The U.S. legal system is complicated. Even if you were born and raised in the United States, you likely didn’t get a thorough overview of our legal principles in your schooling unless you went to law school. With legal topics frequently in the news, you may be left wondering about aspects of American law. Why do courts decide cases the way they do? Why don’t legal rulings always comport with what seems like common sense?
As long-time readers know, I like to listen to podcasts, particularly educational ones. In this post, I thought I’d round up some of my favorite law-related podcasts that can help you gain a better understanding of the legal concepts that shape current events and daily life in the United States. Readers, what are your favorite legal podcasts? Please tell us in the comments.
*Updated to add some great advice posted by readers on social media – see below.
As we enter October, some states have already released the results of the July bar exam, and other states will post their results soon. I thought this would be a good time offer some advice to this year’s class of new lawyers as they embark on their careers. I spent my first two years after law school working at a fairly large law firm, and the following tips might be less applicable to those working in other settings (i.e., in-house legal departments, government agencies, etc.), but I think most of these points apply across the board. Lawyers, please add your own advice in the comments below.
Grateful For: The many kind and understanding people in my life who have graciously listened to me complain about the less fun aspects of my pregnancy, and who have cut me some slack while I don’t feel like my usual self. Thank you!
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Across the United States, recent law school graduates have begun studying for the bar exam, a two-day (sometimes three-day) test offered during the last week of July and also in February). Each state gives its own version of the exam, which usually includes a day of tricky multiple choice questions and a day consisting of some combination of essay questions, short answer questions, and a closed-universe performance test. Intensive test-prep courses usually begin in late May, and many test-takers study full-time and then some.
As you’ve probably realized, this is not a law blog. I’ve previously written about why I can’t comment on controversial legal and political issues. As a judicial staff member, I’m governed by ethics rules that prohibit me from opining on legal issues that may come before my court. The ethics folks take these restrictions seriously. I once attended a training in which the speaker said it would be unethical to post a recent Supreme Court decision on social media with nothing more than the comment “interesting case.”
I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week.
I try not to post about legal topics too often because I know most of my readers aren’t lawyers. I think this subject will be interesting even to people who aren’t immersed in the law on a daily basis, though. This week’s podcast recommendation is the ABA Journal’s Modern Law Library episode What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About Crime? This episode is an interview of Kevin Davis about his new book,The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms. He discusses how jurors perceive and understand science and the potential benefits and drawbacks of using brain scans in court.
Are you listening to a podcast I haven’t mentioned yet? Let us know about it in the comments!
This post is not intended as legal advice. Please read the Disclaimer posted above.
Lawyers get a bad rap. I’ve had the “lawyers and liars are the same thing” jab thrown at me before, and there’s no short supply of jokes painting lawyers as bad guys. Are there less-than-honest lawyers in the world? Sure–there are bad apples in any bunch. But day in and day out, I see dedicated, hardworking attorneys counseling clients to do the right thing and fighting for their clients’ rights in court.
Non-lawyers might be surprised to know that attorneys are governed by strict ethical rules, and violations of the rules are taken seriously. Attorneys and judges are encouraged to report violations to disciplinary boards, and investigations often lead to suspension of lawyers’ licenses to practice or disbarment.
The following information is not intended as legal advice. Please see the disclaimer posted above.
If you’ve ever heard the saying, “Don’t make a federal case out of it,” you may have been left with the impression that federal cases are the most serious kinds of legal cases. Actually, federal cases aren’t inherently more serious than cases in state courts. In the U.S., some kinds of cases will always be heard in federal court, while others will always be heard in state court, and some can be heard in either.
Ever since I decided to attend law school, people have been asking me how a person with an art background becomes a lawyer. I’m not going to talk about my reasons for pursuing a legal career today (I’ll save that for another post), but I do want to explore how creative pursuits can benefit us in our jobs and lives.
People often tell me about the jury summons they received or their experiences serving as a juror, usually with a groan. If they’ve been summonsed, they want to get out of it, and if they’ve been called to serve in the past, many express relief that the case was resolved before trial or that they weren’t selected and got to go home after a few hours.
I’ve never served on a jury myself, and I probably never will now that I’m a lawyer. Most American adults, in fact, will not be called for jury duty. According to one source, less than a third of American adults have ever served on a jury, and the number of federal jury trials is declining.
I have, however, worked in several courts and sat through a number of jury trials. In this post, I hope to demystify jury duty and maybe even convince you to be excited about your next jury summons. My discussion will mostly center on the federal courts, as each state does things a little differently.