⚖️ MindMeister for Law: Rich Vitaris [Use Case Q&A]

Miša Hennin
Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 1,070 Community Admin
edited November 8 in Tips and Templates

Hello and welcome to our first Use Case Q&A!

Here we will share real life examples of how people use Meister products in a variety of industries. In these posts, you'll find inspiration, tips and creative new ways to use our tools.

Today, we’re speaking with power user @Richard Vitaris about how MindMeister can be used by legal professionals to bring productivity, organization and time management to the field of law.

Ready to find out how MindMeister can be used in law? Read on!

Got your own use case you'd love to share? Reach out to @Andrew Lapidus or @Miša!

MindMeister for Law: Rich Vitaris [Use Case]

Explore this mind map here.

Hi Rich, thanks for being here! Could you tell us a bit about yourself please?

I am a retired administrative judge with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board where I served for 28 years. After graduation from Georgetown University and Rutgers Law School, I served as an active duty Army officer with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the legal branch of the U.S. Army. As a JAG, I served as both a military prosecutor and defense attorney. Later, I received an advanced law degree in Labor Law from The George Washington University National Law Center and became a labor and employment law attorney with the U.S. Army in Fort McPherson, Georgia. From there, I became an MSPB judge until my retirement after 40 years of Federal service as a lawyer and judge.

Can you name some of the productivity/organizational challenges that judges and lawyers face?

Judges and lawyers deal with legal cases presenting complex issues, both factual and legal. They also work a number of cases simultaneously making time and calendar management critical. Cases also involve working with other people. Given the case management challenges on top of the complexity of the legal and factual issues themselves, the work can become overwhelming, and law school does not prepare you for it. Lawyers, including judges, desperately need help.

What sort of productivity tools did you rely on at the beginning of your career to try and overcome some of these challenges?

I am an old guy. At the start of my career, personal computers didn’t exist. We had Filofaxes for our calendars and notes, we used index card and cork boards for brainstorming until post-it notes came along. We used three-ring binders to develop trial notebooks. In other words, we used physical productivity tools. As technology improved, I experimented with a variety of electronic tools such as Remember the Milk, Todoist, and Evernote.

How did you first come across mind mapping?

I started mind mapping around 2010 after coming across an article about it on the web. I was intrigued so I then read a book by Tony Buzan, the father of mind mapping, and bought some software to try it out. I didn’t use mind mapping much initially until I attended Biggerplate’s conference in New York (Biggerplate Unplugged 2016). That was a life-altering experience. I got to meet some of the top mind mappers in the world, most notably @BiggerplateLiam and Graham Hughes, the founders of Biggerplate. The conference showed me the full potential of mind mapping and I was blown away. I have been an avid mind mapper ever since. I often wish I had discovered mind mapping at the start of my professional career rather than at the end.

Are mind mapping tools popular solutions in the legal profession?

Unfortunately, no. Most attorneys never heard of mind mapping so I seize every opportunity I can get to proselytize. It is why I agreed to do this. Hopefully, some new mind map users will see it and appreciate mind mapping's almost unlimited potential.

When and why did you turn to MindMeister to solve the challenges you outlined above?

Because the U.S. Government does not allow its employees to install their personal software on its computers, I was only able to mind map at home until I discovered MindMeister which is web based. At Biggerplate’s New York conference, two of the presenters were using MindMeister and talked about its versatility. Because MindMeister is web based, I could finally mind map both at home and work since I could access the internet at work. Due to security, some Federal agencies do not even allow visitors to bring in laptops, so MindMeister's app allowed me to map on my phone and tablet while traveling to Federal buildings where I could not use a computer.

Can you share an example of how you used MindMeister for brainstorming?

Unlike my other mind mapping, I don't bother with any kind of template for brainstorming. My objective is to just to get all of my ideas written down quickly. It doesn't matter how the map looks at first, because it is only for me. After I have gotten all of my ideas down, I organize them later into topics and subtopics.

Mind mapping is particularly useful for brainstorming in a group setting. As each attendee lists an idea, I will add it to the mind map. Some of the ideas will be duplicates and can later be cut and/or edited, others are somewhat similar and can be made into subtopics of whatever common topic the ideas represent. The end result might look something like this:

We'd also love to hear how you used MindMeister to analyze legal issues - Can you expand on this with an example?

I started my legal career as a criminal defense attorney, so I've attached an example of how a defense counsel might analyze a self-defense claim and then whether the accused can show self-defense when charged with aggravated assault.

