I am always interested in seeking out different ways of delivering information about electronic disclosure – much of what I do in the e-Disclosure Information Project involves digging out news and comment, distilling what seems helpful, and pointing people towards it.
My own preferences are broadly traditional whether as recipient or giver of information. I like the interaction – or at least the potential for interaction – which you get from an old-fashioned lecture format and (as you will gather since you are reading this) by writing about the subjects. The web gives immeasurably greater reach to both these methods – as soon as I save this article, it can immediately be read by anyone with a web connection from Sydney to San Diego. Whether it will be, in August, is a different matter, but it will still be here when everyone gets back from their holidays, giving an unparalleled combination of immediacy and longevity. We have come to take this powerful reach for granted in a very short time.
Not very much more technology is needed to deliver or receive the web equivalent of a lecture. I have this year done a webinar for Guidance Software and a live video broadcast for LexisNexis, and have been asked to do one by CLT Conferences later in the year, again with video. They have the big advantage for the auditor that he or she can sit at their desk, and can usually choose their time to listen and watch. They also seem to generate more questions than the lecture room equivalent, probably because the questioner has the benefit of anonymity. What you lose is the discussion which can result between delegates and speakers and between the delegates themselves.
My dream conference would involve much more of the latter – say 50% lecture and 50% discussion. I cannot persuade any conference organiser to structure a day like this, so I will have to organise my own to test out my theory that delegates will get much more out of it all if the formal sessions are treated as hooks and prompts for talking about their own issues and hearing about those of others.
The side benefit of webinars is that world-class speakers can be heard all over the world without leaving home. Browning Marean of DLA Piper US LLP is such a speaker and one who actually is heard all over the world – he is just back from speaking in New Zealand for example, and I will hear him in Dallas next week. I am prompted to think about web delivery of presentations, and about Browning, after stumbling on a couple of his webinars on the Anacomp site. One of them, called The Litigator’s Secret Handbook is a straightforward lecture with slides which is a check-list on e-discovery project management. The other is a discussion with Tom O’Connor, a highly-regarded consultant in this area called Beyond the Bates stamp – how law firms are reinventing discovery.
The sessions are, of course, all very American, both in their accents and their subject-matter. When you hear someone without seeing them, their audible characteristics somehow become exaggerated – Browning sounds more American than he does face to face just as, even to my own ears, I sound more private-school-and-Oxford than I believe myself to sound in the flesh. It is also inevitable that the presenter will want to remind you that the company promoting the webinar has a product to sell, in this case the highly-regarded litigation review application CaseLogistix. So far as I am concerned, and I am sure the same is true of Browning and Tom, abstract statements of the theory are useless without pointers to sources of software and services to back them up.
The point about these webinars is that they are a painless way of picking up some of the concepts from people who know what they are talking about. Even if you discount the specific references to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and to things like formal litigation hold which have more resonance in the US than in the UK, there is lot to learn from this method of delivery and specifically from the webinars mentioned here.