Where Is Video-on-Demand CLE?

I’ve noticed that lawyers tend to be second wave adopters of technology. Not quite on the cutting edge, but once that edge blurs into the maintstream most (young? progressive? keen? geeky?) lawyers are there. There are dozens of examples, from e-mail to social media. Lawyers, law firms and legal education are all there. But one thing I’ve noticed is that the massive movement to video seems to have left lawyers behind (or, more likely, lawyers have left it behind).

My eldest kids have videos on YouTube. I’ve picked up an HD camcorder for less than $150. The barriers to entry have been reduced to virtually nothing, but I haven’t been able to find any useful, educational law-related video content online.

It is not that it cannot be done. Fellow practitioners of my non-legal obsession, photography, have jumped on the video bandwagon with both feet and are educating hobbyists in all aspects of the craft. For free and for fee. Leaders, such as Scott Kelby, have loads of quality content avilable at no charge. Check out D-Town TV for 25 quality episodes on just about every photographic topic. If you’re more of a Canon person, you can get your gear and technique fix at LensFlare35. There are hours and hours of free content out there, and much of it is professionally produced. If you’re willing to pay for some serious online education, Kelby Training and others will teach you all you need to know about photraphy, lighting, weddings and photoshop.

There’s a reason why masses of educational video content are available online. It’s a great way to learn.

Obviously photographers are a creative bunch, so it shouldn’t be a surprise they are embracing technology to learn and share. But this is no longer cutting edge. Where are the CLE providers? Where is video-on-demand CLE?

(Perhaps it’s there and I’ve just been spending too much time with my eye in the viewfinder. If so, don’t hesitate to tell me in the comments.)


  1. Quality educational videos are a *lot* harder than simply pointing a camera at a lecturer, but the increased pedagogical value of a top quality video may not be enough to justify the added cost, at least in the legal field where the skills taught are primarily verbal, not physical. The OP’s example of photography how-tos relate to essentially physical skills for which visual representations are helpful; legal education OTOH has traditionally been highly focussed on verbal skills for which visuals are usually irrelevant.

    You can get by with simply recording a live CLE, but in my experience most of your web audience ignores the talking heads, listens to the audio and (if highly motivated) uses the handouts/attached documents. Perhaps the earliest web-based set of audio programs is http://freecle.com – very old school and very popular!

    In the realm of free web-based CLE, I count over 20 current or recent opportunities http://4freecle.blogspot.com/search/label/Web (not all of which are on-demand, but many are.)

    Several state bars host significant for-fee on-demand web-based CLE, e.g. http://www.legalspan.com/wsba/onlinecle.asp?UGUID=

    It is to be hoped that someone figures out how to make legal educational videos that are as compelling and effective as YouTube lolCat videos, but that might require a not-unwelcome revolution in legal education.

  2. Thanks for that, Randy. I’ll check out those sites.

    You make some good points. Photography certainly is much more visual and you can put up visual demos, but to me that means that most legal education videos should be easier to produce. You don’t necessarily need scripted stuff or vignettes unless you want to demonstrate something like cross-examination techniques.

    Most legal conference presentations are talking heads with slide decks. That should be the easiest stuff to at least duplicate in video, so would be an easy first step.

    At the next Canadian IT Law Association annual conference, I hope to record all of the plenary sessions and make them available shortly after the conference to association members. I’m sure they will have low production values (inexpensive cameras locked on tripods), but I expect it will provide useful content for those who weren’t able to make it to the conference.

  3. Do conferences count? The U of Montreal has put a lot of legal conferences online – with videos of the lectures that combine slide presentations with the ‘talking heads’ of the presenters. For example: Is electronic commerce different? (A reprise of the ‘law of the horse’ debate 15 years after the Internet went commercial).

    Or the more abstract examination of the rule of law in the virtual age, which offers three different formats of video.

    That said, I have some sympathy for the suggestion that pictures just aren’t all that important for legal education. Access to the sound version along with slides if any would be good – and that kind of thing is increasingly available. But then I get impatient just to have the slides, without having them at the speed of the oral presentation. I guess I expect to learn law by reading and tend to be impatient of oral instruction unless it’s very entertaining or the personality of the instructor adds a lot to the message.

  4. John,

    That’s because you’re not one of the apparent target audience for the graduates of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. If we’re to take their welcoming speech (August 2009) at face value, that audience is made up of people who are unable to process more than “one thought per sentence.”

    Did the writer mean “one thought at a time? Consider:

    One maxim that my students find helpful is: One thought per sentence. Readers only process one thought at a time. So give them time to digest the first set of facts you want them to know. Then give them the next piece of information they need to know, which further explains the first fact.

    Right. See Spot. See Spot run. Then you trip because you were distracted. Why were you distracted? Because you were walking while watching Spot run.

    Oops … I just breached one of author’s rules. I used “while” rather than a period. So, let’s fix that. You tripped because you were distracted.* Why? Because you were watching Spot run.

    *There’s at least two thoughts in that sentence but we’ll ignore that problem.

    The three-sentence version doesn’t necessarily mean what the one-sentence version means. But we’ll ignore that.

    [Insert obligatory legal content: Heck, even judges are permitted to express more than one thought per sentence.]

    Still, to be fair(er) to the author, the context of the piece is the reason why at least some of the students went to Columbia. To learn to better write English as a second language. To learn to write better English for the jobs they’ll be doing. Where maybe it is true to assume their employers and target audience(s) are not capable of dealing with more than one thought at a time.

    But, if that’s true, at least about the employers, then the students will have to remember to not mention that to the employer.

    Would you be surprised to learn that another bit of advice the author gave the students was that, where there’s a choice, use the Anglo-Saxon version of the word? (Hmmm, more than one thought in that sentence too. Oh well. The exception tests the rule.)

    Shakespeare might have wept, but then he probably wouldn’t have been looking to hire any of the graduates.

  5. Providing video-on-demand CLE or audio-on-demand CLE is a wonderful idea which is blocked by the profit motive: Law Societies and legal insurers charge a nice dollar for these seminars and are unlikely to give up that revenue stream even if it results in a better bar with lower claim numbers.

    One of the ways that they do compromise on such matters is that members of local law associations have access to the hardcopy materials of such seminars as a part of their membership fees. Perhaps such memberships could also entitle members to download mp3s of these presentations; many lawyers now carry smartphones or netbooks; listening on those would be easy.