We recently sat down with Ian Nelson and Chris Wedgeworth, co-founders of Hotshot, which creates digital content covering legal, business, and technology skills. The pair told us how Hotshot’s videos are used for just-in-time learning and to help their customers create more engaging and effective training programs.
Legal Executive Institute: Tell me about Hotshot. And, more broadly, what is digital learning, and how does it apply in the legal industry?
Chris Wedgeworth: Digital learning, essentially, is using modern internet technology to help people learn. Examples are short bite-sized videos, interactive quizzes, and mobile-enabled learning.
When we started Hotshot, Ian and I did a lot of research. We talked to law firms, law schools, and in-house lawyers. We also did a lot of research into what was happening outside legal in the digital learning space. On the consumer side, we looked at resources like Khan Academy, which is how students learn math, and Duolingo, which is a great app for language learning.
On the professional side, we looked at products like Lynda.com and Pluralsight, in the developer community; and Treehouse, another developer training product.
Ian Nelson: We also thought about the new generation of attorneys and law students and how they expect to learn. In our very early days researching YouTube for learning, we came across make-up tutorials by Michelle Phan. One of her videos from 2010 was on how to do Lady Gaga eyes, and it got 55 million views. We realized that the same people that grew up watching that video and others like it are now law students and associates. They will expect to learn at work like they do in their personal lives. We realized that this was really going to transform legal education and training.
Legal Executive Institute: What type of skills and knowledge do lawyers need today in order to be successful, and of those skills, which ones are best suited to be delivered through digital learning?
Ian Nelson: The reality is that expectations have increased dramatically for lawyers these days. You hear a lot of about the t-shaped lawyer. Lawyers need to have great legal skills, but also business acumen and an understanding of technology.
Chris Wedgeworth: Digital learning applies to all those types of skills: legal, business, and technology. For some, it’s particularly well-suited. For example, we have a series of videos on Excel for lawyers. It can be much more effective to show a screen capture of an Excel spreadsheet and allow people to pause and rewind, than it is to ask people to attend an in-person training class on Excel.
In addition, we work with customers to help them do what’s known as blended learning, which combines digital and in-person learning. I’ll give you an example. A lot of law firms have mini-MBA programs, which include helping lawyers understand financial statements.
Our law firm customers hire a consultant to do the in-person training session on financial statements and then the firms complement that with Hotshot content. Having access to the Hotshot videos before the session means that people who are uncomfortable with this kind of content can prepare more than those who took accounting in college. If all the participants can watch a video on balance sheets or on cash flow statements in advance of the session, it allows the in-person training to be much more effective. Equally, after the training sessions, it’s very helpful for people to have access to videos or written materials that they can refer back to later when they’re doing their work.
Amongst the most popular content that Hotshot has in our business acumen content is a series of courses on financial concepts in legal practice (financial concepts for litigators, capital market lawyers, M&A lawyers, etc.).
To illustrate how this works for blended learning, one of our customers used our content to help train its litigation group. The firm provided the foundational financial concepts for litigators in advance by having everyone watch the Hotshot video. When it came time for the live session, the partners discussed the application of those concepts in their matters.
Legal Executive Institute: Describe the moment you knew that there was an opportunity for innovation in legal education and training? And could you give us a specific situation where you observed the need for the innovation to help crystallize that for our readers?
Ian Nelson: I started out in the legal industry as an M&A attorney. My first assignment was to review the due diligence for a reverse triangular merger. The partner told me to look for “anything weird” in the files. Everything looked weird to me. I had no idea what a reverse triangular merger was. I didn’t know what due diligence was, much less what to look for.
I knew immediately that something was wrong with that situation. I graduated top of the class from law school, was an editor on Law Review, the whole bit — and yet I was wholly unprepared for that assignment. That experience always stuck with me.
We took this opportunity in digital learning and applied it in legal for better, more efficient training.
Legal Executive Institute: How are legal institutions who are embedded in the status quo using your content to reinvent their professional development training programs? And can you speak about it from both the law firm and law school perspective?
Chris Wedgeworth: Our customers are using Hotshot in two ways. The first way is for just-in-time learning. The reverse triangular merger example that Ian mentioned is a very common situation. Our users will use Hotshot, in that example, to watch a short video on reverse triangular mergers to find out what they are. It’s very much just-in-time learning at the point of need.
The second way that our customers are using Hotshot is part of more formal training programs. On-boarding new associates is a common example. A firm may have traditionally asked a partner to deliver a PowerPoint presentation on a topic for junior associates as part of formal on-boarding, but now the firm asks the associates to watch Hotshot videos in advance.
This lets the firm make the in-person session much more of an interactive discussion. It’s getting great feedback from the attendees of those sessions and from the presenters as well.
Ian Nelson: For law schools, it’s similar to all the reasons why this has taken hold in law firms. Law students are a lot more vocal about what they want to learn and how they’re going to prepare for life after school.
We’re working with professors, career services offices, and clinics to help the education be more practical. For example, one top law school uses our content as part of its transactional program. The students learn the foundational principles before class through the Hotshot videos and other resources. The classes, then, become more hands-on, interactive exercises.