‘#SistersinLaw’ podcast breaks down legal issues

Having trouble understanding state bills or grand juries? Try this new podcast, headed up in part by UA professor Joyce Vance.

Jeffrey Kelly | @jeffkellyjr, Assistant Culture Editor

While the battle for justice and change rages on throughout the United States, many have found themselves searching for ways to broaden their understanding of current legal issues.  

To help people learn more about pressing legal issues, four MSNBC correspondents and friends. created a podcast called “#SistersInLaw.” Joyce Vance is a former US attorney and current UA law professor, Jill Wine-Banks is the first female attorney in the US Department of Justice’s organized crime section, Barb McQuade is a former US attorney and current University of Michigan law professor and Kimberly Atkins is a former lawyer and a senior opinion writer for the Boston Globe.

With this podcast, the four women have been able to have in-depth discussions about legal issues and procedures in the hopes of helping their listeners become more informed about how the legal system works. 

Vance said it was gratifying that people were interested in understanding and staying engaged with the legal system because it is up to the people to “make sure that [the legal system] works for everybody it’s supposed to.” 

As they’ve worked to create their podcast, they’ve found that the best way to encourage learning is by being as detailed as possible. 

“One of the most important things that we’ve found we can do is explain parts of the legal system that we take for granted,” Vance said. “We did a session on grand juries, and [while] we’re very familiar with it, we had come to realize that people had a lot of questions. So, we took advantage of the time to go through that in detail for folks.”   

The “#SistersInLaw” podcast has covered many topics, including voter suppression, analyzing the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act’s future and more. 

Recently, Vance said they’d discussed Judge Merrick Garland appointment as attorney general and the anti-transgender legislation sweeping state legislatures. 

One state bill, which would make it a felony for transgender youth to receive puberty-blockers, hormone therapy or surgery, was approved by Alabama’s senate and headed to the House of Representative for approval. 

Vance said it’s important that people are aware that this is happening in Alabama.

 “We should all be alert and aware of what’s going on around us,” Vance said. “We need to let our legislators know how we feel about what they’re doing, and we can only do that frankly if we’re aware.” 

 And while helping to create that awareness, “#SistersinLaw” has made a total of eight episodes. 

“[My favorite is] always the last one that we’ve done because it’s like getting together with your friends and having a glass of wine on a Friday afternoon and talking about the most interesting things that are going on,” Vance said. “That’s what it really is, it’s a group of women having a conversation and letting their expanded family and friends listen in.” 

Their “expanded family and friends” can also get in on the conversation by submitting questions to their email, [email protected], or through #sistersinlaw on Twitter. 

Vance said this allows them to have a conversation amongst themselves and with others about issues they all care about. 

She said she remembered one specific question from a new female lawyer who was anxious about her role and asked for advice on navigating it. 

“It’s such an important question because so many women suffer from imposter syndrome no matter how well qualified, they are,” Vance said. “So, it was an opportunity for us to acknowledge that and to remind her that she wasn’t alone and that she should just dig right in and get to work.”

She said she encourages everyone to join these conversations because diverse young voices are the most important to have “in the marketplace of ideas.”  

“We want to give people information,” Vance said. “What they do with that is up to them, and I think that’s an important part of being an American—being able to have access to information in a marketplace of ideas and then getting to make up your own mind.”