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ABA Journal: Modern Law Library

Listen to the ABA Journal Podcast for analysis and discussion of the latest legal issues and trends the first Monday of each month. Also hear discussions with authors for The Modern Law Library books podcast series.

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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A seismic shift in how the US wages war and what it means for the American public

What is war? Is it a state that is entirely distinct from peace? Has it changed over the years to become something else? In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Georgetown law professor Rosa Books shares the experiences she had in the U.S. government which led her to write her new book, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.” Brooks discusses the post-9/11 changes that shifted the thinking of both the military and the legal community when it came to the laws of war, particularly drone warfare. The military has been the recipient of both more funds and weightier expectations, as it’s called upon to perform tasks which traditionally would have been the province of civilian government and the diplomatic corps. As a state of non-traditional warfare seems to have become a permanent fixture, does the traditional divide between civilian and military justice still make sense? And how can the American public hold the government accountable when an increasing amount of information about its workings is secret? Rosa Brooks is a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, a columnist for Foreign Policy, and a law professor at Georgetown University. She previously worked at the Pentagon as Counselor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; in 2011, she was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. Brooks has also served as a senior advisor at the US Department of State, a consultant for Human Rights Watch, and a weekly opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

35mins

21 Sep 2016

Rank #1

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How to master the jury selection process

As director of the National Legal Research Group’s jury research services division, Jeffrey T. Frederick is an expert on jury selection strategies. His new book, Mastering Voir Dire and Jury Selection, Fourth Edition: Gain an Edge in Questioning and Selecting Your Jury, shares how to develop and ask the questions to uncover information. In this new episode of the Modern Law Library podcast, Olivia Aguilar of ABA Publishing talks to Frederick about the significance of nonverbal cues during questioning, why open-ended questioning is the best way to secure necessary information, and how you can break the ice with a conversational tone. Special thanks to our sponsor, Headnote.

43mins

6 Nov 2019

Rank #2

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How a 1980s lynching case helped bring down the Klan

On the morning of March 21, 1981, the body of 19-year-old Michael Donald was found hanging from a tree in Mobile, Alabama. The years that followed saw the conviction of his two killers and a civil case brought by Donald's mother which bankrupted the largest Klan organization in the United States. In this episode of The Modern Law Library, we speak with Laurence Leamer about his new book on the case, The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan. He shares details about how and why Donald was killed, what became of his killers, and how the case also brought Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center into greater national prominence.

12mins

13 Jul 2016

Rank #3

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Uncovering the secret history of how corporations gained their civil rights

When we think of civil rights movements, the first to spring to mind might be the battles against African-American segregation or for women's suffrage. But one of the longest, most successful–and least-known–of these movements in America has been made on behalf of corporations. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Prof. Adam Winkler, author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, shares what he learned from his investigation into how corporations have achieved constitutional protections ranging from the right to sue and be sued, to individual rights like religious liberty protections and freedom of speech.

23mins

21 Mar 2018

Rank #4

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Our favorite reads of 2019

If you're traveling this holiday season–or just enjoying some end-of-year downtime–you might be in need of some good book recommendations. With that in mind, in this episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles brings you a glimpse at what we've been reading around the ABA offices. Staff recommendations run the gamut from romance to horror to self-help to historical fiction. Make 2020 the year you make time to curl up with a good book, and tell us your favorite read of 2019. Special thanks to our sponsor, Headnote.

33mins

18 Dec 2019

Rank #5

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What can past presidential history teach us about today?

The law is not Dallas attorney Talmage Boston's only love. "I have had a lifelong fascination with the presidency since I was 7 years old, and in recent years have become increasingly fascinated with it, given that so many of our top historians and non-fiction writers are devoting themselves to writing presidential biographies or studying the presidencies of different leaders over the years," Boston says.  Boston made it his mission to conduct interviews with many of these well-known historians in front of live audiences, focusing the interviews on 20 historically significant presidencies. The edited transcripts of those interviews are compiled in his new book, “Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts About Our Presidents.” In honor of the 2016 election, Boston joins the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles for this episode of The Modern Law Library.  He talks about this labor of love, the importance of considering historical context when judging a president's actions, and what past history may tell us about the future of the Trump administration.

30mins

16 Nov 2016

Rank #6

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How to train your expert

When it comes to working with an expert or expert witness, there can be a lot of moving parts to keep track of. Navigating a relationship with an expert can be challenging, but it can be done successfully if both you and your expert pay attention to each other throughout the process. Author and attorney Janet S. Kole examines the complex issue of expert witnesses in her new book How to Train Your Expert: Making Your Client’s Case. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, ABA Publishing’s Olivia Aguilar speaks with Kole about common mistakes that young lawyers make while working with an expert, the ins and outs of the written report and how to avoid “impermissible ventriloquism.” Special thanks to our sponsor, Headnote.

