Faulkner's Practical Web Strategies for Attorneys: I'll Take My Legal News to Go Please - A Intro to Podcasting

Frederick L. Faulkner IV is the Webmaster of the American Bar Association. Fred discusses the "big picture" regarding the Internet, marketing, and business at his website, From the 21st Floor.

[Editor's note: See also Connie Crosby's related article in this issue, Are You Ready for Podcasting? as well as titles on podcasting in the LLRX Bookstore.]

Where do you get your legal news and updates from? Law journals? Your state bar association? Online searches and watchlists? LexisNexis or WestLaw? The problem with those resources is that they require reading. You have to sit down and read text on paper or a screen. Enter the podcast, an audio file that can be downloaded or burned to a CD that can be played anywhere, anytime. Here I will explain what a podcast is, describe their potential, and how to find and subscribe to them.

What is a podcast?

At its core, a podcast is nothing more than a recorded audio file, just as a blog is nothing more than a website. But like blogging, the value of podcasting comes from the content that is written and how widely it is distributed. According to Wikipedia a podcast is:

"...the distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the internet using either RSS or Atomsyndication for listening on mobile devices and personal computers."

Legal podcasters, like legal bloggers, share knowledge, opinions, and commentary on topics that can advance the profession while keeping us up-to-date on legal topics or new legislation. In many cases, they are produced by the same person creating content in both mediums, written and spoken.

The Future of CLE?

In 2004, Duke University gave its entire freshman class an iPod. Why? It was an experiment, with professors recording their lectures and making them available as podcasts to students to listen to and reference. It is an experiment that has taken off, and now many universities are producing podcasts for students. Why is this relevant? Today, over forty (40) states require mandatory continuing legal education credit for lawyers licensed in that state. Regardless of the state, all lawyers need to keep up on what is happening in their areas of practice, to maintain a competitive advantage inside and outside the courtroom. Podcasting is just one more way to keep up to date on what is happening in your area of law.

The biggest difference, though, is that you may not receive CLE credit for your efforts. At least not yet. Robert Ambrogi, a lawyer and contributor to the Law.com network believes that podcasting could be the next wave of how to obtain CLE credit.

One of the great things about podcasts is that it is a listening medium, which makes it much more flexible to stay up-to-date on legal information. For instance, I, like many others, have a decent commute to work. Truth be told it is about an hour and twenty minutes each way. In that time I will work on my computer, gaze out the window, listen to music, and more recently listen to podcasts. That commute time is a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on topics and commentary on the web and legal industry.

Self Study

One way many lawyers will obtain CLE credit is through self study. This is where podcasts have their current potential, though there is no official report of a podcast being accepted as a self study CLE course. Many CLE courses are submitted by approved organizations. Individuals producing podcasts may not go through this process of getting approval before publishing them, and thus lawyers listening to them may not receive credit for listening to them.

Regardless, if you apply for self study CLE credit with your state, if you find the right podcast that covers topics in your area of law, the information is valuable no matter what source it comes from. We should all strive to continue to educate ourselves to be the best in our fields, whether credit is given or not.

If you are not sure about what your state allows for self-study CLE, check out the ABA's MCLE center or your state bar's website.

How to Find Podcasts

There are many directories that list available podcasts to which you can subscribe to. Often you will find them by accident if you are reading a legal blog or one is referred to you by a friend or colleague. Popular directories such as iTunes, Odeo, iPodder, and Podcast Alley provide listings to many legal podcasts, though none have a specific legal category at this time. At the end of this article, I have links to several legal podcasts, directory listings, and legal information provider's podcasts.

How to Subscribe and Listen to Podcasts

If you are not familiar with the process of subscribing to a podcast, here are the basic steps. Note, you do not need an iPod to listen to podcasts. You can listen to them on any MP3 player or computer.

First you will need to download a podcast aggregator. If you already use a news aggregator like FeedDemon, you can use it. iTunes is another popular software if you have an iPod.

Second, select a podcast directory to search within. For this example, I'm using Podcast Alley and doing a search on "law". The first result is May It Please The Court by J. Craig Williams. Click on the link which gives you some additional information about the podcast as well as an option to "subscribe" to it. Click the "subscribe" link and you are then presented with a URL to copy and paste into your podcast aggregator. If you are using iTunes open the program and do a Ctrl U and paste the URL into the subscribe screen. If you are using FeedDemon, copy that URL into a new Channel.

Third, connect your MP3 player of choice to your computer and transfer the audio files to your portable player. If you are using iTunes, it will transfer automatically after it downloads the most recent podcast. If you are using another aggregator such as FeedDemon, you may download each individual podcast from each entry in the RSS feed.

Once loaded onto your portable music player, you can listen to the podcast from anywhere. If you download the audio file to your computer, you can burn a CD and listen to it on the go as well.

Will Podcasting Catch On?

In February 2006, eMarketer reported that more companies are looking to advertise or sponsor podcasts due to the targeted audience that a podcast can provide. PEW Internet for Life Project in July 2005 reported that 13% of Internet users even know what a podcast is. That number has undoubtedly increased since then. I recently saw a billboard driving into Chicago for the new AT&T that said "Podcasting Delivered," referring to their Internet access service they provide. Adam Curry, the one often referred to as having started podcasting, recently stated on his show the Daily Source Code that it may take another three years for podcasting to become really well known. Though still in its infancy, the legal arena has seemed to adopt blogging quickly, and they may just do the same with podcasting.

So Who's Podcasting in the Legal Industry?

While there are many podcasts available on a variety of topics and subjects, there are just a few as of today that are specific to the legal industry. There are a couple of lawyers podcasting as well as a few legal information providers. The following is a beginners list of podcasts to subscribe to.

Lawyer Podcasts

Legal Information Providers

  • FIOS Podcasts on Demand - FIOS podcasts featuring hour long seminars covering a wide range of E-Discovery topics.
  • Merrill - Legal solutions provider has several on-demand seminars for download in mp3 format.
  • Ten Minute Mentor - The State Bar of Texas' podcast on mentoring and practical information to lawyers.
  • The Westcast (Podcast Feed) - Thomson West podcasts on legal news.

Directories