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The quest to go paperless

In an effort to become more organized and more environmentally friendly, I am attempting to make my life paperless (or at least, my work life paperless).

Throughout the course of any attorney’s day, he or she will review documents, draft pleadings, take notes and read case law. My personal method of organization would be to have case-related, binder-clipped stacks of documents on my desk with either a Post-it or letter-sized piece of paper of to-do’s for each case. I would also have a corresponding handwritten list, which was a compilation of everything that I had to accomplish for all of my cases. Finally, I would have an electronic version of the list saved in my firm’s system in the event that someone has to take over a case because I am indisposed. (What would happen to my cases if I get hit by a bus?)

I would then spend time crossing off and adding additional work from the lists. I would review pleadings and case law and documents in paper form, all the while making handwritten notes, highlighting relevant text and leaving Post-it notes to mark important sections. Then, I would have to get these notes scanned in, so I would have an electronic version of my work just in case something happened to the hard copies. (What would happen if a tornado hits my office and all of my stuff were destroyed?)

This system works for me, but it was time-consuming and took extra effort to keep organized. So began my quest to go paperless and become more efficient. My goal is simple: use as few hard copies as I can, save a couple of trees, get more done in less time and decrease office expenses for the use of the copier, ink and paper.

The first thing I did was get an iPad. (Actually, it was supposed to be an iPad my wife and I would share for family stuff, but since I take it to work with my every day, I think she has resigned herself to the fact that I have claimed it. I have promised to get her one for her birthday or if we win the $540 million Mega Millions jackpot). I then downloaded a few very helpful apps:

1. Note Taker HD allows you to take notes on documents and PDFs but also allows you to add sticky notes, comments, and other edits. You can type in notes or hand-write them. After all the notes are taken (or PDFs highlighted), the document can be saved or emailed. Essentially, I do not need to scan any documents but have them saved to my internal firm system, where they would be sent anyway.

2. Wunderlist makes a bunch of lists, which can be shared. Super helpful for a list of to-do’s for work or life. Users can also share the list with others, so the Siri family grocery and Costco lists are always at our fingertips (and are pretty extensive since we — I mean my wife — plans our meals two weeks ahead of time because of my distaste for weekly grocery shopping). I also use Wunderlist to organize my bar-related activities by creating a separate list for each committee or section that I am on and a list of things I need to do.

3. GoodReader, billed as the Swiss Army knife of PDF reader apps, lets you read virtually anything: books, movies, maps, pictures, etc. If you ever have issues with opening up a file, GoodReader should be able to do it.

4. DropBox is a free (up to 2GB) cloud that can easily save and transfer files from my iPad to work computer.

5. MSBA Young Lawyers App is a free app that includes the Rules of Evidence and Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct. (Kudos to fellow blogger and current MSBA YLS Chair Erek Barron, who, with the help from the Maryland Bar Foundation, turned this very awesome idea into a very awesome reality.)

I am still trying to figure out whether to download Docs to Go or QuickOffice Pro HD, which will allow to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents and will update this blog once I make a decision.

In any case, while I’m working through the kinks, I’ve gotten used to taking notes on the iPad (really no different than a notepad, so long as I have my stylus) and reading off of the tablet instead of physical paper.

So far, I carry less stuff, decreased my carbon footprint, don’t use the office printer as much, and shrunk the stacks of paper on my desk.

So the quest continues, but it’s a start. Do you have any apps that are a must?