Student-run podcast The Podvocate brings legal issues to life
An infectious disease virologist. A history of spooky legal cases. The in-house counsel at Tesla. The subject matter of The Podvocate, the weekly podcast run by School of Law students, ranges far and wide.
Since its 2019 birth, The Podvocate has released more than 50 episodes and attracted national-profile guests. (A recent episode featured Senator Cory Booker’s lead counsel.) Each episode brings in about 150 listeners, according to Editor-in- Chief Matt Doran, and the target audience has evolved from Loyola students to any young person interested in law. For Doran, a large part of the podcast’s power comes from the immediacy of recording and sharing conversations that allow for follow-up questions, detours, humor, and heart. “The student body appreciates the fact that we are exploring sometimes difficult situations with nuance and thoughtfulness,” Doran says.
The Podvocate began under the name Dialogue, De Novo, a capstone project run by Loyola students Richard Labovitz and Jake Rheaume. Law student Radhika Sutherland met the pair when she was invited to be a podcast guest. When they graduated, they asked if she would join the new executive board.
As Podvocate senior editor, Sutherland was excited to pursue interviews with more diverse voices—including differing opinions. “No one wants to sit around and listen to people who have the same perspective,” she says. “By getting people together who have different opinions, you’re going to get a much more dynamic conversation.”
From the start, The Podvocate built on collaboration. At the beginning of each semester, the six-student executive board meets to pitch episodes, workshop ideas, and share resources, including story contacts.
Sutherland says that law school students traditionally strive to publish in law school journals like Loyola’s Law Journal, and The Podvocate offers a new media alternative. Says Doran: “Having it all there, live and recorded, is an honest format in a world where people are really craving granular authenticity.”
That emotional connection is on full display in Season 2, Episode 5, when Sutherland interviewed immigration attorney Nora Phillips. In 2019, Phillips— an American citizen—was detained with her 7-year-old daughter while traveling home from Guadalajara, Mexico. In the episode, Phillips becomes choked up while remembering her strenuous nine-hour detention and interrogation. “I want people to know what happened, because this is not okay,” she told the podcast.
“It was the most riveting, emotional, intense episode of The Podvocate I’ve ever done,” Sutherland says.
The Podvocate continues to grow. The podcast recently partnered with Loyola student radio station WLUW-FM for help with editing and production. Its website, ThePodvocate.com, now includes related written content and research articles.
Sutherland, who graduated in May 2021, is excited to see The Podvocate expand its scope and reputation. “Legal journals are storied,” she says. “Everyone wants to be on the journal at a law school. Our goal was to make The Podvocate into the media version of a law journal.” –Megan Kirby