Creating a short Teaching Video for Legal Education


The goal is to create a collection of short videos, each on a discrete aspect of the law (substantive, procedural, lawyering skills, professional values, practice tips). The video collection is modeled on TED and Khan Academy – delivered in short, scripted, chunks, made for viewing on the internet (rather than lecture capture that videotapes a lecture designed for classroom teaching), that are educational and entertaining. The primary audience for this collection is law students (either as part of a class assignment or to supplement what they are learning in the classroom).  But its scope is considerably greater; the videos will be viewed by professionals from other disciplines who want to learn the law, by adult learners, by foreign law students, among countless others. 



Prepare your thoughts/script: While you’ve taught this topic a hundred times and you can lecture on the topic in your sleep, this is different.  You want to get this sharp as well as factually correct.  Video is a new medium and the potential reach of the internet is broader than a single lecture hall.  Strive to create the best lesson you have ever given.  

Organize around a few main points: Think about your main points (try to limit it to 3-5 per video) and how you can best explain them.  If the points relate to each other, think about how they relate and whether a diagram can help you make that relationship clear to viewers.  Here is a link to a website that has lots of different diagrams that may help you to express the way your points relate to one another using visuals.

Each lesson stands alone:  Each lesson should seek to teach a single topic.  If there is a related topic, cover it in another video.  But do not cross-reference videos, the computer software will do all of that for us. Each lesson stands alone as a finished product.

Content: Remember that successful lawyering requires much more than legal analysis and reasoning (see the attached chart).  If you can, try to bring the other successful lawyering factors into your lesson.  Or devote an entire lesson to one or more of them.

We’ll introduce you; you don’t have to: The video and website will have your name and affiliation, and even some cool stuff about you such as your publications, areas of specialty and whatever else you want to share with the audience, perhaps your best sport or favorite hobby.  So, don’t bother introducing yourself, we’ll take care of that.

Make it short: if possible, no single lesson should be longer than 8 minutes, and shorter lessons are welcome; if you can make the point in 5 minutes, then do it.  If you think your topic cannot be explained in 8 minutes, then consider ways to break it out into two or three segments.  But make sure each single video can stand on its own as a discrete topic.



Show the human side of the law:  Each legal principle comes out of controversy involving real people. The law is full of emotions – emotions on the side of the parties and also on the side of the lawyers.  Yet, we don’t often see that when we read cases in books.  Video can make the underlying story come alive and help us to understand that law lives and interacts with us and regularly shapes how we act.  Help the audience to understand and humanize the law.

Make the complex simple:  We know you’re smart.  We know you know your stuff.  If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in.  And we wouldn’t ask you to give a lesson for the project.  So, don’t turn us off with abstractions and legalese.  Break complex ideas down, and explain each concept clearly.  Give examples.  Tell stories.  Be specific.  Tell us how these concepts relate to the everyday practice of law.

Make the video timeless: Remember not to mention dates (or anything that will date the video, such as political elections or events in the news) or filming locations.  Don’t make the points or examples too localized.  Use your own work; if you are using the work of others, get permission first.

Create a storyboard: Once you have your main points, think about how they can best be depicted using images, text, diagrams, graphics, etc.  As law professors, we are used to expressing ideas through text and words.  While that certainly works, VideoScribe allows us to use images and diagrams as well as text to express our ideas.  Indeed, students find that they remember the images better than simple text, so try it out.  Storyboarding is a tool used by movie producers to create a visual story to accompany the words.  It is as simple as drawing a line down the center of the page, with the script/words you want to say in the left column and an idea of the image that can accompany it in the right column.  Yes, this is not something that you may have done before, so have fun with it.  Like everything, there is a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it can be nice to see your creative side shine through.




Tape the voiceover first: We want the audience to engage with you.  Rehearse your lesson, including the intonation, the pauses, the places where you need to provide emphasis. This is a performance.  It is different from teaching a live, interactive class. So find that hidden actor within and exploit him or her.

Audiotaping the voiceover: Audio quality for videos is important.  See whether you can borrow a microphone from your school’s IT department.  If not, you can use the audio recording on your computer, iPhone, iPad or other mobile device.  Audiotape in a quiet place, it may take a few attempts before you feel OK with the product.  That’s all part of the learning process; in our experience it gets easier with practice.

Upload audio into VideoScribe:  Once the audio is uploaded, you can use it to design the video and set the timing of your videoscribe.    Again, with practice, this will get easier.