When Ari Rodopoulos was in law school, he became a bit obsessive about keeping track of his work. He created what he describes as a spreadsheet on steroids, so that he could quickly and easily find anything he needed. He kept a log of every case he briefed, every memo he wrote, and every bit of research he performed. He could sort it all by jurisdiction, date and other fields. He populated it with hyperlinks to original source material.
Now a practicing lawyer, Rodopoulos continued to refine his spreadsheet over the years. And when he showed it to other lawyers, they often asked if they could have a version for themselves. So six months ago, Rodopoulos began developing a web application to expand on his spreadsheet concept. Last week, he launched his new product to the legal community at large.
Called CitePin, the idea of it is to enable every lawyer to instantly access everything he or she has ever written or researched. Here is how the website describes it:
CitePin allows you to create a paperless database of your work product from the first day of law school to the last day of your career. With CitePin, all of your most important work product can become instantly available at your fingertips anywhere that you have internet access—even from your mobile phone. And even better, all of your entries on CitePin are keyword searchable, making retrieval quick and easy.
The way it works is by letting you upload notes and documents, categorize them in various ways, and then easily find what you need using search, browse and sort functions.
Emphasis on Easy
The emphasis here is on easy. Rodopoulos designed CitePin to have the clean and simple look and feel of a mobile application, and he says it works as well on an iPad as on a computer. Buttons and options are kept to a minimum — and that’s a good thing here.
To add something to CitePin, you select the New Entry button. An entry can be a snippet of text or a note, or you can upload a full document in any format — maybe a case in PDF format or a memorandum you’ve written in Word. A menu prompts you to classify the entry by type, with options for legal research, seminar materials, litigation materials, and the like. You can also enter a title or citation, a source date and a hyperlink.
The options for classifying an entry by type are limited and you cannot add custom entry types. Rodopoulos wanted to keep this field simple and have it be something that would facilitate sharing, which I’ll describe later.
However, each entry can also be assigned to up to three “clusters.” You create and name these clusters yourself. This enables you to categorize your entries however you wish. In a sense, these clusters operate like tags or folders.
Once you’ve added entries to CitePin, they become fully searchable. A search tab takes you to a screen with options for searching by entry type, jurisdiction, date or cluster. In addition, a “quick search” bar is always available at the top of every page.
Another tab takes you to a “Browse my Entries” page. This is the page inspired by Rodopoulos’ original spreadsheet. It looks somewhat like a spreadsheet, showing all your entries arrayed top to bottom and all the fields arrayed left to right. As with a spreadsheet, one click lets you sort your entries by a specific field.
The next tab takes you to a page showing all your clusters. This lets you quickly find and view entries according to the clusters to which you’ve assigned them.
One more tab takes you to a “My Colleagues” page. CitePin allows you to share your entries with others, if you wish. On the initial page where you add an entry, a slider tab at the bottom lets you opt to make an entry shared. Once it is shared, then any colleagues with whom you have opted to share can see it in their search results. Likewise, you can search entries that your colleagues have shared. When you perform a search, you can choose whether or not to include these shared documents.
Unlike some “social research” sites, you cannot see who else is a CitePin user or who else is logged on. You can initiate sharing only by directly emailing an invitation to someone. When you enter an email address, CitePin will tell you whether the addressee is a member. If not, it will give you the option of inviting the person to join.
Two-Day Free Trial
CitePin offers new users a two-day free trial. After that, there are two subscription options, based on the amount of storage space you need for your entries. The basic option is $3 a month for 1 GB of storage. The higher option is $6 a month for 3 GB of storage. How much does a gigabyte get you? Estimates generally range from 5,000 to 25,000 full, multi-page documents in a gigabyte. Basic entries — those not involving a document upload — would take up far less space. For most users, therefore, the basic plan would be plenty. A bar on your home page tells you how much space you’ve used.
In an interview with Rodopoulos, he emphasized CitePin’s versatility and simplicity. Besides using it to keep notes, a firm could use it to manage documents or as they might use Dropbox. He described a recent deposition he took where he loaded all the exhibits into CitePin in advance, assigned them all to a cluster created for the deposition, and had easy access to them all directly from his iPad.
I also see CitePin as comparable to Evernote, a tool I use constantly to keep notes, bookmarks and the like. Although CitePin lacks all the features of Evernote, it has the advantage of having fields designed specifically for lawyers, of allowing full document uploads, and of allowing notes to be shared with colleagues.
In the spirit of Evernote, I would love to see CitePin add a clipping feature, to make it even easier to add cases and research from a browser.
CitePin does not have a mobile app, but works well in mobile browsers. Mobile users cannot upload documents, but all other features are fully functional. On a computer, CitePin works best in the Google Chrome browser.
As someone who can be perpetually disorganized, I like the ability to save notes and documents to a single place and have them easily available to me whenever I need them. That is why I use tools such as Evernote and Dropbox, and that is why I think CitePin is worth checking out.