Law360, the legal news service owned by LexisNexis, is today introducing audio versions of every story it publishes.

For every story published on Law360, readers will now see an icon they can click to listen to an audio version of the article, read by a relatively lifelike male or female “newscaster” voice.

Rachel Travers, vice president and general manager of Law360, said this is the first legal news service to offer this feature.

“We know that the legal profession has many multi-taskers,” Travers said. “This enables us to reach our readership in the way they like.”

The feature uses Amazon Polly, technology that turns text into speech that closely approximates the sound of a human voice.

Travers said that Law360 chose Polly because it is highly trainable, so it can easily pick up legal and news jargon, and because it already supported a newscaster speaking style tailored to news narration.

With the current popularity of podcasts, Travers said she believes there is increased demand for audio among news consumers. This will also make the news more accessible to people with disabilities, she said.

“It simply allows our readership to have another choice in absorbing all the news and updates that they need to absorb in their day-to-day work,” Travers said.

Playlists on the Roadmap

With today’s release, users can listen to stories only by clicking each one’s audio icon. But Travers said the product roadmap includes creating a way for customers to create playlists or stream stories without having to click each one.

Also on the roadmap is extending these audio versions to other places where Law360 content is published, such as on the Lexis+ legal research platform and on Law360 Pulse.

I got to try it out ahead of today’s launch. The so-called newscaster voice still has a bit of a robotic lilt to it, but overall is pleasant to listen to. There is both a male and a female voice. They are randomly assigned to stories, but half of all stories will have one or the other.

Travers said the audio is available immediately when a story is posted, even for breaking news, and will remain available with the story for all time. If a correction is made to a story, the audio is also corrected.

While I like the idea of offering audio versions of stories, and while the audio is well executed, I think it is somewhat inconducive to audio listening to have to click each story one by one.

If the idea is to serve an audience of multitasking legal professionals, then they should not be expected to have to continually return to their computer screens to click for the next story’s audio.

What would make this more useful would be the playlists that Travers promised. Give me an audio feed of, say, the top IP news, and then I can listen uninterrupted by the need to click, which means I can listen in my car or on a walk.

Several years ago, I wrote about ModioLegal, a service that delivered audio versions of legal news stories via a mobile phone, and that included tools for creating playlists or skipping through stories. Rather than use computer-generated audio, it paid law students to read the stories.

Unlike Law360, ModioLegal lacked content to deliver through its application, so it sought to get that content by entering into deals with publishers. Probably its biggest deal in the legal space was with the American Bar Association, which distributed audio versions of several publications. (For a while, Modio also offered stories from this blog, as well as from the blogs 3 Geeks and Law Blog and Dewey B Strategic.)

In an email earlier this year, Modio founder Kevin C. Mitchell, a lawyer in Newport Beach, Calif., said that the company had evolved into Modio Information Group and had expanded its client base both within legal and into other professional verticals, while also updating its mobile app.

While I would prefer that Law360 offer some form of continuous listening to its stories so I can listen at the gym or while driving, the audio versions introduced today are a good start towards meeting the needs of multitasking legal professionals.


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.