Listening to podcasts can help your career

  • October 26, 2017
  • James Careless

All across Canada, lawyers are expanding their legal knowledge and know-how by listening to free Canadian legal podcasts on their smartphones and computers.

“You can listen to these podcasts, which usually feature informal conversations touching upon a range of law-related issues, while you’re in the subway or waiting in line at Starbucks,” said Ian Hull, partner in Toronto Hull & Hull LLP. “For young lawyers in particular, legal podcasts are a great way to learn about unfamiliar areas of the law in a low-stress, entertaining manner.”  

Combining the power of expert opinions with the intimacy of radio, “legal podcasts, such as those of the McGill Law Journal, offer listeners a glimpse into the minds of legal scholars and professionals from a variety of legal fields and traditions,” said Emma Noradounkian, Podcast Editor for McGill Law Journal Vol. 63. “Listeners tune into legal podcasts to know the scoop on a given contemporary legal issue from those who are most affected by it and those experts who can shed light on how best to resolve it.”

Some podcasts are produced by august organizations such as the McGill’s Faculty of Law. Others are come from tech-savvy lawyers such as Michael Spratt of Ottawa’s Abergel Goldstein & Partners LLP (The Docket), Peter Aprile of Toronto’s Counter Tax Lawyers (Building NewLaw), or the lawyers at Hull & Hull LLP (Hull on Estates).

“We produce these podcasts on our own time because we are passionate about the law,” said Aprile. “As well, our podcasts are really helpful in educating our own staff about where the firm is going, what matters to us, and the ways in which we can keep improving our service and our professionalism. So lawyers who produce podcasts benefit from them as much as their listeners do.”

The topics these Canadian podcasts tackle are diverse, touching on everything from the government’s attempts to modernize the Criminal Code to managing post-divorce estates; from streamlining law firm work processes to the legal implications of Pokémon Go! But what they all  have in common is an emphasis on lively radio-style conversations between knowledgeable lawyers and experts of all stripes. They dig into issues that matter to legal practitioners of all ages but can be particularly helpful for laywers just starting out.

“We want to show young lawyers – and even students still in law school – that there is a lot more to the Canadian legal profession than what happens on Bay Street and inside boardrooms,” said Michael Spratt, who co-hosts The Docket with Emilie Taman, a University Ottawa law professor and former Crown prosecutor who is also Spratt’s life partner. “Talking to legal and non-legal experts on The Docket exposes our listeners to a diverse range of complex issues and varying opinions that reflect the real world and what’s happening in it.”

What’s on

Some diligent Googling will turn up any number of Canadian legal podcasts. Here are a few:

The Docket: The Docket tackles tough, often provocative issues associated with Canadian law. Recent topics include a sexual assault victim who was jailed alongside her attacker, because the Crown was worried she wouldn’t return to court to testify; whether trial-by-jury is actually a good way to achieve justice for victims and the accused; and whether plea bargains are unfair to the accused. The podcast crew also did an episode-by-episode review (still available online) of the Netflix series “Making a Murderer.”

BuildingNewLaw: Counter Tax’s BNL podcast is an ambitious attempt to change and improve the practise of law in Canada. To this end, the BNL podcast covers subjects such as applying artificial intelligence to resolve the crisis in family law, reorienting law firms to actually put clients first, and preventing lawyers from mismanaging their practices.

McGill Law Journal: Offering content in both English and French, MLJ's podcasts delve into contemporary legal issues such as aboriginal imprisonment, the impact of whistleblowing, revenge porn, tort law, and privacy, among others.

Hull on Estates: Don’t let the title fool you. This long-running series of podcasts (since 2006!) touches a wide range of themes including dealing with elder abuse, removing opposing counsel as lawyers of record, and “posthumous use of reproductive materials,” including fertilized embryos in medical storage.

Borderlines: Borderlines is the suitably-named podcast series covering Canadian immigration law. The show lineup includes discussions of immigration fraud, overcoming system-based barriers to LGBTQ asylum claims, and the danger of political oversight colouring the decisions of individual Canadian immigration officials.

The Lawcast: With topics such as “Who Cares for the Acquitted Accused” and “The Problem with Canada’s Bail System… And Donald Trump”, these podcasts by Hamilton, Ontario criminal lawyer Jeff Manishen raises some thought-provoking points.

Welcome to the Food Court: Toronto lawyer Glenford Jamie interviews guests on legal issues related to the Canadian food industry. His experts tackle timely issues such as mandatory calorie labelling, a constitutional challenge against the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, and workplace safety on the family farm.

Ideablawg: Produced by Calgary lawyer Lisa Silver, the Ideablawg podcasts focus on specific sections of the Canadian Criminal Code. With topics such as Mutiny! (Section 53), Alarming the Queen (Section 49), and On Surgical Operations (Section 45), Silver’s podcasts shed light on criminal law  in easily-digestible portions.

Finally, there are many U.S legal podcasts online, which can be found through sites such as the Legal Talk Network and

Podcasting’s bottom line

Legal podcasts are a form of entertainment that are also an educational medium, says McGill’s Noradounkian. “They provide a sweet escape from reality while commuting to work or while working, yet listeners can learn so much on a said topic at the same time!”

James Careless is a frequent contributor to CBA PracticeLink.