Your Voice

Why I Created a Legal Podcast: To learn, connect and grow

  • Print.

Stacy Bratcher

Stacy Bratcher. (Photo by Lucia Kiel)

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have a law school class on networking, business development or client service. Even during my time as a law firm associate, training on these professional skills was informal (at best) but mostly observational as I listened on speakerphone or sat quietly at a client lunch while the partner carried the conversations. There was no structured training in these essential business skills.

But we all know that having a professional network is essential to doing almost any job (especially when you are a general counsel). It is impossible for any one lawyer to know all areas of the law that might come across your desk.

At best, in-house lawyers are astute issue spotters. I tell clients that my expertise is “an inch deep and a mile wide.” I do not have the luxury of being expert in many areas. Surely, I have subject matter expertise in a few, but for the most part, my job as a chief legal officer is air traffic control: seeing the plane and routing it to the correct runway—to someone I know will know the answer.

After years of struggling to overcome the need to know everything, I finally relax when I say: “I’m not sure, but let me look into it and get back to you.”

So how does a busy general counsel know where to route the incoming planes? Basically, you have to know people. The “N-word”—networking—which often makes people recoil, is table stakes for any in-house role.

Networking conjures thoughts of being in a crowded cocktail party, awkwardly scanning the room for anyone we might have a remote connection with, business cards burning a hole in our pockets. But having a network or connections, as I prefer to think of it, is essential to your job as air traffic control. You have to know who to call. So how do you build a network outside those uncomfortable cocktail parties?

I used to have a playbook for that. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a personal rule that became an expectation for my legal team: three networking contacts each week. Not three awkward cocktail parties; rather, three touch points with clients, colleagues or others—a phone call, a coffee date or a conference. And if you attended an event, I expected folks to return with at least three business cards of people they met.

Then in 2020, I moved my family from Los Angeles, where I had spent my entire legal career, to Santa Barbara, California, where my husband and I had long yearned to land after many years wine tasting in the lovely Santa Ynez Valley.

Painfully beautiful, relaxed and yet cosmopolitan, it attracts international visitors, celebrities and even royalty. But we moved during the pandemic, and I struggled to find other professionals outside my company. Everyone wears flip-flops here—how do you spot the lawyers?

What does one do when there are no conferences, and restaurants are shut down and no one wants to meet in person for fear of catching a deadly virus? Like more than 80 million people worldwide, I listen to podcasts. They are a window into many worlds or learning and connection. After recording a podcast interview for the Portia Project with M.C. Sungaila, I was struck at how we had formed a deep connection after only a brief conversation.

This feeling stuck with me for months, and I reached out to her to ask how she had gotten started. This led to several months of research, interviewing production companies, listening to podcasts about creating a podcast, reading articles and reviews of podcast equipment, and plenty of soul searching.

In my interviews with producers, they all asked me the same question: “Why do you want to start a podcast?” This question struck me as odd—why did they care why I wanted to start a podcast? Didn’t they just want to sell me production services? Why did they care about my “why”? Well, it turns out that the “why” matters. If you’re trying to sell something, promote yourself or align with a brand, a company or anything else, the podcast should be designed intentionally.

After many months of research and reflection, I honed my “why” to three words: learn, connect and grow. First, I wanted to learn from others—about technical legal issues but also about legal operations and professional development. How could I become the best general counsel I can be?

Second, I was hungry for connection (see above). After three years of social distance, I wanted desperately to restart my “rule of three” networking approach.

Finally, I wanted growth. I’ve learned that I am someone who craves progress. By connecting with others and learning from their experience, I was sure that I would continue to grow personally and professionally. And I wanted to share this with others.

As I round the bend on the first season of The Legal Department podcast and reflect on the 20 episodes that we’ve produced, I am grateful that I was pushed to find the “why.” That’s how I know what I want the audience to get out of each show.

The Legal Department podcast is a show for lawyers who want to learn, connect and grow their career. It features conversations with legal executives, professional development experts and other thought leaders who share real world advice to help in-house lawyers level up. I hope you’ll check it out.

Stacy Bratcher is senior vice president and chief legal officer of a health system in California. She spent most of her career as an in-house attorney and thinks that having a professional network is key to success in-house. She is the host and creator of The Legal Department podcast, which is available on Apple, Spotify or almost anywhere you find podcasts. For more information, go to is accepting queries for original, thoughtful, nonpromotional articles and commentary by unpaid contributors to run in the Your Voice section. Details and submission guidelines are posted at “Your Submissions, Your Voice.”

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.