In the consumer world there’s little you can’t find the answer to on YouTube and that trend is creeping into legal practice, with the launch by LexisNexis Legal & Professional in the US today (23 May) of a first-of-its-kind practice guide in partnership with James M. Wagstaffe, who for over 30 years co-authored The Rutter Group Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial.
The Wagstaffe Group Practice Guide: Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial offers lawyers a series of over 150 videos of around two to five minutes long, which are directly embedded within the content on Lexis Advance, available as part of the LexisNexis Digital Library. The videos are practical ‘how to’ guidance tools from Wagstaffe, usually set around specific tasks, setting out the key steps attorneys must take, with explanatory tips and practical insights.
Perhaps most importantly, each video comes complete with a full, searchable transcript, meaning time-strapped attorneys can quickly assess the relevance of the video before they listen to it.
The practice guide is something of a leap of faith for Lexis, which has been trialling the new guide with a number of large law firms, having also worked with a US legal news team to work out at what point video viewers typically lose interest.
Vice president of litigation practice areas, Aileen Stirling told Legal IT Insider: “Technology trends in the market are changing the way lawyers work, whether lawyers want content on their mobile or for it to be searchable quickly. We wanted to work with Jim and think about how end users consume information, from law students to senior partners. We’ve developed the practice guide format so it’s very crisp and easy to get in and out of.”
Stirling is right that Wagstaffe is an articulate story teller and as an outsider, you can see the appeal of being told what to do by someone who teaches federal judges. Angela Bozzuti, product manager for Lexis Practice Advisor told us: “It really is like having Jim Wagstaffe at your shoulder.”
There are clearly challenges, particularly cultural. According to one senior US professional support lawyer, the only time litigation lawyers are currently interested in watching videos is when they are looking for continuing legal education credits. “When we look for civil procedure resources, we are generally looking for answers to jurisdiction-specific questions, and I don’t see how we could quickly locate those answers in a video to the extent that they are even addressed,” the PSL said.
However, she adds: “If Lexis posts full transcripts of the videos, then that could be something we could consult in conducting legal research.”
Much will ride on whether quick and engaging is quick and engaging enough and Lexis will be monitoring how the new content is received. Bozzuti says: “The initial reaction has been ‘wow, this is so engaging’ and then ‘wow, legal products don’t do this yet.” The expectation is that the product will be embraced by law students and summer associates first, and Lexis will engage in special promotions as firms ramp up adoption.
Bozutti adds: “It will be interesting to see if senior partners start using it.”
Here we are simple creatures and like Wagstaffe’s joke about fireflies at the start of his Discovery Plans video. Who needs YouTube?