The mind map would list the four elements necessary for a self-defense claim: 1) that the accused was in imminent danger of death and/or grievous bodily harm; 2) that the accused's fear was objectively reasonable; 3) that the force used in "self-defense" was proportional to the perceived risk danger; and 4) that the accused complied with the state's requirement that he must retreat if it is possible to do so.

Each of these elements appears on the mind map as a topic. For each of these there are subtopics to list evidence which supports the claim and evidence which contradicts the claim.

Finally, you told the Community you used MindMeister for case management, can you tell us more about how you used it in this way?

Lawyers and judges have lots of cases to manage, each with plenty of documents, tasks to complete, dates to juggle, and people to coordinate with. The beauty of modern mind mapping software, is the ability to have access to everything in one place. How? The best products including MindMeister, of course, allow you to link mind maps on individual cases, to master, Dashboard-type mind maps. The individual mind maps for each case can contain attachments to documents, links to Word documents, spreadsheets, and hyperlinks to web sites. MindMeister's integration with MeisterTask provides superb task management when the lawyer must delegate assignments to another attorney or paralegal, allowing use of the Kanban system to track tasks such as the drafting and filing of complaints, motions, discovery responses, depositions, and the like.

Last but not least, please tell us about your favorite MindMeister feature and how you used it.

Without question, it is the ability to link a main map to other mind maps or topics, and to add attachments and links to files. That is what allows me to create Master Mind Maps where I can access absolutely everything I need in a single place.

Thanks so much Rich, it's been great to learn how MindMeister can be used in the legal profession. Do you have any other resources you'd like to share?

My number one resource is Biggerplate, which correctly bills itself as The Home of Mind Mapping. Biggerplate has a library with thousands of mind maps which can be downloaded for use as templates. While MindMeister has its own Public Map Universe with maps created with MindMeister, Biggerplate has maps created with all of the major mind mapping software products. Why deal with that? Because MindMeister allows you to import maps created with the other leading mind mapping software directly into MindMeister so you can use them as templates for your own work. This saves an enormous amount of time. Biggerplate also has a large library of on-demand webinars on mind mapping for members who upgrade their subscription to Biggerplate Pro.

Finally, I need to self advertise and tell you that my own webinar on mind mapping for the legal profession, created with the MindMeister’s old editor in 2017 can still be viewed. Admittedly, the maps would look much nicer if I were to do the same webinar again with maps created with MindMeister's new editor which are far more visually appealing.

Are you happy for users to reach out to you with any questions?

Yes, at [email protected] or

but also in the comments below!


  • Rooster McNugget
    Rooster McNugget MT Tester, DE Business Posts: 501 Community Leader
    edited March 22

    Wow! I love that post!

    I love to learn from people who have a lot of experience and knowledge. Thank you for sharing your experience with us @Richard Vitaris

    Give me more posts like this!

    Best, Samuel

    The impossible does not exist! The solution has just not been found yet!

  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 1,070 Community Admin

    @Rooster McNugget Thanks so much for your feedback! I also think it's a brilliant resource (even for users outside of the legal field). There's definitely a lot of inspiration in there.

  • Lina
    Lina EN Basic, MT Tester Posts: 22 Active Contributor
    edited March 22

    Wow @Richard Vitaris !!

    Thanks so much for sharing this valuable insight. Agreed @Rooster McNugget I love this style of post.

  • Martha camacho
    Martha camacho MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 14 Star Contributor
    edited March 22

    Thank you @Richard Vitaris for sharing this very interesting use case for our tools! I really enjoyed reading it 🚀 and thank you @Miša for bringing this kind of posts into the Community, I am sure they will be of great inspiration for all our users! 😍

  • Michelle Matus
    Michelle Matus MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 12 Director of Product Marketing & Brand Marketing

    Great content and inspiration for how to incorporate mind maps into work! 😍

  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 1,070 Community Admin

    Hey @Cathy Fanning and @Art Jones I thought you might be interested in this as you both mentioned an interest in seeing how Meister tools can solve real-life problems.

    @Jamil Abdo I thought you might be interested because of your legal background!

  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 1,070 Community Admin

    Also @olivesboretti I saw you studied law and thought you might find this interesting (although you're mid career change)!

  • Emily
    Emily EN Pro Posts: 132 Star Contributor
    edited March 22

    Hi, I'm a bit late here but I loved reading this. Thanks for sharing your experience with MindMeister @Richard Vitaris . Hope to see more posts like this.