24mins

7 Aug 2019

Rank #7

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What can neuroscience tell us about crime?

Neuroscience and brain-imaging technology have come a long way, but are they actually useful in a courtroom setting to explain why a person committed a crime? And are our brains to blame for all our actions, or do we have free will? Can a differently shaped brain remove moral responsibility for violence in an otherwise functioning person?  In this episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles spoke to Kevin Davis, a fellow ABA Journal editor and author of the new book "The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms." Davis shares how he first became interested in the issue of brain injury and brain development theories as evidence, and explains the little-known backstory to the murder case that ushered in the use of neuroscience in criminal defense cases. He also recounts the way the reporting for this book ended up changing his own attitudes and behavior–and how he parents his son.

19mins

15 Mar 2017

Rank #8

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Networking for Introverts

You have to network to get work. Carol Shiro Greenwald wrote her book Strategic Networking for Introverts, Extroverts, and Everyone in Between for the wallflowers and the social butterflies alike who need help turning cocktail conversations into business relationships. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, ABA Publishing’s Ashley Alfirevic speaks to Greenwald about the networking matrix, interview double dates and random acts of lunch.

36mins

10 Apr 2019

Rank #9

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Public-Speaking Skills Every Lawyer Should Master

For every lawyer that thinks they have oral presentations down pat, there’s another that has anxiety about talking in front of a crowd. And they both need help. As an attorney and a formal federal law clerk, Faith Pincus gives lawyers the tools they need to succeed at public speaking. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, ABA Publishing’s Ashley Alfirevic speaks with Pincus about how to ditch the notecards, engage the audience and ask the right type of rhetorical questions.

29mins

22 May 2019

Rank #10

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Bryan Garner reflects on his friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia in ‘Nino and Me’

To Bryan Garner, editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, Justice Antonin Scalia was a friend, a mentor, a collaborator and a fellow lover of words. In the wake of Scalia’s death on Feb. 13, 2016, Garner reflected back over their relationship, from their first brief introduction in 1988 to the trip they took to Asia together in the last weeks of Scalia’s life. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Garner speaks with the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles about what gave him the confidence to ask a sitting Supreme Court justice to co-author two books; the four style issues he and Scalia were never able to agree on; and what it was like to write his first memoir.

36mins

17 Jan 2018

Rank #11

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What would it mean to impeach a president?

The authority to impeach and remove a U.S. president is one of the legislative branch's most powerful weapons. But in the country's history, despite many periods of open hostility between Congress and the executive branch, no president has been removed from office through the impeachment procedure. Why is that? In this episode of the Modern Law Library, constitutional litigator Joshua Matz discusses "To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment," a book he co-wrote with Laurence Tribe. Matz explains the debates the founders had over including impeachment in the Constitution; some of the lesser-known 19th-century impeachment controversies; and why he believes that the partisan use of impeachment rhetoric over the past 40 years has not been positive for U.S. democracy.

28mins

25 Jul 2018

Rank #12

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What goes on in the mind of a sentencing judge?

A new book by Judge Frederic Block gives a behind-the-scenes look at a judge’s thoughts and feelings when imposing punishments. Block is candid and self-reflective in the book and also wonders where the line should be drawn in exercising judicial powers. In this new episode of the Modern Law Library podcast, Olivia Aguilar of ABA Publishing speaks with Block about sentencing issues, the details surrounding the cases covered in the book, and the most important case that he has ever handled. Special thanks to our sponsor, Headnote.

27mins

4 Dec 2019

Rank #13

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John Lennon's lawyer explains how the musician's deportation case changed immigration law

When immigration attorney Leon Wildes got a call from an old law school classmate in January 1972 about representing a musician and his wife who were facing deportation, their names didn’t ring a bell. Even after meeting with them privately at their New York City apartment, Wildes wasn’t entirely clear about who his potential clients were. He told his wife that he’d met with a Jack Lemon and Yoko Moto. “Wait a minute, Leon,” his wife Ruth said to him. “Do you mean John Lennon and Yoko Ono?” What Wildes didn’t know when accepting the Lennons’ case was that he and his clients were facing a five-year legal battle which would eventually expose corruption at the highest levels of the Nixon administration and change the U.S. immigration process forever. His account of that legal battle is told in John Lennon vs. the USA: The Inside Story of the Most Bitterly Contested and Influential Deportation Case in United States History. Leon Wildes and his son Michael (now a managing partner at the firm his father founded, Wildes & Weinberg) joined the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles to discuss the legacy of the case and the effect it’s had on the entire family.

