What are some of the best tech and business podcasts? Attorney at Work authors weigh in.
Audio is everywhere. Indeed, over 1 million podcasts now exist. Of course, that hardly means most are interesting/enjoyable/useful/educational. (On the contrary.) A Statista report, though, found that 3 of 4 podcast listeners in the U.S. say they tune in to learn new things. So we turned to some of Attorney at Work’s savviest contributors for help identifying good options for our readers.
We asked: What’s your favorite tech or business podcast, and why? Also (bonus!), what do you listen to strictly for pleasure? Here are top picks and insights from Sheila Blackford, Anne Haag, Jay Harrington, Gina Rubel, Ben Schorr, Camille Stell and Reid Trautz.
Anne Haag: Top-Quality Tech Reporting
My favorite tech podcast is CYBER by Motherboard, the tech arm of Vice Media. Vice itself can be a little cringey at times (the satirical “Documentary Now!” that spoofs the media conglomerate comes to mind), but Motherboard does some of the highest-quality reporting about the tech world. They’ve done episodes about labor issues in Silicon Valley, government and corporate surveillance, the dangers of AI, and the world of Anonymous. It’s definitely not specific to lawyers, but any lawyers interested in the tech world can learn about important issues and current events here.
The Chicago Bar Association also has its own podcast. @theBar is obviously geared more specifically toward lawyers but it’s still a fun listen, I promise. (Kidding!) Recent episodes include interviews with the attorneys representing George Floyd’s estate, an exploration of the constitutionality of stay-at-home orders, and an interview with the lead prosecutor in the trial of John Wayne Gacy.
In my personal time, I listen to a lot of podcasts. The Bechdel Cast explores the representation of women and other underrepresented demographics in movies. Wind of Change, a chronicle of the CIA’s historical use of music as a psyop, recently got me through a long solo road trip. Lore is a great look at spooky folklore from around the world. Lastly, I’m really enjoying the new season of Newcomers with Lauren Lapkus and Nicole Byer, in which the comedians chronical watching the Lord of the Rings movies for the first time. (The first season centered around Star Wars, if Middle Earth isn’t your speed.)
Anne Haag (@CBA_LPMT) is a Practice Management Advisor at the Chicago Bar Association. Anne worked as a patent paralegal at a Chicago IP firm before arriving at the CBA in 2017 as the Law Practice Management and Technology department’s trainer/coordinator. She is also a certified crisis counselor and volunteers as a patient advocate in the ER.
Camille Stell: Inspiring Stories of Small Business Ups & Downs
I started listening to podcasts to make my morning workout seem less painful. Podcasts were my reward for getting to the gym. I found my first podcast, StartUp, from listening to an NPR story about the emerging popularity of the medium. StartUp, by Gimlet Media, was produced by a former “This American Life” producer. I was fascinated by the idea of starting a business and StartUp fed my hunger. The show was created in seasons and each season focused on a new company.
The stories of success were exhilarating, but it was the stories of failure where I learned the most. Listening provided me an inside view as founders made excruciating decisions that would determine whether their company thrived or joined the ranks of the many small businesses that never make it off the ground. StartUp led to another podcast that is a favorite of mine, Without Fail. Without Fail is also hosted by Alex Bloomberg and is described as “candid conversations with people who have done hard things: what worked, what didn’t and why.”
After years of listening to stories of other people starting businesses, I launched one as well. The stories of people who have done the hard work have been inspiring and encouraging during my journey and often help me avoid making the same mistakes they did.
For pleasure listening, my playlist includes dozens of shows ranging from true crime to inspiration. But Hope Through History is my new favorite. Hosted by writer and presidential biographer Jon Meacham, the series focuses on some of the most trying times in American history and how the nation dealt with those moments and came through them unified. Season 1 looks at the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression, WWII, the polio epidemic, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Winston Churchill said, “The future is unknowable, but the past should give us hope.”
Podcasts are my guilty pleasure, a source of continued education, and a constant companion as I travel or work out.
Camille Stell (firstname.lastname@example.org) is President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and a specialist in working with lawyers on building modern law firms, as well as retirement and succession planning.
