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Why law students should be listening to Lady Justice: Women of the Court Podcast

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Lady Justice Podcast members
Clockwise from top left: Justices Rhonda Wood, Eva Guzman, Beth Walker, and Bridget McCormack.

Listen, I understand you must prioritize your time in law school. But when you aren’t studying or in class, I’ve got the perfect distraction. For you, during your commute or coffee break: Lady Justice: Women of the Court is a podcast where once a month you can listen to four women state supreme court justices discuss the judiciary in a practical manner.

As law students, you simply do not have enough opportunities to hear practical conversations about the law. But once you’re licensed, most of you will end up practicing in state courts. Did you know that more than 90 percent of cases are heard in state courts? This is a chance to hear directly from justices about cutting-edge issues in state law.  

I currently sit on the Arkansas Supreme Court. I started this new podcast with my friends: Chief Justice Bridget McCormack (Michigan Supreme Court), Justice Eva Guzman (Supreme Court of Texas), and Justice Beth Walker (West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals). Our goal is to provide the public an opportunity to hear directly from justices. We want to elevate the general understanding of state judiciaries and the law.

Most citizens know only about the United States Supreme Court. But state courts decide cases every day that have an immediate impact on people’s lives. These include divorce cases, child-custody cases, and most criminal cases. An informed citizenry should understand the state court’s position in the federal and constitutional structure. We aim to provide that context.

But this podcast is for lawyers and law students too. All four of us read briefs and assess legal arguments every day. We write opinions and decide cases for a living. We will give tips and insights into what we like and what we don’t. Whether you intend to practice appellate law, seek a judicial clerkship, or open a solo practice, we’ve got plenty of useful advice.

In the first episode, we discuss state constitutions. I know back when I was in law school, there was not a class on our state constitution. Thankfully, that has changed. My fellow justices and I discuss whether attorneys make enough state constitutional arguments. Many state constitutions have unique quirks that could prove vital to your cases. Or a state supreme court will interpret a constitutional provision more expansively than its federal counterpart if given the opportunity. A good lawyer should master these state constitutional issues, and we can give good examples in which that’s been done.

In the second episode, we discuss our career paths. Law students will benefit from hearing that each of us have made choices in life because of families, finances, and geography. These choices impacted our careers. We can show you that the legal profession provides diverse career options. There is no cookie-cutter approach for success and fulfilment. Sometimes as a law student, you begin to feel the legal world is too vast. Listening to us will make it more intimate. And we hope our stories can provide guidance and inspiration for your career aspirations.

We also just released a mini-episode where we pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg blazed a trail for women lawyers. As both an attorney and a judge, she showed that women deserve equal treatment under the law and can do anything a man can do (if not better!). We also discuss the unique relationship between her and Justice Antonin Scalia, another American treasure.

As women judges, we hope to shine a light on a path for leadership in the judiciary. One of us serves as a chief justice, one served as chief justice in past, and one of us serves on a majority-women court. Our podcast is not meant to focus on women issues or be tailored to women. But as women justices our voice is unique.

We plan to release many more podcasts in the coming months. Two of us have spent many years teaching law students. We plan to incorporate law students into future episodes, so we encourage you to send us your ideas, questions, and opinions at podcasts@arcourts.gov, on twitter at @ladyjusticepodc, or at our individual accounts. All of us are committed to furthering judicial education and find value in using social media to break barriers. Please follow us on twitter for updates.

The podcast is available on iTunesSpotifyStitcherPodbean, and in other podcasting apps. It can also be found at: www.ladyjusticepod.com

Rhonda K. Wood Justice Wood has served on the Arkansas Supreme Court since 2015. She spent six years on the trial court and two on the court of appeals. She is Certified Faculty, National Center for State Courts, and serves on the ABA Appellate Judge Education Institute Education Committee.