11mins

19 Oct 2016

Rank #14

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Can you become a better lawyer in 5 minutes a day? This author thinks so

Many people promote a daily practice of meditation, spiritual contemplation and mindfulness as a way to improve your personal life and wellbeing. Attorney Jeremy Richter argues that creating a similar daily ritual to focus on developing your professional skills can be just as helpful to your clients, career and your law practice. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles speaks with Richter, author of the new book “Building a Better Law Practice: Become a Better Lawyer in Five Minutes a Day.” The book is structured to provide a daily reading on personal and professional development over a seven-week time period. Richter discusses why he decided to channel energy into blogging during the early years of his practice as an insurance litigator, and shares some lessons from that time that became inspirations for the book.

16mins

22 Aug 2018

Rank #15

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The Education of Brett Kavanaugh

One year after Brett Kavanaugh's tumultuous nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, questions that arose during the nomination hearings still linger. In this episode, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles speaks with New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly about their book The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation. Progrebin and Kelly discuss what it was like to report on Kavanaugh's nomination in real time, and to speak with the women who accused him of sexual assaults dating back to his high school and college years. They discuss what they learned from people who'd known him at various points in his life, and the conclusions they came to at the end of their year-long investigation. Special thanks to our sponsor, Headnote.

33mins

27 Nov 2019

Rank #16

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The Crime of Complicity: Examining the Role of the Bystander in the Holocaust and Beyond

If you are a bystander and witness a crime, should intervention to prevent that crime be a legal obligation? Or is moral responsibility enough? These are among the hard-hitting questions discussed in a provocative and moving conversation with author and Holocaust education advocate Amos N. Guiora. In his new book, "The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust," Guiora addresses these profoundly important questions and the bystander-victim relationship from a deeply personal and legal perspective, focusing on the Holocaust and then exploring cases in contemporary society.   Sharing the experiences of his parents, who were Holocaust survivors, and his grandparents, who did not survive, Guiora examines the bystander during three distinct events: death marches, the German occupation of Holland, and the German occupation of Hungary. He then brings the issue of intervention into current perspective, discussing sexual assault cases at Vanderbilt and Stanford Universities, as well as the plight of today’s refugees from war-ravaged countries such as Syria.   Guiora asserts that a society cannot rely on morals and compassion alone to help another in danger. It is ultimately, he concludes, a legal issue. We must make the obligation to intervene the law, Guiora asserts, and thus non-intervention a crime.

23mins

3 May 2017

Rank #17

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First Amendment defender warns of threats to free speech in the ‘fake news’ era

The rights to free speech and freedom of the press guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. But when it was first passed–and for its first hundred or so years–the First Amendment was not the robust defense we think of today. Legendary civil rights attorney Floyd Abrams joins the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles to discuss his book “The Soul of the First Amendment” in this episode of the Modern Law Library. Abrams shares how First Amendment jurisprudence changed over time, and what dangers he sees ahead for free speech in the era of fake news and a presidential administration that is hostile to the press.

38mins

3 Aug 2017

Rank #18

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How introverted lawyers can harness their traits for success

“Fake it ‘till you make it.” For Heidi K. Brown, trying to mimic her extroverted peers in litigation always felt forced. She pushed through law school and nearly two decades of practice acting the outgoing attorney before accepting her quiet, thoughtful self. Brown wrote her book—The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy—with introverted, shy and socially anxious lawyers and law students in mind. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, ABA Publishing’s Ashley Alfirevic speaks to Brown about honoring yourself, affirming what’s true and embracing the blush.

30mins

9 Jan 2019

Rank #19

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3 trial court judges share the tough cases that stuck with them

All judges have cases that stick with them and linger in their memories. Sometimes it was because of the high profile of the case, and sometimes an obscure case had personal resonance because of the people or issues involved. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles speaks with Judges Russell F. Canan, Gregory E. Mize and Frederick H. Weisberg, who all sit on the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The three judges were contributors to and the editors of “Tough Cases: Judges Tell the Stories of Some of the Hardest Decisions They’ve Ever Made.” Canan, Mize and Weisberg share their own stories, including why Canan’s well-meant gesture to avert an injustice in a gun case still troubles him. Mize explains why a child-custody case haunted him for decades, and what happened when he tracked down the now-grown child as he was deciding whether to write about it for “Tough Cases.” Weisberg talks about dealing with the emotional fallout from overseeing a case where a mother had murdered her four children.

39mins

5 Dec 2018

Rank #20