Ben Schorr: Insights Into Tech and Law
I’m a heavy podcast consumer — I listen in the car, on walks, while exercising; I probably listen to podcasts at least a couple of hours a day. I’ll offer a few business & tech podcasts I enjoy.
- Windows Weekly: is one of the more popular podcasts, they cover not only Windows, but also Office, Microsoft 365 and other Microsoft products. They’ve been at this for years and often have good insights. As a Microsoft employee it’s also interesting to hear how the tech press views us, and when they occasionally get something wrong.
- Smashing Security: It’s a great weekly podcast out of the U.K. that talks about cybersecurity in an accessible and entertaining way. They have a knack for explaining things in plain language and keeping it light.
- The Digital Edge: It features frequent “Tech Tips” contributors Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talking about tech and law. They usually have interesting guests, and I invariably learn something new.
- Microsoft Research: If you really want to deep dive into cutting-edge tech, this is a periodic interview podcast featuring researchers working on AI, machine learning and other very advanced topics. I like to have pen and paper handy while I listen to this so I can take notes.
And for pleasure I listen to:
- The GM Shuffle with Michael Lombardi: I’m an NFL fan and a longtime high school football coach. Lombardi was a GM in the NFL with the Browns, Raiders and Patriots and he offers regular insights into the NFL (not just on the field, but the business side too) in an entertaining way.
- Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda: In addition to his well-regarded work as an actor, Alda is passionate about communicating, especially communicating science. This is a weekly podcast where Alda interviews interesting people about communicating and their experiences. Very entertaining.
Ben Schorr (@bschorr) is a senior technical writer at Microsoft. He is the author of several books including “Microsoft Office 365 for Lawyers,” “The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Outlook” and “OneNote in One Hour.” He has been involved with management and technology for more than 25 years.
Reid Trautz: Ideas From Businesses to Apply to the Law
I’ve recently gone from listening to an occasional podcast to listening almost daily. Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve been trying to walk every morning and listen to various podcasts.
I must admit that I’ve limited myself to the Apple ecosphere and have not ventured into Spotify, Stitcher or similar services. I most frequently turn to podcasts on the Legal Talk Network, particularly The Digital Edge and the Kennedy-Mighell Report. These contain excellent information for lawyers and their law firms.
Yet I find myself listening to business podcasts for more general information. To learn how other businesses got started or operate, how the economy is doing in other areas of commerce, and how to take an idea from other small businesses and apply it to law.
So I listen to the Freakonomics Radio podcast that has a broad range of interesting topics. One of my favorites was recently rebroadcast from 2016, titled “How to Make Meetings Less Terrible.” Some good psychological insights very applicable to my work. I also like Wondery’s Business Wars for many of the same reasons. I also was recently introduced to Wondery’s shorter Business Wars Daily, an excellent podcast that covers a single current business headline in five minutes or less. Sometimes all I need is a short podcast to finish my walk.
Reid Trautz (@RTrautz) is founding Director of the Practice & Professionalism Center at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where he provides practice advisory services to members. A past chair of ABA TECHSHOW, he is co-chair of the ABA Law Practice Division Futures Initiative and co-authors Future Proofing, a column about the future of law practice in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine.
Gina Rubel: New Light on All Sides of the Spectrum
As host of the podcast OnRecordPR.com, lawyer and advocate on behalf of mid-market and large law firms, I listen to many industry podcasts regularly. Top of my list are:
- Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer demystifies the business and practice of law through the prism of a legal framework.
- Law Technology Now shares the latest in legal technology and innovation.
- LawNEXT with Bob Ambrogi features innovators and entrepreneurs from legal startups to new law firm business models driving what’s next in the legal industry.
- Legal Speak from ALM makes sense of what’s happening in the legal industry.
- The Rainmaking Podcast with Scott Love shares tips and tactics for professionals to get more and better business.
Each podcast covers the industry from a different perspective, leading to a view from all sides of the spectrum.
As far as other business podcasts that I listen to for professional and personal development, they include:
- HBR’s Women at Work: It features conversations about the workplace and women’s place in it.
- Freeman Means Business: Its focus is on helping women in business communicate effectively.
- On the Brink with Andi Simon: Observations on innovation and corporate anthropology.
- TED Talks Daily: Each weekday it delivers thought-provoking talks for learning and growing.
