Dip your toe into the sea of YouTube recordings, and you can imagine how that medium might help law department managers. Having recently posted a number of short recordings about law-department benchmark metrics, I wanted to speculate how in-house managers and those in the cottage industry around law departments may come to avail themselves of the same opportunity.

First, this article describes what you have to do to produce a YouTube recording. Then I offer some ideas on the future.

To start, prepare a document to show while you talk. I did a few PowerPoint slides with bullet points and some graphics. I used QuickTime Player, a free package for Apple computers that allows you to create and upload YouTube recordings very easily. (Other programs work similarly, I assume, on Windows.) Once you double-click on it, you choose "New Screen Recording" from the File tab and open your slides in presentation mode. Otherwise, you mark what portion of your screen the viewers will see when they click on your recording.

Don your headset and take a final look at your notes. Click the "Start Recording" button and speak clearly and distinctly, mostly about whatever is on screen. In the upper left-hand corner is a timer so that you can see how long you have recorded as well as a volume indicator to help make sure that your voice is loud enough. (You will learn to keep background noises to a minimum.) In my experience from both creating YouTube recordings and watching them, the better ones are relatively short: perhaps three to five minutes. Plan for about a minute of talking per slide.

As you click through PowerPoint slides, the recording follows along. You can use mouse clicks or yellow shading to emphasize your points and direct viewers to the key portions of your slides. You can stop recording any time and resume once you are ready.

Once you have completed your opus, you are asked to choose a YouTube category from a drop-down list. There is no category for "professional services" or for "law" so I selected "education" and a title. I recommend a very clear and descriptive title. It needs to be professional and informative to those who surf and turf quickly what doesn’t capture their interest. You then describe the recording in another text box, which embellishes on the title. To close, you should add tags, much as bloggers do, so that if someone is searching on YouTube for "law department benchmarks," for example, they will find my trove. Be sure to unclick the "private" box default or only selected people will be able to enjoy your handiwork.

Last, upload the recording to YouTube, which takes about a minute and produces a URL for you to use. Also, you can include a URL in the descriptive material for the recording and encourage people to click through to a website, Twitter account, blog or listserv.

Afterwards, you can edit many aspects of the recording’s look, sound and attributes. It is an easy matter also to withdraw a recording and replace it with an updated version. Prolific creators of online tutorials and explanations create their own "channels." A channel allows viewers to see easily what else you have produced. If viewers take a shine to you, they can become "subscribers" and follow your path of production.

In short, with available software and a bit of practice and planning, it is easy to put together a document, record your brief talk, launch it online and make it available to hundreds of millions of viewers.

Thereafter, you can watch a tally of the number of people who viewed each of your nuggets of knowledge. Your commentary on a law department practice or a technical issue might not go viral, but you might develop a cult following!

A Doable Project

From this description of doing recordings, readers can see that it is quite a doable project for a small investment. Moreover, the ease of creating these modules of online knowledge suggest that in the future law departments will make dramatically more use of them and benefit from them.

As to making more use of them, it seems completely plausible that many people will take a document or a deal, put a key provision or summary of some aspect of it on PowerPoint (or even a Word document), and feel comfortable speaking about an aspect of it. These reflections and thoughts might be available only to other members of the law department, which would be a choice on YouTube. More generously, they might be made available to the world. A YouTube recording will be a beacon to let people know you are interested in or knowledgeable about a topic. Like a LinkedIn message, recordings will reach people you would otherwise have never known about.

Anyone who watches a recording and is signed in to YouTube can leave a comment or "like" or "dislike" a recording. Additionally they can forward the URL to other people, email it or repost it on Twitter or a blog. It’s easy to imagine comments in this context being additional legal issues to consider, relevant statutes or case law, drafting suggestions, links to related items and so forth. This is a low-cost, easy way to accumulate knowledge, share it with others and, for in-house counsel, to reduce outside counsel costs.

For those lawyers who dislike writing but like talking online, recordings provide a natural outlet. Knowledge-management efforts often stall, but this technique may appeal to some people when other efforts leave them unenthused. YouTube recordings offer a straightforward way to reach like-minded professionals and build both your reputation and expertise.

For lawyers who try this technique, here are a few suggestions.

The temptation may be to make the recording too complete and comprehensive, but it will sag under its own weight. The most successful recordings appear to be limited, to the point and clear. Nothing like law review depth, these are more than a tweet, about the length of a couple of blog posts. Lawyers need to fight their urge to caveat everything and drone on and on. Say something specific and useful, then stop.

Those in law firms will also need to resist the efforts of marketing staff to adorn the recording with sound, animation, captions, fancy fonts and superfluous decoration. Be brief, stick to the knowledge point and fill your channel!

There are certainly other sites where recordings can be posted (such as Vimeo), and I do not mean to promote YouTube. However, it is a tremendous brand, used by the millions who are able to find your material and comment on it.

At the same time, once this method becomes better known, law firms will capitalize on the marketing opportunity. All it takes is a practical, thoughtful recording on some important legal development or technical point, and the phone will ring from law departments inquiring about that partner.

Full-fledged video recordings cost quite a bit and entail much more elaborate preparation.

As this medium of online recordings becomes more common in the legal industry, vendors to legal departments will also get into the act. They will post recordings that show uses of their product or service, case studies, updates and releases, answers to frequently asked questions, commentary and so forth. They will post training tutorials for their user base.

Inevitably, as more material for managing law departments becomes available, specialized recording sites for lawyers will spring up. Aggregators will appear so that you can go to their compiled listings and find available material. There will be evaluations of the material, and advertisers will recognize the potential to appear alongside good material. Résumés will list recent recordings so employers can see and hear you. Soon, software will use taxonomies and text mining tools to weave together recordings with blog posts, articles, tweets, topics on discussion forums and conference proceedings.

Online recordings will be part of crowd-sourcing knowledge about ways to improve law departments — both operations and legal practice. This future of knowledge accumulating online in easily digested chunks of sound and graphics will flourish once sufficient numbers of the legal community feel comfortable with it, realize its many benefits and contribute to it. That point may be several years away, but inexorably it will come: easy searching, large monitors, evident benefits and familiarity will make online knowledge building commonplace and powerful.