information.

In Evernote for Lawyers, I discussed the idea of storing client files in Evernote. If it’s just you who is accessing that information, your comfort level will depend on whether you feel the need to encrypt that information before uploading it. The more critical issue is sharing that information electronically with others in your firm.

Evernote can be accessed anywhere there is an Internet connection, so if your employees aren’t as careful as you are, someone who is not authorized to access those shared notebooks might be able to do so. If your secretary’s laptop is stolen, for example, your client files could wind up in the wrong hands.

I don’t know how Evernote for Business handles permissions and other security issues, but if it makes shared access to private information more secure, that alone would make it worth considering. The added functionality it promises would be icing on the cake.

Evernote for Business is $10 per month per employee, a small investment if it allows you to set up a secure virtual filing cabinet for your firm. But that remains to be seen.

Are you planning to use Evernote for Business? Let me know in the comments.

Evernote for Lawyers shows you how to use Evernote for marketing, GTD, blogging, AND storing client files.  


The Ten Commandments of “Getting Things Done”


Many people refer to David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, as their productivity Bible. Like the real Bible, however, Allen’s book isn’t particularly easy for the uninitiated to digest. It took me several reads and a lot of hi-lighting before the ideas started to sink in.

And yet the principles in Getting Things Done (GTD) aren’t that complicated. In fact, the system is basically your calendar, a few lists, and a process for organizing everything so that you know what to do first and what to do after that. This allows you to be effective (getting the right things done) and efficient (getting things done right).

The sub-title of Getting Things Done is “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” and that is an apt description of the ultimate benefit of mastering GTD.

If you’re trying to learn GTD, or this is your first exposure to it, here is a summary of its key components, the “Ten Commandments of “Getting Things Done”:

  1. Put everything in a “trusted system”. Get it out of your head, off your desk, and into one “Inbox” (or a few), ready to be processed.
  2. Organize your tasks into lists, for example, “Today,” “Next,” “Someday,” “Waiting,” and “Projects”.
  3. A project is anything that requires more than one step (task). Each project should have a list of tasks needed to complete it.
  4. Organize your lists by “context”: Where (@Office, @Home, @Errands), Tool: (@Internet, @Phone), People: (@Debbie, @ABC Board). That way, when you’re @Office, having a meeting with @Debbie, you can zero in on appropriate tasks and not be distracted with @Errands or chores you need to do @Home.
  5. Use your calendar to record future tasks by date (i.e., appointments, start dates, due dates, review dates). The calendar is sacred territory. If it’s on your calendar, you should do it.
  6. Use a tickler system to remind yourself of things you may want to do or review in the future but aren’t due on a specific date (and thus, not on your calendar).
  7. Process your Inbox often: If something is actionable, either Do it (immediately), Delegate it, or Defer it (Calendar, or “Next” list). If it’s not actionable, either Trash it, put it on a list to review in the future (“Someday” or “Tickler”), or file it as Reference material.
  8. Review your lists daily. Decide what to do based on your Time and Energy and the task’s Priority. Don’t prioritize in advance because priorities (and Contexts) change constantly.
  9. Plan every day in advance. Review your plan and your progress once a week at a regular Weekly Review.
  10. As you process your Inbox or review your lists, ask yourself two questions: What’s the successful outcome? And, What’s the next action (logical next step) to make it happen? David Allen says, “These provide fundamental clarity for Getting Things Done, and they lie at the core of most everything I teach.”

This probably represents 90% of the GTD system. There are many nuances and refinements and many of us have modified “pure GTD” to suit our work flow and preferences. You can spend a lifetime tinkering with GTD or, once you have a basic set up, simply get things done.

GTD can be done with pen and paper. There are also many GTD apps for your smart phone or computer. I do all of this in Evernote (plus my calendar). My GTD system is presented in detail in my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

Do you use GTD? How has it helped you to get things done?

