Tech Tips, Part II: Experts Share Best Note-Taking Apps and Tactics

Catherine Sanders Reach and Heidi S. Alexander

This article originally appeared in Attorney At Work on March 27, 2015: www.attorneyatwork.com/tech-tips-note-taking-digital-dictation-apps/. An excerpt of the article (Part II) has been reposted here with permission.  You can read Part I here. We will post the remaining PART III next month.


A dream team of law practice technology experts give us their best advice for tackling the everyday tech quandaries that plague us all, to help your practice run just a bit more smoothly.

notepad-593363_1920Catherine Sanders Reach: I Cannot Tell a Lie

I try on note-taking apps like a little girl trying on Easter dresses. I might stick with one for a while, but soon enough I’ll want another.

The one note-taking tactic that has never let me down is pen and paper. I can write faster with a pen, paper lets me free-hand in the margins, and I can doodle (because doodling makes you think better — it has been proven). Yes, I’ve tried Penultimate and many other iPad apps with a stylus but it just doesn’t feel the same. However, I have learned that to organize and share the notes, or refer to them again, I can scan the notes with my Android phone with Evernote Premium and annotate them further with Skitch or use the new iOS scanner app from Evernote. Since my initial notes are hardly ever in a state to share them with someone else, when I need to email them out, I retype the notes first, then save the email in the folder with the scanned original. That activity takes extra time but helps me solidify the information and organize my thoughts.

However, even though I may walk into a meeting with trusty pen and paper, I always have my phone out to check my calendar and add events, tasks and important items as the need arises in the meeting.

ipad-254337_1920Heidi Alexander: Try a Smarter Pen

Despite the increased use of mobile devices in practice, handwritten note-taking is still the preferred method for many practitioners, even those with paperless practices. The downside of using pen and paper is that it requires a time-consuming process of scanning and converting the text to searchable form.

Enter the Livescribe 3 smartpen. Problems solved. This pen looks and feels like a chic ballpoint pen. It’s built with technology to capture your handwriting and transmit it to your smartphone. Your note is then recorded electronically and transcribed into searchable text. From there, you can export the text as a PDF to a program of your choosing. Time saved!

About the authors:

Catherine Sanders Reach (@CatherineReach) is Director, Law Practice Management and Technology, for the Chicago Bar Association. She was Director of the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center for over 10 years. Catherine is one of the inaugural Fastcase 50 and a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, and she currently serves on the board of ABA TECHSHOW.

Heidi S. Alexander (@heidialexander) is a law practice management advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (MassLOMAP), where she advises lawyers on practice management matters and in implementing new technologies. She frequently makes presentations to the legal community and contributes to publications on law practice management and technology.