This article was published in the San Fernando Valley Bar Association’s magazine, Valley Lawyer in June, 2014
Notes, notes, notes. It sometimes seems that all attorneys do is take notes: client interview notes, witness notes, deposition notes, notes of meetings, notes of experts, and notes in mediation. But what happens to those notes? Do they get stored, or like me, do you eventually lose some of your critical notes. Well, ever since I have used the IPAD, I haven’t had to worry about my notes. I can store them on the IPAD, write in handwriting, or typewritten format, save them to my computer automatically with backups, and even store them to the cloud. In fact, over the years with my IPAd, I have taken thousands of notes and used up very few pages of actual paper. In that light, I thought it might be useful to give a brief overview of some programs and apps for the IPAD that can make your note-taking life so much easier.
The first thing to think about is how you like to take notes. Part of your preference may be whether you are an active participant in the meeting, passive, or interactive. Do you have time to write carefully presented notes in typewritten form or does the conversation move at too fast a pace? As a mediator, I have to take notes rather quickly and don’t have time to engage in significant formatting of typewritten material. If I were to type, my focus would go away from the clients and participants and towards the writing – something that would not be good for developing rapport.
As such, I tend to focus on apps that allow me to handwrite notes with ease. There are few good programs for the IPAD that are designed to allow you to write practically as quickly as handwriting. Each person will have different tastes for different programs. My current preference is Goodnotes, which can be found on the ITunes App store or at http://www.goodnotesapp.com/. The user interface is pretty simple and graphically elegant. The user can create any type of paper that he or she desires from graph paper, lined paper, to legal paper. So when you write notes, it appears that you are writing on a notepad. The program works on both the IPAD and the Iphone. The cost is approximately $4.99. Here are just a few of the capabilities of Goodnotes:
- High end digital ink technology that looks great
- Type with the keyboard, handwriting, insert images, or draw perfect shapes easily; mix between any kind of papers or even insert PDF docs inside a notebook; rearrange or delete pages as you like. It is very flexible.
- Sign documents from the internet
- Does not slow down the writing process. Thanks to the powerful zoom window feature, you can write quickly with your fingers or with a stylus in a large area, and your handwriting will be shrunk automatically. You an continuously write till your heart’s content.
- It can also backup your data to Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, or SkyDrive automatically.
I find that I can write notes at high speed with ease and efficiency. I can highlight portions of the notes with a highliter, change the color of a pen, underline key points, and keep track of multiple pages of notes in a flash.
Another good program that has similar function is Ghostwriter. It can be found at the Itunes app store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ghostwriter/id376746910?mt=8. Just like Goodnotes, Ghostwriter is a sophisticated universal text editor for iPhone and iPad with access to your iCloud and Dropbox documents. It lets you edit documents in text format and add HTML and Markdown format codes for creating emails and file attachments in TXT and PDF format. The cost of this program is $1.99
Some lawyers feel like notetaking loses something because you can’t remember exactly what was said at the time of the notes being taken. Well, Audionote, at $4.99, is the solution for that problem. AudioNote combines the functionality of a notepad and voice recorder to create a powerful tool that will save you time while improving the quality of your notes. It’s the perfect app for taking notes of meetings with experts, witnesses, depositions and other such detailed requirements. Audionote, synchronizes your handwritten or typewritten notes directly with the audio input. One great feature of this app is that if you point to a section of your notes, the audio portion directly relevant to that note will link and play and remind you of what your chicken scratch was actually trying note. This way, you don’t need to waste through the entire audio recording of your interviews. In addition, even if you didn’t take notes during the meeting, you can add the notes later to create a separate link.
When showing this app to attorneys, they have told me that it would revolutionize the way that they can take notes of client, witness, and expert meetings. Moreover, you can export the audio recording along with the written portion so that you have a complete record.
Of course, it is important to note that each state has its limitations as to audio recording a conversation without permission and you should certainly pay heed to that legal requirement.
Finally, now that we have explored two great ways to take notes, we should think about how to organize those notes. The best tool that I know of that helps to organize thousands of random documents together is Evernote. Evernote is available on almost every technology platform: computer, laptop, iphone, android, ipad, and many others. Evernote allows you to send notes, documents, and random information from any source, including pictures, and store it in a easily searchable database with all notes relevant to that topic. For example, you can create an Evernote notebook for each case. Everything relating to that case can go into that digital notebook and can be searched and accessed from any device that has Evernote installed. You can send documents to Evernote by email, text, web-clipping, or from notetaking applications.
In my cases, I find that if a case doesn’t settle at a mediation, I create a notebook for the case and then send all notes, telephone notes, documents, and other data regarding the negotiation to the Evernote file. Then I have access to all the data relating to the case when I need it for follow up. Evernote also lets you easily share those notes with people that need it. So if you need to send an associate a note from a case file, you can instantly email or share that note and they will have immediate access. I can’t count how many times Evernote has saved me when people have asked me about the specific offers that took place 4 months prior.
Notes will remain an inevitable part of the law practice. The daily chore of notes doesn’t have to be so bad, however, with the help of technology. Today, we can take as many notes as we want without ever killing a single tree and access them all at the flash of a button; especially when there are programs such as Goodnotes, Ghostwriter, Audionote, and Evernote to save the day.
Steven G. Mehta, Esq. is a full time mediator that specializes in highly emotional and complex cases such as employment law, elder law, major personal injury, and business disputes. He can be reached through his website at www.stevemehta.com.