You can use my Evernote GTD system even if you don’t use Evernote. Read Evernote for Lawyers, however, and you’ll want to use Evernote. Even if you’re not a lawyer. 


Evernote search just got easier. Well, sorta


Although I use it extensively, I don’t write much about technology. One reason is that by the time I’m up to speed on a new piece of software or hardware, it’s usually old news. One exception is Evernote, my favorite tech tool.

I’ve written before about how I use Evernote for everything from note taking to writing to managing all of the information in my personal and professional life. I also use it for Getting Things Done (GTD).

In fact, so great is my love for Evernote, I wrote a book about it: Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide to Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity.

I included in the book’s resources an extensive list of Evernote’s “Search Operators”–the syntax used by Evernote to find notes. These search operators are powerful but can be difficult to remember, so many of us use “Saved Searches,” another Evernote feature that comes in handy, especially with complex searches. But Saved Searches don’t help when you’re looking for something for the first time.

I just found an alternative that looks promising. BitQwik is free software (for PC’s and Mac’s that can run Windows) that serves as a front end portal for searching your Evernote database using natural language. That is, you don’t have to remember precise search operators to find something. Instead, you can use a regular query, much like you would ask Siri.

Here are some examples, from the BitQwik web site:

  • “Show me notes created between May 1st and March 15 that are tagged with robotics, surgical robots, or telepresence”
  • “I want notes sent to me via the E-mail gateway”
  • “Find my encrypted notes that have the words financial data or private in the title but leave out notes I created yesterday”
  • “Give me notes with pictures from Skitch”

I usually find notes in Evernote by browsing tags and using a few simple search operators. But as my database has grown to over 5,000 notes, I find myself relying more on search, and BitQwik looks like it might be just what the doctor ordered.

I just downloaded BitQwik, so I don’t have a lot to report just yet. If it pans out, I could see Evernote adopting this technology, and that would be great because I don’t like the idea of using yet another piece of software. But I’m not holding my breath because everything Evernote does has to work on ten platforms, not just one, and that doesn’t happen overnight.

If you’ve tried BitQwik, let me know what you think. You can add your comments below, or join me on the Evernote Forum.

Get your copy of Evernote for Lawyers. Unless you don’t want to be organized and productive.


My one page productivity system


When I was in high school I used a simple system for planning my day: a single piece of paper. I folded it three times so it would fit in my shirt pocket. On the page I would list the things I needed to do that day: tasks, errands, classes, homework. As I completed each one, I crossed it off the list. At the end of the day I would look at my list and feel good about what I had accomplished. I would then write a new list for the following day.

Putting everything on one page forced me to decide what was important for the day. There were many things I could have done each day but I wrote down only the things that I intended to do. Sometimes I numbered them so that I knew what to do first.

There was room on my page for ideas, things to do tomorrow or next week or someday, or to jot down random thoughts about life.

My one page productively system was all I needed for the day. It worked so well, I stopped using it.

I still plan my day and sometimes I put it on paper, but most of the time, my plan is in my calendar and in Evernote.

The last few days I’ve been playing around with an app called WorkFlowy. It is a list-making/outlining application that lets you put everything on a single “page”. You can use it for your task list(s) or to outline projects. You can create nested outlines to unlimited depth. I’m using it to outline a book.

I’m also using it to create my daily task list. I add a #Today tag to tasks I want to do today and filter the master list so that it only shows those tasks. On one page is my daily task list, just like I used to use in high school.

But I don’t have to print that page to put it in my pocket. WorkFlowy has a free iPhone app that syncs my lists. (There is an Android app, too.)

Nothing is simpler than a piece of paper. But this comes close.

Do you use Evernote? Check out my ebook, Evernote for Lawyers: A Guide for Getting Organized & Increasing Productivity.


