An earlier version of this article appeared in the ABA’s Law Practice Today webzine
Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers prefer their information on pages of single-spaced, fine print. Tom and I wanted to look at the rapidly-expanding world of audio resources for lawyers.
As usual, we will try to avoid using too much jargon and focus on the key practical issues. The key lesson for you is that the Internet is becoming a huge and highly-accessible repository of excellent, free audio content. We are not talking about music. Instead, we want to focus on educational and entertainment content targeted to lawyers and useful to lawyers. Best of all, it’s free.
Some recent developments have triggered the new emphasis on audio materials. First, broadband, high-speed Internet access is more prevalent. Second, hard drives with huge amounts of storage are readily available. Third, tools for creating audio materials, especially software, have dropped in price. Fourth, millions of MP3 players, digital medial players, and most importantly iPods have been purchased, creating a demand for audio
content. Fifth, the blogging world has embraced audio and created a new medium called "podcasting."
Let’s look past podcasts for a moment, though, and talk about Internet audio in general. We are now listening to audio CLE seminars, lectures, interviews, discussions, "articles on tape" and even entertainment-style shows. These audio materials cover an amazing range of topics (Renaissance mathematics, anyone?) and range from a few minutes to a few hours.
Gradually, the Internet is becoming a repository where you can download and listen, for free, to some of the leading authorities in their fields talk about specific subjects. Aside from that, Internet audio allows you, the listener, to take back control over your listening experience — something that has been lost on the radio. We commonly find five minutes or more of commercials during a break between songs on the radio these days.
Internet audio downloads allow you to pick the programs you want to listen to, when you want to listen to them. For lawyers with long commutes, especially those who have already discovered books on tape, this trend offers some immediate benefits. Anyone with an iPod or other digital music player will quickly discover the advantages of this new Internet audio medium.
Podcasting is the latest method of distributing audio content online. Podcasting has a technical definition and there is some debate about what fits the definition, but for our purposes a "podcast" is an audio file (MP3) that is typically distributed through as RSS feed (the type of "newsfeed" associated with blogs) as an enclosure in the feed. Whew! That’s enough technical stuff. The idea is that I can subscribe to someone’s podcasts and when a new one is released, it will automatically be downloaded to my computer (and even, if I choose, automatically downloaded onto my iPod or other MP3 player). That’s cool, and it gives you a ready source of audio material for your commute, workout or other listening activity. Some have referred to podcasts as "Tivo for radio."
It is important to note that you can either download podcast audio files manually or set up automatic downloads. Tom uses the automatic method; Dennis uses the manual method. Some purists will insist that making audio files available for manual downloads is not podcasting, but we’re not purists.
Let’s hit a few of the highlights in Internet audio, with our advice to keep your eyes and ears open as more providers publish audio content of interest to lawyers. Our focus will be on free resources, and because we are trying to give you a sampling, we’ll apologize in advance for any oversights.
What’s a Podcast?
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast) — Tom and I both like Wikipedia as a resource to get a quick overview of a particular topic, especially in matters of technology. You don’t necessarily have to know what a podcast is, but the Wikipedia entry will give you a good basic understanding.
"2005: The Year of the Podcast"
(http://www.law.com/jsp/ltn/pubArticleLTN.jsp?id=1133517911750) — Bob Ambrogi’s article provides a great snapshot of legal blogging at the end of 2005. This helpful article introduces some of the players in lawyer podcasting.
"Podcasting — CLE’s New Wave"
(http://www.law.com/jsp/ltn/pubArticleLTN.jsp?id=1109128217635) — Bob Ambrogi’s great article is a useful primer on the podcasting world and its potential as a medium for delivering continuing legal education.
Tim Stanley’s Legal Podcasting How-tos
(http://onward.justia.com/useful-tools-web-sites-60-podcasts directories-for-legal-podcasts-blawgcasts-software-howto-and-adam-curry.html) — Great set of introductory materials and links, focused a bit more on producer tools than listener tools. A handy, useful resource.
(http://www.scriptingnews.com) — Dave Winer has played a gigantic role in the development and popularization of podcasting. "Scripting News" is his blog and is a good resource for new podcasting developments, big picture analysis and the ongoing debate over who did what first in the creation of the medium.
Between Lawyers Podcasting Archive(http://betweenlawyers.corante.com/archives/podcasting/) — Ongoing coverage of legal podcasting from a group of bloggers that includes pioneering legal podcaster Denise Howell. Tom and I will also contribute some of our thoughts and findings here.
Podcast.Net (http://www.podcast.net) — We’re impressed by any site that achieves the #1 ranked result on a search for "podcast directory" on Google. Our quick count shows that the directory contains more than 5,000 podcasts, grouped by category.
Podcast Alley (http://www.podcastalley.com) — Perhaps the biggest of the Internet podcast directories. Its features include a variety of ways to find podcasts, including categories, top-ten lists, polls and other useful material.
Apple iTunes Podcast Directory (http://www.apple.co,/itunes/podcasts/) — Many podcasts are available through the Apple iTunes music store. It’s both a good directory and a good starting point.
iPodder.org (http://www.ipodder.org) — Another big directory, with good resources and explanations of podcasting-related matters. iPodder software is also one of the standard tools for automatically downloading podcasts. MTV buffs will note that Adam Curry is involved in iPodder.org (as well as PodShow.org) and has played a huge role in the podcasting phenomenon.