- The Second Phase Podcast: Hosted by my friend Robyn Graham, this focuses on businesswomen and entrepreneurs and brand messaging.
- Unlocking Us: Bestselling author Brené Brown unpacks and explores ideas, stories and encounters that reflect the universal experiences of being human.
Again, each podcast sheds light on different issues and topics. Collectively they contribute to my goal of more well-rounded professional and personal development.
I also enjoy hosting On Record PR, where my co-hosts and I go “on record” with C-suite executives, journalists, top legal marketing professionals, lawyers, and other experts to discuss best practices for public relations and marketing strategies. We have podcasts that shed light on leadership, diversity, working with the media, professional development for lawyers and others, and a special series of women trailblazers in sports, the boardroom, and the courtroom.
Gina F. Rubel (@FuriaRubel) is CEO of Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., an award-winning PR and marketing agency that has become a leading legal marketing and professional services communications boutique. Corporate and law firm leaders call on Gina for high-stakes public relations, crisis planning, and incident response support. She is also the author of “Everyday Public Relations for Lawyers.”
Sheila Blackford: Far-From-Stuffy Management
You may have thought that digesting the Harvard Business Review requires the comprehension of a lawyer with an MBA. You’d be wrong. In fact, these are some of my favorite podcasts. In particular, HBR IdeaCast. These podcasts are under 30 minutes long and feature ideas in business and management. The topics aren’t boring or stuffy. Consider these recent episodes I tuned into: “Why Work Friends Are Worth It,” a 27-minute podcast on Aug. 25, and “To Build Grit Go Back to the Basics,” a 25-minute episode on Sept. 1. (Yes, both are still available.)
If you prefer different fare, check out The Anxious Achiever, with Morra Aarons-Mele, inviting listeners to rethink mental health and work with candid stories from leaders who’ve been there. If you find yourself compelled to be a high achiever, the “anxious” achiever may describe you, if not a lawyer you know. Attorneys experience anxiety and depression at higher levels, and substance abuse at higher levels. Clients come to you with big problems. You may be the only person between your client and bankruptcy, the loss of parental rights, or incarceration and even execution. Carrying this much responsibility to our clients takes a toll. If you aren’t able to squeeze in a CLE on attorney wellness, you might find a short podcast on wellness is just the thing to listen to while working out or walking the dog.
Sheila M. Blackford (@SheilaBlackford) has been a Practice Management Attorney for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund since 2005. She is the author of the ABA book “Trust Accounting in One Hour For Lawyers,” co-author of “Paperless in One Hour for Lawyers,” and a contributing author to “Flying Solo: A Survival Guide” and the Oregon State Bar “Fee Agreement Compendium.”
Jay Harrington: New Stimulus for My Work
There are so many podcasts I enjoy and derive value from, so narrowing it down to one is a challenge, but here goes: Conversations with Tyler. The show features conversations with economist and polymath Tyler Cowen and guests from a range of disciplines on a diverse set of topics, from books to politics to music to economics. I like podcasts that don’t deal specifically with the subject matter of my work, but rather introduce ideas and insights from other domains that I can use as new stimulus for my work. Plus, Cowen has a crisp, direct interview style that I aspire to emulate for my own podcast. I think everyone can learn something of value from his succinct communication style.
While I also learn a great deal from it for business, my favorite podcast to listen to purely for pleasure is Malcom Gladwell’s Revisionist History. If you like Gladwell’s books, you’ll really enjoy the storytelling in his podcast, delivered in his signature style. For laughs, I turn to Conan O’Brien’s podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, and Smartless, a new podcast from Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. And if you’re looking to add another podcast to your queue, I’d love for you to check out my podcast, The Thought Leadership Project, in which my partner Tom Nixon and I dive deeply into the benefits and mechanics of becoming a thought leader in the legal industry in order to drive new business.
Jay Harrington (@harringj75) is the owner of Harrington Communications, a leading thought leadership PR and marketing agency that specializes in helping law firms and lawyers build awareness, influence and new business. He is the author of three books for lawyers on business and professional development issues, “The Productivity Pivot,” “The Essential Associate” and “One of a Kind: A Proven Path to a Profitable Practice.”
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