How to clean up your messy desk or messy mind


I was reading an article, “10 Simple Steps to Conquering Your Messy Desk,” and there are some good tips in it. Things like, “Use your walls” (cork board or white board), “Lose the paper trail” (scan paper documents and trash the original), and “Schedule daily maintenance” (10 minutes at the end of the day to tidy up).

My favorite is,”Files are your friend: If it’s a completed or upcoming project, file it away. . .If it’s ancient or obsolete, trash it. If it’s something you’re actively working on that day, it can stay in a file folder on top of your desk.”

It occurred to me that our desks get messy the same way our minds get messy–we’re trying to keep track of too many things.

I’ve written before about why people have messy desks:

Un-piling your desk isn’t difficult. I think the hard part for some people is the notion that if they file something away, they won’t remember a task they need to do or they won’t remember where they filed something they need. Ironically, that’s exactly what their mess of a desk does.

The solution is to have a system that (a) allows you to remember what you need to do, and (b) lets you quickly find what you have filed when you need it.”

The path to a clean desk (or digital desktop) and a “mind like water” is to put everything away, out of sight and out of mind, and trust your system. Focus on the one thing you have decided to do next, and nothing else:

  • Take out the one thing you have decided to work on, and nothing else.
  • Work on this task until it is done, if possible, or as far as you can go if it is not.
  • If the task is done, cross it off your list. If a project is complete, file it away in an archive.
  • If the task or project is not done, put the documents away and make a note regarding the next step. Put a reminder on your calendar or in your tickler system or keep it on your list and review that list during your weekly review or daily planning session.
  • Take out the next thing you’re going to work on.
  • And so on.

Do you have some tips for conquering a messy desk or messy mind? Please post them in the comments.


Why attorneys need to brag (and how to do it without opening your mouth)


One of the primary objectives for any attorney interested in attracting clients is to show the world why they are a better choice. One way to do that is by bragging about your achievements.

Unfortunately, nobody likes a braggart.

The obvious alternative is to let others brag about you. That’s what word of mouth is all about. Happy clients telling others. Your task, then, is to make sure your clients and contacts know about your achievements and have an easy way to share them with others.

You need a “brag book”.

What is a brag book?

A brag book is a place to collect laudatory information about you. It’s a physical notebook, or the digital equivalent, with pages of clips and stories and information about you and your accomplishments.

Those clips and stories show people what you have done for others and suggest that you can do the same for them. The book is filled with third party validation, proving that you are experienced and knowledgeable and trustworthy.

What’s in a brag book?

Your brag book can have a variety of content:

  • Testimonials
  • Endorsements
  • Awards
  • Thank you letters
  • Articles about you, your cases
  • Articles by you, especially if they appear in an important publication
  • Photos of you with happy clients
  • Photos of you with important people
  • Photos of you helping a charity or important cause
  • Photos of you speaking from stage
  • A photo tour of your office
  • Success stories about your clients/cases
  • Stories about big/important verdicts
  • Press releases
  • Your CV or bio
  • Client survey results
  • FAQ’s that show how and why you are different/better

How do I use my brag book?

Use the contents of your brag book whenever you create a new marketing document. Having this information and these documents and photos in one place will make it easier for you or your copywriter to put together new brochures, seminar slides, web pages, or other documents.

You can also put together an entire book that can be shown to clients and prospects, meeting planners, publishers, and others you want to impress.

Use your brag book, or mini-versions thereof:

  • On the table in your waiting room
  • Framed on the wall in your office
  • As a page your web site; link to it from your “About” page
  • As a handout at seminars, networking events
  • As your “firm brochure”
  • In your “new client kit”
  • Send it to prospects who inquire about your services

How do I start a brag book?

Start by collecting these documents and putting them in one location. If you have paper documents, scan them. You could set up a separate notebook in Evernote for this purpose, or simply add a tag (i.e., “bragbook”) to any note that contains brag-worthy information or documents.

As your collection of items grows, you’ll be prompted to seek out additional documents to add to your book. You might ask more clients to provide a testimonial, for example, or make a point of saving copies of photos you have been tagged in on Facebook.