    OLIVIA BORETTI EN Basic Posts: 2 Beginner

    Thanks for tagging Misa! I do not work directly with law litigation, but I act as a facilitator of agile and strategic processes in law offices and whenever I can, I present the tool. Oh, and here in Brazil I've seen teachers use Mind to teach some topics!

  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 1,070 Community Admin

    @olivesboretti thanks for the additional info on what you do. It's always interesting to hear what different people here are doing 😁.

  • Liam Hughes
    Liam Hughes International Partner, EN Business Posts: 9 Active Contributor

    This is great stuff (as always) from @Richard Vitaris - and not just because he says nice things about Biggerplate… 😊

    Rich has really led the way in applying mind mapping in the legal field, and (more importantly) sharing with others how he does it, so they can try out similar approaches in their own work. His contribution to the overall understanding of mind mapping use in the legal field is second to none, and we're extremely grateful for his support and advocacy for the tools and techniques!!!

    Founder: Biggerplate.com
    Helping you go further with mind mapping.

  • Richard Vitaris
    Richard Vitaris EN Basic Posts: 39 Star Contributor

    I appreciate your kind words and your outstanding leadership in the world of mid mapping!

  • CL Webb
    CL Webb EN Basic Posts: 33 Star Contributor

    Thanks @Richard Vitaris & @Miša Hennin for the great post.

    It's a great cas study!

    CL Webb 🙂

  • Olaf Roeb
    Olaf Roeb MT Tester, EN Pro Posts: 121 Star Contributor

    Hi @Richard Vitaris ,

    just found this graphic procedure description in today's Washington Post, describing the potential future scenario of Donald Trump's actual indictment, I'm sure most of us are following the developments :

    Unless I had read about your way of using MindMapping for jurisdiction and process management, I might have just looked at the drawing for a minute or even overlooked it, then skip it. Now I find myself studying such a graphic not much because of trying to understand US law and procedures but to find more areas of application and ideas of how to use the tools at my hand.

    I posted it here to ask you about your use of MindMapping on juristic issues to a non-expert-public, a question that came up when I saw your other mindmap but I didn't ask so far. Do you also teach more general non-expert audiences using graphics like these?

    Thank you again for opening my attention to this kind of use case!


    Link to the original WaPo article written by Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey in Washington, and Shayna Jacobs in New York

  • Richard Vitaris
    Richard Vitaris EN Basic Posts: 39 Star Contributor


    I am certainly following Donald Trump's indictment with keen interest. I am sure Meister doesn't want political discussions in the Community so I will simply say that I am not an admirer of the former president and leave it there.

    The type of chart in the Washington Post would require flowcharting or diagram software. Most mind mapping software doesn't have that capability although I think MindManager does. I have never purchased MindManager because it does not have mobile editing and It is also quite pricey. LucidChart will let you do flowcharts and diagrams and they have a free tier, although it is quite limited like MindMeister's is.

    I do use mind maps for teaching legal concepts to non-lawyers. I think it makes the ideas much easier to understand. I wish I had access to mind mapping software when I was in law school. Building a map from a legal concept also helps me remember it better. 



  • CL Webb
    CL Webb EN Basic Posts: 33 Star Contributor
    edited April 17

    Just for everyone's reference:

    Many word processing & desktop publishing software have diagraming capabilities. MS Word & MS Publisher.

    I assume it would be available in Open Office and Google Docs, but I've never dove that deep into either.

    I do like this particular example of a flow-diagram. It gives me many ideas on how to use in other scenarios.

    Hope eveyone has a great weekend.

    CL Webb 🙂

  • Miša Hennin
    Miša Hennin Admin, MeisterLobster, EN Business Posts: 1,070 Community Admin

    @Olaf Roeb - Thanks for bringing such an interesting real-life example and question to the discussion!

    @Richard Vitaris, could you share an example perhaps of when/why you'd teach a non-lawyer something law-based? Is it just when somebody has personal interest? Or perhaps someone who needs background knowledge?


  • Richard Vitaris
    Richard Vitaris EN Basic Posts: 39 Star Contributor

    @Miša Hennin I use mind maps to teach nonlawyers all the time. I just keep those maps a bit simpler so that the training doesn't get bogged down with more complicated legal issues.

    Here is a simple example of a mind map used to teach a federal employee what constitutes being absent without leave (AWOL).

  • Beata Mertyn
    Beata Mertyn EN Basic Posts: 21 Star Contributor

    Great interview and sharing with the community how the mind maps can be used in legal branch.