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