Once you have started your book, it will remind you to fill it, and use it.

Do you have a brag book? Are you going to start one? How will you use it?


Marketing legal services: Do one thing and do it well


Unix is a forty year old computer operating system that owes its longevity, in part, to its simplicity.

Simple and powerful. Or perhaps, simple IS powerful.

Unix programmers speak of the Unix philosophy approach to writing software. They say, “Write programs that do one thing and do it well.”

I immediately saw the parallel to success in the practice of law.

If you’re trying to do too many things in your practice, you’re certainly finding it harder to do everything well. Success is more likely when you keep things simple. One practice area. One niche market.

Do one thing and do it well.

The same is true of marketing legal services. If you’re trying to do too many things at the same time, or what you are doing is anything but simple, you’re much less likely to do it well enough, or long enough, to get good results.

I’ve seen great practices built with one or two marketing techniques. The key is to have a simple strategy (program) so that you can execute it well.

Simplicity is also key to success in the area of productivity. I get more done, and more important things done, when I keep things simple. I don’t use two apps when one will do. I look for ways to eliminate options because too much of a good thing usually isn’t a good thing.

Forget complicated. Keep it simple. Do one thing and do it well.


How to be more productive by killing time


Being more productive helps us earn more and work less (or waste less time). That’s why I use and write about the systems (e.g., GTD) and tools (e.g., Evernote) that improve productivity.

But I will be the first to admit that being productive is not the number one objective. It’s being happy.

We want to be more productive because doing so makes us feel good. Not just the results of being more productive but the feeling we get in the process of doing so. It feels good knowing that we are being effective (getting the right things done) and efficient (getting things done right).

But sometimes, “too much of a good thing is not a good thing”.

Most productivity experts advise us to make the best use of our time, all the time. If we’re at the doctor’s office and we have 15 minutes before our appointment, we should use that time to review a file or write notes for something we’re working on. On our way to and from court or an appointment we should make calls or dictate a letter or memo.

Don’t waste this time, they tell us. 15 minutes here, ten minutes there, and we could gain an additional hour or two of work time every day.

I don’t disagree with this. I do these things myself. But, as Leo Babauta’s thoughtful post, “Why Killing Time Isn’t a Sin,” reminds us, “life is for living, not productivity”.

If you would enjoy reading the biking or travel magazine for 15 minutes in the doctor’s office, go ahead and do it. If doing some work would be even more enjoyable, you can do that instead.

The point is, you have a choice. You don’t have to work all the time. Do it because you want to, not because you believe you must. Do it because of the pleasure it gives you, not because it’s on your list.

Do you ever “call in sick” and spend the day at the beach or the movies? Just because you want to? You should. Yes, the work will be there when you get back and yes, you will be a day behind. But you’ll be a day ahead on life.

We aspire to be productive because it makes us feel good. Why not start with feeling good. You’ll wind up being more productive.


Three Tips For Your Next Speaking Gig


At breakfast this morning I reminded myself that I did not yet have a topic for today’s blog post. When that happens, I usually dig through my backlog of ideas (saved in Evernote) and unread articles and blog posts (saved in Instapaper). Instead, this morning I began with a title.

Actually, not the whole title. I wrote down, “Three Tips for. . .” and went back to my eggs.

My subconscious mind came to the rescue. It reminded me that earlier this week, I had given a luncheon presentation. There must be three things I could share about public speaking.

The first one was easy. It was something I didn’t do but will do the next time. The other two I nailed.

So here are my three tips:

Tip number one: Meet the audience before you begin.

Had I done this, I would have learned that one of the guests was an attorney. I could have tailored my remarks to him. I might have engaged him with a question or two. Another guest was a real estate agent. I could have incorporated her background in one of the examples I used in my talk.

