As we embrace technology in our courtrooms, meetings, and classrooms, it is time we do the same with delivery of legal information. The law’s track record on disability within the profession is mixed, at best. While some universities and employers have an excellent track record with students and lawyers with disabilities or learning difficulties, others do not. Law, and wider society, also tend to ignore less visible or invisible disabilities. Those among us who have difficulty with traditional learning methods often struggle with the barriers created by traditional learning. There is a gap in access to legal information for people who cannot engage in traditional learning.
At Legal Listening, we feel there is a better and more inclusive way forward which uses existing technology to make the law more accessible.
The law has been a holdout to embracing both auditory learning and different learning delivery methods in general. Law tends to be reactionary to both social issues and technology. We do amazing things, but we often do not lead the charge towards change. Oftentimes we are hesitant to embrace new technologies and modes of learning, instead preferring our traditional methods.
Then Covid-19 happened and the boundaries of legal technology and procedure were dragged into the new century, albeit twenty years too late. As a profession who likely had never heard of Zoom on March 1st, 2020, we’ve come an extraordinarily long way in the last seven months. Technology, it turns out, is not quite as scary as we thought.
Legal Listening is developing a catalog of seminal Canadian legal decisions recorded in an easy listening audio format. The decisions are available on our website, on YouTube, CanLii Connects, or wherever our audience listens to podcasts. The project seeks to assist legal practitioners, legal students, and the public by providing access to legal decisions using audio that is engaging and accessible. While text-to-speech technology exists, our project is a collaboration with the legal community to produce content which is tailored to the legal world. We remove the depersonalization robotic nature of text-to-speech and replace it with accessible audio geared towards our legal listeners.
We make legal decisions mobile for on-the-go practitioners and allow individuals with disabilities an alternative method of engaging with legal material more conducive to their learning style.
As an Access to Justice organization, we believe the law should be openly accessible to those both inside and outside the legal profession. Covid-19 has shaken the way law is practiced in Canada. Technology which was considered impossible to implement six months ago has become a presumption before some boards and tribunals. Law needed the push of Covid-19 to widely implement the technology of the mid-2000s and we still have a long way to go. While some things remain beyond our control (e.g. Internet access) we are, as a profession, headed in the right direction. Legal Listening is pleased to be on the forefront of open access audio content and commentary in the legal field.
For an example of the project, check out our latest episodes (SCC decision of Uber v Heller) below:
[Note: This is the decision of the Majority. As the decision was over 330 paragraphs, we released the decision in a three-part series as Episodes 22, 23, & 24. Incidentally, we had to record the entire decision twice because there were quality issues with the first attempt as it was the first thing we ever recorded. Check your favorite podcast app or legallistening.com to hear the Concurring and Dissenting opinions]
Listen here for a general introduction to the project and its hosts. We are in ongoing collaboration with several legal blogs and other open access information projects and are always looking for new collaboration projects. We are also always open to case suggestions and guest readers. Anyone interested in contributing to the project can contact us on our website or at firstname.lastname@example.org.