Starting a podcast – along with baking banana bread and learning how to crochet – was a peak lockdown fad. Predictably, mid-pandemic, we joined the masses with no social life, far too much time on their hands, and an inflated sense of how much other people care about what they think. Yes, we started a podcast.

We have no doubt that when we started posting about our new family law podcast, Professionally Embarrassing, there were a fair few eye-rolls and muttered sighs of ‘not another one’. The title of our podcast is really a reflection of how deeply embarrassing we found the whole thing at first. But, embarrassment parked to one side, we soldiered on, driven by our nerdy enthusiasm for family law.

We wanted this podcast to be different (whether we’ve achieved that is a conversation for another day): chatty, fun, engaging – like having a glass of wine with friends on a Friday evening after court. We didn’t want to create a podcast that would be a vanity project with very few actual listeners. We wanted to create something that lawyers, aspiring lawyers and non-lawyers would listen to and think: hey, this is pretty interesting stuff.

Because family law is interesting stuff. The work we do is socially important, politically controversial, ripe for interesting analysis and – let’s face it – the facts of so many family law cases are pretty juicy. In that sense, our job is easy because the content is out there for us to gather and explore. For instance, in episode one, we analysed the headline-grabbing decision in West Sussex County Council v A&B [2020] EWFC B62 where two severely overweight children were removed into long-term foster care. There was so much to unpick: What is it about this judgment that makes us uncomfortable? Has the state overreached its powers? Are these children going to achieve better outcomes in foster care, knowing what we do about the care system? We don’t shy away from the messy cases which have divided opinion. Often, our own views on the cases aren’t settled. But we want to engage people in tricky discussions, and to help them think their way around the questions these cases throw up.

We also refuse to present a sanitised view of the profession to the outside world. The Bar, and the legal profession more broadly, are far from perfect. There are deep-rooted, structural issues around racism, ableism and sexism, to name but a few. As a profession, we are quick to self-congratulate, and not too quick to self-reflect. It was important to us to use this platform to talk about issues that are close to our hearts. In episode two, we talk about a culture of fear in the profession around making mistakes (reflecting on the cases of Claire Matthews and Victoria Whelan); the completely inadequate response to sexual harassment at the Bar, and the calamitous state of legal aid, particularly for criminal lawyers. We feel that it’s important, knowing that aspiring lawyers and members of the public will be listening to us, that we tell the truth. That truth isn’t always pretty.

There’s another gap our podcast seems to be plugging that we didn’t anticipate when we first started this project. The Bar was changing well before the pandemic. The culture of working in chambers was fading away as technology evolved. A job that is already isolating was becoming more so. With the onset of the pandemic, the informal communities we built around ourselves disappeared overnight. One listener and colleague reported back to us recently after listening to the podcast: ‘It makes me feel like I was in chambers having a conversation with colleagues and learning something new, which fills in a gap in the modern Bar where everyone is hot desking and seeing each other less.’

Embarrassing though we might be, it’s wonderful to think that our heated rants and general ramblings can contribute even in some small way to others in the profession feeling a little less alone in these difficult times. 

Professionally Embarrassing is released fortnightly and is available on a number of platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podbean, and Acast. You can follow Maddie and Malvika on Twitter @Maddie__Whelan2 and @MalvikaJaganmo1