It’s usually not possible to meet everyone but meet as many as you can. I knew I was addressing business owners and professionals, but had I met some of them in advance, I would have been able to provide more relevant context (examples, stories) and generally deliver a better talk.

Tip number two: Don’t depend on A/V.

There was no projector available at this location, so I could not use slides. No problem. I knew my talk and could deliver it without any visual aids. In my opinion, this makes for a better presentation because the audience focuses on you instead of the screen.

Use slides if you have to. Avoid them if you can. No matter what, you need to know your subject well enough so that you can deliver it when there is no projector, no electricity, or the bulb burns out.

Tip number three: Have some friendly faces in the audience.

A speaker is only as good as his audience. We draw our energy from the people in the room. If you are addressing a group of dullards, people who don’t smile, don’t laugh at your jokes, and don’t respond when you ask for a show of hands, I don’t care how good you are, your talk will suffer.

My wife was with me. I can always count on her. One of my business partners was in the front row and he has good energy. When I looked at him leaning forward in his seat and smiling at me, it not only helped me, it helped the others in the room who took their cues from him. I had him “keep score” every time one of my “jokes” got a laugh and this added to the fun.

So those are three tips gleaned from this week’s presentation. Okay, I just thought of one more. If you’re doing a lunch presentation, start off by asking for a show of hands: “Did anyone order a salad?” Apologize and tell them you asked the restaurant to leave out the tomatoes. “They’re way too easy to throw at the speaker.”

Make people laugh and they will like you and your presentation. Even if you don’t have any slides.


Marketing legal services the Evernote way


You know I’m a big fan of Evernote. I use it all day long for everything I do in my work and in my personal life. I detailed my use in my Evernote for Lawyers ebook.

I’m also a fan of how Evernote does their marketing. They use a “freemium” model–giving away their apps and service for free, believing that users will fall in love with the product and sign up for the paid service.

Their free service is not stripped down. It has everything most people would want. The paid version provides additional capacity and features.

Evernote understands that the more people who use their free service, and the longer they use it, the more who will subscribe and pay.

Evernote does not advertise. They rely on word of mouth–satisfied users sharing their experiences with the product.

Their model works. Evernote has some 40 million free users and 1.4 million paid subscribers. They have recently achieved a billion dollar valuation.

Attorneys who offer free consultations are following a similar marketing model. The more free consultations they give, the more paying clients they get. Some attorneys take things a step further, offering not just free consultations but free services to get prospective clients to “try before they buy”. If you offer a free will, for example, a certain percentage of clients will want to upgrade to a trust or other paid services.

Evernote does not pressure users to upgrade. They provide upgrade links in their desktop, web, and mobile apps, but users are reminded to upgrade only when they try to use a paid feature or go beyond their free monthly usage limit.

There’s something attractive about a company that doesn’t push you. They give you value, lets you know there’s more available, and leave it up to you to come to them. Contrast that to what many companies do: they push, they chase, they sell.

I don’t know about you but when I’m chased, I usually run the opposite way.

Evernote provides value through their service and also through their blog and newsletter. Their blog provides tips and uses for making Evernote more useful and it’s fun to read.

Marketing consultant Jim Connolly wrote today about Evernote’s newsletter, contrasting it with other newsletters that do little more than sell. He says Evernote’s newsletter gets it right for three reasons:

  1. Their newsletter actually contains news
  2. Their newsletter makes Evernote more valuable
  3. Their newsletter doesn’t push

Connolly and I agree that providing valuable content that enhances the user experience with the product is effective in making the case for upgrading without ever asking users to do so. Their approach attracts us, instead of pushing us away with sales pitches and an abundance of links.

Attorneys deal with issues that don’t always allow for such a laid back approach. If it’s in the client’s best interests to push them to take action, a little push is not a bad thing. Nevertheless, I think we can all learn from Evernote how to be more attractive and let people sell themselves on hiring us.

People like to buy. They don’t like to be sold.