If you like courtroom dramas, legal controversies, and the strange-but-true stories behind big Supreme Court cases, this list of best legal podcasts is for you.
Note: We’re not including true crime in our definition of legal podcasts—although some of the below podcasts do dive into the occasional murder case. True crime podcasts are a separate, frighteningly successful market. (The #1 podcast on Apple Charts right now is something called Murder & Magnolias from Dateline.) The legal podcasts in this list, however, are for people who like high-stakes legal stories with less blood and more Constitution.
Here are seven of the best legal podcasts for non-lawyers (in no particular order):
More Perfect has been off the air for four years—but over the summer, new host Julia Longoria announced that this beloved podcast from Radiolab is finally coming back in 2023. Before new episodes air, you can catch up on archived episodes hosted by Radiolab founder Jad Abumrad, an expert storyteller who has since left podcasting for Vanderbilt University. More Perfect reconstructs fascinating legal stories like the heist of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter’s papers from the Library of Congress, the case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, and how the Commerce Clause allowed the government to punish a man for growing too much wheat on his farm.
Remember Car Talk? The NPR show where two lively brothers answered car repair questions in Boston accents? Well, this is the lawyer version. Produced by the Hoover Institution, Law Talk brings together Richard Epstein (NYU Law) and John Yoo (Berkeley Law)—“the Doc Brown and Marty McFly of the conservative legal movement,” as fellow host Troy Senik says in one intro. Epstein and Yoo are brilliant, funny, and opinionated: They’ll openly disagree with each other and poke fun while discussing legal news, at times making you feel like you’re eavesdropping on an honest, free-flowing conversation between (very smart) old friends. Episodes dive into thorny issues like the vaccine mandate, student loan forgiveness, polygamy laws, and how the professors’ joint trip to Italy went. “John Yoo is a trip!” one reviewer says on Apple. Another calls the show “an intellectual banquet.”
This “weekly conversation about the law, culture, and why it matters” tackles current Supreme Court cases (like this two–parter on Harvard and UNC affirmative action oral arguments), as well as oddball stories (like a chess grandmaster filing a $100 million lawsuit over cheating allegations). Episodes with special guests sometimes depart from legal themes: for example, this August 18 conversation with historian Bret Deveraux about military tactics in The Lord of the Rings battles. Other episodes tackle trending news: For example, What exactly happened in the Depp v. Heard trial? Did Twitter force Elon Musk to go through with his Twitter acquisition? French and Isgur are both attorneys (he previously ran FIRE and litigated religious liberty cases for Alliance Defending Freedom; she worked at the Department of Justice) with a laid-back hosting approach.
David Lat probably knows more judiciary gossip and behind-the-scenes legal stories than anyone: He ran the anonymous legal blog Underneath Their Robes before founding Above the Law in 2006, which he ran until recently. Now he writes the Substack newsletter Original Jurisdiction and hosts this accompanying podcast. It’s a new project—the podcast has only four episodes as of this writing—but because Lat is a veteran legal insider, he’s able to kick off with top guests like Alex Spiro, lawyer for Elon Musk and Jay-Z, and Paul Clement, the former solicitor general who has argued over a hundred cases at the Supreme Court.
It’s unclear whether Unprecedented, a podcast about “the accidental guardians of our First Amendment rights,” will have a new season: The show started at NPR’s WAMU before being acquired and re-released by Substack’s Booksmart Studios. Currently the nine original episodes from 2019 are the only ones available—but all nine are worth listening to. Each episode delves into a wild free speech case, like the New Hampshire man who got into legal trouble for covering up “Live Free or Die” on his license plate, or Jerry Falwell’s lawsuit against Hustler magazine, or the teenager who held up a “Bong Hits for Jesus” sign. Unprecedented includes original interviews with key figures from these cases, revealing the human stories—sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching—behind major free speech precedents.
SCOTUStalk is the podcast of SCOTUSblog, which means it’s a reliable, helpful, non-partisan guide to the current Supreme Court term. Hosted by reporter Amy Howe, SCOTUStalk episodes break down major Court news in “plain English,” helping non-lawyers understand how oral arguments went, what decisions mean, and what’s coming up next in the term. If a nominee for the Court is undergoing confirmation hearings—as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson did in March—SCOTUStalk will bring you a summary of key moments. If there’s a decision with major national implications—like the Dobbs decision in June—SCOTUStalk will bring on a law professor to break it down. You’ll also get an occasional episode with lighter fare, like this interview with retiring Supreme Court artist Art Lien.
Do you know about the Supreme Court case from 30 years ago that involved peyote, religious liberty, and a surprising dissent? How about the saga of Tone Dougie, an aspiring rapper who argued his Facebook posts were protected by the First Amendment? Or Carole Ann Bond, a Pennsylvania woman who ended up at the Supreme Court after trying to poison her husband’s mistress? In Dissed, attorneys Anastasia Boden and Elizabeth Slattery mine Supreme Court dockets for difficult cases that split the Court, with some Justices issuing bold dissents. These sometimes-forgotten dissents (and the stories behind them) bring high-level drama that makes for a thoroughly entertaining podcast. Now: We’re admittedly biased when it comes to Dissed because we know the fabulous hosts (Dissed is a Pacific Legal Foundation podcast). But you can trust the reviews: One Apple reviewer calls Dissed “a great mix of insightful, engaging conversation, war stories from experts, and audio from the Court” that “really brings the law to life.” Another says: “Each episode is packed full of information and with a witty punch. I love it!”