I have attended several legal conferences and CLEs over the past few years and it always amazes me when I see lawyers continue to take notes the “old-fashioned way” via pen and paper (usually with a proverbial yellow pad). As we all know the art of effectively capturing copious notes on matters is a critical part of any lawyer’s DNA and so important to effectively representing clients.
Leveraging technology by using a digital note-taking tool like Microsoft OneNote can be a lawyer’s best friend by enabling lawyers to be more productive and collaborative. Let’s review the basics of OneNote and some ways in which it can help lawyers achieve more.
The name OneNote is a misnomer as OneNote allows you to digitally take and organize as many notes as you need. You can easily capture your notes in your own way by typing or writing/drawing (via a stylus). OneNote uses a high-powered system of Notebooks and Sections (or tabs) that are akin to a personal digital filing cabinet that enables you to collect, group and categorize your notes as you see fit. You can also embed links, pictures, videos, recordings, documents and emails into your notes. As your notes in OneNote grow, there is a robust search capability that allows you to easily find key notes, items and ideas on-demand.
Go Paperless & Officeless
Using OneNote enables lawyers to become liberated from pieces of paper and printers and to enter a paperless and clutter-free world where their notes are stored on their device and/or in the highly secure Microsoft Cloud. Lawyers can become less dependent upon needing a dedicated physical workspace and can be more mobile to spend time meeting and collaborating with clients, colleagues and others. As in-house legal teams and law firms increasingly embrace more open work-space environments, OneNote becomes a more impactful productivity tool for lawyers.
OneNote can also be used as a system to track, manage and organize the matters you are working on. When I start work on a new project/matter, I create a new Notebook where I take notes and add other materials pertaining to that project/matter. For example, when I create a Notebook for a new contract negotiation with a customer it serves as my singular digital repository to capture and have easy “one-stop shop” access to all of my notes pertaining to that negotiation and key collateral like important customer background information, Word documents/PDFs of proposals and contract terms, excel spreadsheets of contract issues lists, important emails, customer contacts, the links to the LinkedIn profiles for those contacts, etc…
More Meaningful Meetings
OneNote can be used as a portal that you and your colleagues can have access to for the purpose of communicating, storing and updating information for team meetings and events. For instance, if your team is planning an offsite, you can create a Notebook to share with your entire team which can contain information such as the agenda, list of attendees/guest speakers, PowerPoint presentations, logistics for outings, a section for attendees to share feedback about the offsite, etc…Using OneNote in this fashion serves to reduce the amount of emails that may be generated.
OneNote is an excellent tool for helping indoctrinate new employees into your organization. Your team can create and populate a Notebook that houses important information for new lawyers and legal professionals that join your law firm or legal department so that they may “hit the ground running”. Such information could range from a welcome video from your Managing Partner or Chief Legal Officer to a list of key contacts and subject matter specialists within your organization to helpful internal tools/resources.
After I attend an important in-person meeting or conference call, with just one click it is easy for me to share my OneNote notes from that meeting/call to my colleagues. It is also super easy to collaborate with others to generate, edit and add to a comprehensive set of notes. If OneNote was in existence when I was in law school it would have been so much easier to partner with my classmates to build that perfect outline/study guide for our law school classes.
Anywhere and Anytime Access
Oftentimes when I’m attending meetings instead of capturing my notes via OneNote on my Surface Pro 4 device, I found myself taking notes via OneNote on my SmartPhone. OneNote syncs beautifully across all devices so that you will always have access to your notes whether you are in a court room, in a client meeting or attending a CLE.
Next time you take notes please be sure to try out OneNote. It is an easy to use and high-powered productivity tool that can help all lawyers achieve more.