Introduction to Podcasts for Lawyers in 2016

April 2016
By: Christopher B. Hopkins

If you have heard the word “podcast” in the last year, it likely arose because of Serial, a weekly show about a Baltimore murder trial.  Serial was downloaded over 100 million times and its investigation sufficiently rattled the Maryland court system that, 15 years after conviction, post-trial hearings began in February 2016.  Consumers and advertisers are devouring this medium and podcasts have become a perfect tool for busy lawyers.

This article explains how to select and enjoy podcasts-on-demand.  Each show is free and new episodes are pushed to you.  After that, just press play.

A “podcast” is like a radio show comprised of individual episodes.  The podcaster can be a professional broadcaster or just someone with a microphone and a topic.  Often, a podcast may tell an ongoing story in a serialized format or it could be separate shows with guest interviews, current trends, and weekly round-ups.  Most podcasts run 15 – 60 minutes and new shows are typically posted weekly.

On the iPhone, Apple has installed the Podcast app.  Open the app and select “My Podcasts” on the bottom left of the screen.  If you have not used Podcast before, you will see a blank screen.  If you had previously used the app, any old shows may be listed; if you are not interested in those old shows, swipe from the right side to the left to delete.  At this point, you should either have no podcasts or a group of podcasts which you want to keep.  Let’s fill in the rest of your library.

Hit “Top Charts” along the bottom right side of your screen.  It will list the top 150 shows on iTunes.  You can “subscribe” to a show in order to automatically receive new episodes as they are released.  Likewise, you can download some or all previously released episodes.  We will use two podcasts as examples in order to illustrate how this works.

First, find Serial on Top Charts (likely in the top 5), tap it, and then scroll down to Season 1, Episode 1.  Hit the cloud-with-an-arrow icon on the right side to download to your phone.  You have just downloaded that single episode.  Hit the “Subscribe” button towards the top right.  Now that you have subscribed to the show, future episodes after today will be automatically delivered to your phone.  You can unsubscribe anytime by hitting, “unsubscribe.”

Second, tap “Top Charts” at the top left of the screen and let’s pick another show.  Find Stuff You Should Know (in the top 20), select it, scroll down to the episode, “Operation Mincemeat,” and tap the cloud icon to download that episode to your phone.  For now, do not subscribe.

Hit “My Podcasts” on the bottom left and you will return to your library of Serial and Stuff You Should Know which are now on your phone.  Select Serial and it should show you the episode you downloaded.  Notice there are two buttons in the middle of the screen: “Unplayed” shows the episodes on your phone.  “Feed” is the complete list of episodes in the cloud which you can download to your phone.  Since you need to listen to Serial from the beginning, hit Feed, scroll down to Season 1, Episode 2 and tap the three dots to download that episode to your phone.  Tap Unplayed (upper left) and you will see that you now have two Serial episodes on your phone.  If you enjoy Serial, go back to Feed and download the remaining episodes to catch up.  Again, future episodes will automatically be delivered since you already subscribed.

But you did not subscribe to Stuff You Should Know.  You just downloaded one episode.  Unlike the ongoing saga of Serial, you can pick and choose episodes of Stuff You Should Know which interest you.  To add episodes, go back to Feed and download the episodes you like (or go ahead and subscribe).  You are ready to listen.

When you play an episode, it will fill the entire screen: there is a volume bar, time remaining indicator, play and pause buttons, and the ability to jump forward or backwards 15 seconds.  A faint circle and downward arrow is in the upper left corner.  Tap that and it brings you back to the list of episodes.  You can swipe from right to left to delete an episode (likewise, in My Podcasts, the same swipe will delete the entire podcast from your library).

Some fine tuning: inside your library, tap a podcast to see the list of unplayed episodes.  There is a cog wheel icon above Feed.  Tap that to refine settings for that podcast.  Likewise, delete old episodes to save space on your device.

To find law-related podcasts, hit Search in the bottom right corner.  Search for shows like ABA Podcasts, Above the Law, Bloomberg Law, Florida Bar Podcast, Lawyer 2 Lawyer, Lawyerist, and Legal Talk Network.  You can also search for keywords like “Florida law” or “injury law.” When you find something you like, subscribe and/or download individual episodes.

You might also try podcasts about sports, news, hobbies, or topics of interest.  Try Bob and Chez (politics), Mike O’Meara (humor), Slate’s Political Gabfest, Reply All, TEDTalks, Welcome to Night Vale, and WTF with Marc Maron.

Christopher B. Hopkins is a member of McDonald Hopkins LLC (West Palm Beach).  Since you cannot dial him from the infamous Best Buy pay phone in Serial, try chopkins@mcdonaldhopkins.com.