Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers prefer their information on pages of single-spaced, fine print. This month, 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 readily available. 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. Five minutes or more of commercials during a break between songs on the radio is not uncommon 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.
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.
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 since we are trying to give you a sampling, we’ll apologize in advance for any oversights we might make.
What’s a Podcast? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast) – Tom and I both like the 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.
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.
The Future is Hear (http://www.abanet.org/journal/ereport/a22blawg.html) – Jason Krause covers the current (as of a few months ago) landscape of lawyer podcasting in this helpful article that introduces some of the players in lawyer podcasting.
Between Lawyers (http://www.corante.com/betweenlawyers/) – With Denise Howell, Tom Mighell, Ernest Svenson, Marty Schwimmer and Dennis Kennedy involved, you not only get coverage of legal podcasting developments (http://www.corante.com/betweenlawyers/archives/cat_podcasting.php), but one suspects a Between Lawyers podcast will probably debut soon.
Scripting News (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.
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.
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.
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.
Podshow.org (http://www.podshow.org) – 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.
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 over 5,000 podcasts, grouped by category.
PublicRadioFeeds (http://todmaffin.com/feeds/index.php) – For public radio fans, Tod Maffin has set up this terrific page of links to public radio shows that are podcasting. You’ll find content in such categories as Arts & Culture, Business & Finance, Comedy, Ecology & Environment, Health & Lifestyle, Media, Talk, Philosophy, Science, and much more.
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.
Blawgcast.com (http://www.blawgcast.com/) – Evan Schaeffer and Kevin Heller cover the world of podcasts, with a focus on the law-related podcasts, in this relatively new blog. It’s a good starting point to learn more about law-related podcasts and audio materials.
The Bag and Baggage Podcast (http://bagandbaggage.com/) – Legal Blogging pioneer Denise Howell recently hit the teens in number of podcasts. It’s a great example of the use of the podcasting medium by an individual lawyer.
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 #28.
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.
Download a few samples and see what the fuss is all about, and all at the price that gets lawyers’ attention – FREE.