Requests for Legal Seminar Publishers

I have observed a lot of frustration lately from various quarters regarding legal seminar providers. While my comments below are directed primarily at commercial seminar providers, these comments may prove useful to other organizations who put on legal seminars. These are changes I, and many others, would like to see:

  • Customer service, customer service, customer service! That means answering your phones, returning calls, and responding to email in a timely fashion. Customer service staff should be knowledgable about the seminars you hold, past and upcoming, and the products you sell. I know seminars are always in great demand, but alienating your main client base (and speaker source!) with poor customer service is just not a good idea if you want to stay in business over the long term;
  • RSS feeds of upcoming seminars as they are added so that we can sign up for your feed and not have to hunt around your website looking for what has been added since our last visit. I would much prefer this to email or (worse!) faxed messages advertising upcoming sessions or materials available. You might even want to have several feeds: one with everything, and then various feeds for your range of subject areas and audiences;
  • the ability to register for upcoming seminars both electronically via your website with credit card, and via mail with cheques. Some of us like the convenience of signing up instantly with credit cards; others have an approval process that requires a cheque to be cut. Ideally, we should be able to sign up ourselves or others for your sessions electronically via your website with an account number, and have an invoice sent to us either by email or snail mail;
  • better quality materials. Power Point slides with seminar materials have limited use later on. Especially if you are offering up seminar materials for sale later as a distinct product, we need more content. At minimum, speaker notes should be included with the Power Point slides. Proper papers with proper citations, footnotes and bibliographies are ideal;
  • if you are providing materials in electronic format only, something tangible that can be added to our library collections would be ideal. It is nice to have a web-based seminar available for purchase after the fact, but are you going to make that available for two or more years via your website? Wouldn’t it make sense to also make a DVD of the seminar available if that is the case? Then the purchaser could either load on his/her own system, or put the DVD into the library collection for future reference;
  • your internal records of the seminars you have previously held being maintained, since your customers (the lawyers) sometimes need to check what has previously been held and they may not remember all of the details. Especially if you still offer these materials for sale, this is a must!
  • full searchability of upcoming and past seminar listings on your website. This includes searching on title (and any variations of title, since sometimes the seminar is marketed with one title and later materials are packaged with another), speaker names, speaker presentation/paper titles, date, city, and subject. Having to scroll through pages of seminars listed under something general like “law” or “tax” is just a poor use of my time;
  • prices for seminar materials clearly posted, and the ability to order them via your website. These are a must!
  • if we are regular customers, please don’t insult us by asking us to prepay everything. Law firms often need things quickly. If you want the sale, please set us up with customer accounts and sell the item to us on our own terms. Which means invoicing us or allowing us to pay by credit card. Prepaying in a law firm usually means cutting a cheque, a process which at best takes a day or two by the time we courier the cheque to you. Sometimes we need to see the material faster than that.

Thanks especially to Dawn Urquhart for the inspiration, with some recent posts she made to one of the listservs, and the feedback she generated.

Previous related posts:

Desperately Seeking: RSS from Legal Publishers (February 17, 2006)

Syndication 101 for Publishers (February 17, 2006)

RSS Feeds from Publishers, A Reprise, and Reducing Catalogue Production Costs (March 3, 2006)


  1. This is a nice articulation of the issues, Connie – too bad the vendors don’t care. Their primary business is selling the conference to people who want to attend it. It’s pretty clear to me that selling the package afterward is not a priority. I decided a couple of years ago that I would no longer buy conference materials, unless specifically begged to do so.

    Formal conference *proceedings*, on the other hand, are a completely different product. I seize on the Queen’s Annual Business Law Symposium with enthusiasm. It may take a while to come out, but the papers are articulate, well-thought-out and scholarly. Truly worth keeping and consulting.

    PowerPoint is an excellent tool for making an oral presentation come alive –
    it is NOT an archive of the event.

  2. I’ve had a number of additional private email and phone conversations today with people thanking me for writing on this subject. I am hopeful that posting these comments in a public forum will generate more attention than if we just complain to one another. These sentiments are quite wide-spread, and your message, Wendy, is proof.

    If you look at each of these points, you may notice that in most cases the difficulties have arisen largely because of advances in technology. PowerPoint use has meant fewer real papers; e-commerce has meant more registration and payment methods; the need to create unique websites has meant everyone is reinventing the wheel to find a formula that works for their target market, seminar attendees. As you have stated, the unfortunate side effect has been lawyers and librarians who rely on the materials after the fact no longer having information we can rely on in our work.

    I’m by no means a Luddite, but when we make choices with our technologies we have to pay attention to what is affected, especially inadvertantly.

  3. I agree that Connie’s list is very useful – maybe the OBA and LSUC and IT.Can and Osgoode PD program will listen, anyway.

    I suspect, as an occasional presenter at such events, that the trend to PowerPoint “materials” is evidence of lack of time to prepare, or interest in preparing, “real” papers. After all, the pay to presenters is small or nil – probably people figure that having their name on the program and actually speaking are the key marketing opportunities (and maybe even the key educational opportunities). Having the materials on the market later is an afterthought.

    I know I’m more willing to speak if I don’t have to write something, particularly since I’m not marketing myself. (Her Majesty is the only client I need, and the only one I’m allowed to have…).

    OTOH I probably respect the request more if I DO have to write… The ABA Section of Business Law has pretty stringent rules for the originality and usefulness of materials – at least in principle – partly because the people who allow lawyers to claim CLE credit for the sessions look at the materials in deciding if the sessions qualify (again, at least in principle). It’s not a bad principle, even here where CLE is not mandatory.

  4. This post was included in the Carnival of Infosciences #29 hosted by Steve Lawson on March 20/06 at See Also.