Podscope (http://www.podscope.com) — A search engine rather than a directory, Podscope claims to be the first service that allows you to search for spoken words within any audio or video file. They’re starting with podcasts and will be adding other types of multimedia in the future.
Podshow.com (http://www.podshow.com) — Another big podcast directory, with even bigger plans in the works. Like Podcast Alley, this is a great place to start to learn more or to find shows that interest you.
Odeo (http://www.odeo.com) — Another large directory of podcasts.
PublicRadioFeeds (http://www.publicradiofeeds.com) — For public radio fans, here is a great page of links to public radio shows that are podcasting. Another similar resource is the Podcast Directory of National Public Radio at http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_directory.php.
Fios Podcasts on Demand (http://www.fiosinc.com/events/podcasts.html) — Fios has a great series of free audio downloads (registration required) on a variety of electronic discovery topics. Dennis has done one of these and Tom and Dennis may be doing another later this year.
Merrill’s On Demand Seminars (http://www.merrillcorp.com/law/) — Dennis is one of the featured presenters in this set of short (15-minute) on-demand seminars on specific, practical electronic discovery topics.
Ten Minute Mentor (http://www.tenminutementor.com/) — The Texas Bar’s totally hip and cool approach to delivering mentoring information and practical help to young lawyers and any other lawyers who need a little help. This project should be winning lots of awards.
"2005: The Year of the Podcast" (http://www.law.com/jsp/ltn/pubArticleLTN.jsp?id=1133517911750) — Bob Ambrogi’s article (mentioned above) provides a great starter list for legal podcasts.
The Bag and Baggage Podcast (http://bagandbaggage.com/) — Legal Blogging pioneer Denise Howell recently hit the teens in the number of podcasts. It’s a great example of the use of the podcasting medium by an individual lawyer.
CALI Radio (http://cali_radio.classcaster.org/blog/) and ClassCaster (http://www.classcaster.org/) — CALI is the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, and what better use of the podcasting vehicle than the law school lecture? These sites feature podcasts from law schools around the country. How long will it take before everyone’s listening to podcasts of lectures instead of going to class?
Coast to Coast
(http://www.legaltalknetwork.com/modules.php?name=News&new_topic=15) — Bob Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams produce an excellent podcast that features guest interviews and discussion of topical issues.
The Legal Talk Network (http://www.legaltalknetwork.com/) — The Legal Talk Network is a handy place to find law-related audio content. Seems to have a Boston flavor, at least so far.
The Legal Underground Podcast
(http://www.legalunderground.com) — It’s Evan Schaeffer’s own podcast. It’s short, it’s topical, it’s often funny and it has an edge. It’s great. He’s on #46 as we write this article.
The Westcast (http://west.thomson.com/news/) — A new podcast from Thomson West that will cover topical law-related issues.
The LexThink Podcasts (http://www.denniskennedy.com/archives/2005_05.html#a000724) –– Great examples of the potential of the use of recorded conference calls as a way to create podcasts. In this case, the backend work was provided by Zane Safrit’s podcast service at Conference Calls Unlimited (http://zane.typepad.com/ccuceo/).
May it Please the Court Blog Podcasts
(http://www.mayitpleasethecourt.com/journal.asp) — Craig Williams of the May it Please the Court blog is podcasting his blog posts.
The Rethink(ip) Aloud Podcast (http://www.rethinkip.com) — A podcast from the innovative patent lawyers at Rethink(ip). They’re off to a great start.
Paul Colligan’s Podcasttools.com (http://fhlaskf.blogspot.com/) — Lots of practical technical and business advice to help you get your podcast off the ground, all in a short weekly podcast. The PodcastTools.com site (http://www.podcasttools.com) is a great companion site.
Teach42.com’s Podcasting Notes (http://www.teach42.com/2006/01/07/podcastercon2006-advanced-podcasting-techniques) — Even though he’s not a lawyer, Steve Dembo gave the best presentation on podcasting for lawyers Dennis has ever seen. His Teach42 blog has lots of great info and these notes from a podcasting conference Steve attended are excellent.
Podomatic (http://www.podomatic.com/) — A useful collection of tools and resources for finding and creating podcasts.
Pioneer Podcasters Share Tips (http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2006/01/09/
pioneer-podcasters-share-insider-tips.html) — Available as a podcast, too. Insights from those there at the beginning. The Web page for the excellent Podcasting Hacks book from O’Reilly (http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/podcastinghks/index.html?CMP=ILL-4GV796923290) also has some great free content.
Podcasting 101 (http://podcasting101.pbwiki.com/) — A wiki with lots of information and links on podcasting. Download a few sample podcasts and see what the fuss is all about, and all at the price that gets lawyers’ attention — FREE.
Dennis Kennedy (email@example.com) practices information technology transactions law and provides legal technology consulting services. A frequent speaker and an award-winning author, he covers law and technology topics on his blog (www.denniskennedy.com/blog/). He is a member of the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s Council and Webzine Board.
Tom Mighell is senior counsel and litigation technology support coordinator at Cowles & Thompson, P.C. in Dallas. He publishes the Internet Legal Research Weekly newsletter and has authored the weblog Inter Alia since 2002. He is a member of the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s Council and 2006 ABA TECHSHOW planning board.
Questions? Contact Reba Nance, director of Law Practice Management, at the Colorado Bar Association. She can be reached at (303) 824-5320 or firstname.lastname@example.org