A perennial problem for lawyers is that we have far more current-awareness material to keep up with than we have time to read it all. Whether we regularly follow legal newspapers, blogs, magazines, journals or whatever, they tend to pile up unread as we try to find the time to sit down and go through them.

What if you could have your favorite current-awareness sources delivered to you by audio, on your smartphone, so that you could listen to the stories away from your desk, while you are commuting or exercising or en route to a meeting?

IMG_3921[1]That is the idea of ModioLegal, a service that partners with legal publishers to convert news and current-awareness content to audio that subscribers can access through their smart phones.

(See below for a free-trial login.)

Content is delivered word-for-word, generally on the same or next day that you’d receive the text. And rather than use computer-generated speech, ModioLegal uses human narrators. In fact, it uses law students to record the text because of their familiarity with the subject matter.

ModioLegal delivers the audio through a proprietary player that loads in any browser, whether on a mobile device or on your computer. The player has several features designed to enhance the experience of listening and browsing:

  • Audio controls are in the header and always remain visible as you browse and listen to available stories.
  • A red dot marks the stories you have not listened to. Once you listen, the red dot disappears.
  •  You can create a playlist by marking the star that appears next to each story. The stories you mark in this way will be played in order.
  • An arrow next to each story takes you to the text version of the story.

As noted above, the stories are read by humans, not computer generated. “Computer generation is phonetically able to say words, but without comprehension,” CEO Kevin Mitchell told me. “So we wanted human narration.”

For the law students who record them, this is not only an opportunity to pick up a few extra dollars on a flexible schedule, but also to gain exposure. For each story, the narrator is identified and there is a link to the narrator’s LinkedIn profile and email address. Users also are able to rate the narrators.

“The vision is not that you listen at your desk,” said Mitchell. “If you had time at your desk, you’d read it. The audio version is timely as of your next opportunity to multitask.”

Courting Publishers to Add Content

If ModioLegal sounds like something you’d be interested in, then here’s where I deliver the bad news. So far, it has only one publication, American Bankruptcy Institute Journal, and you can subscribe to it on ModioLegal only if you are already an ABI member.

ModioLegal has been courting other publishers to participate, Mitchell told me, but so far without success. Its pitch to publishers is that subscribers to their print publications would pay a premium to receive the audio versions. That would enable publishers to increase their per-subscriber revenue while also increasing their readers’ level of engagement with the publication.

All of which leaves ModioLegal in a chicken-or-egg situation. End-users will not begin widely using the product until it has more content. But some publishers will want to see that the demand is there among end-users before they commit to the platform.

Which is too bad. To me, this is a no-brainer. I am precisely the type of user ModioLegal targets. I constantly use my smartphone to consume audio information when I am on the go. Whether in the gym, in the car, or on a plane, I’m listening to podcasts or streaming NPR. I would love to be able to add legal news and magazine articles to that mix.

So I, for one, hope more legal publishers get on board.

Meanwhile, you can try it for yourself in your mobile or computer browser. Here’s how:

Let me know what you think.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.