How two lawyers used podcasting to spark social change

Doctor, Blum courtesy of Andrej Kopac
“We wanted to try to bring stories forward as part of our legal advocacy”

By Mai Nguyen

On Friday January 18th, 2019

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In 2015, Nadine Blum was looking for a daycare centre for her two-year-old son. She lives in Toronto where daycare spaces are scarce, so she put her name on multiple waiting lists to improve her chances. But she was shocked to learn she’d have to pay a fee ranging from $20 to $150 just to be on some of those waiting lists. Most of the fees were non-refundable and there was no guarantee that her son would get in or even that the daycare would respect the order of the waitlist.

Blum thought this was unfair. So she spoke with her colleague Kelly Doctor — they’re both currently partners at Goldblatt Partners — and, together, they petitioned the Ontario government to ban daycare centres from charging wait-list fees. About a year later, they had won: these fees are now officially against the law.

If you want to know how they pulled it off, you can hear the story on the third episode of Objection!, a podcast mini-series that they launched last year.

Doctor and Blum, photo courtesy of Andrej Kopac

Kelly Doctor and Nadine Blum, who created the podcast Objection!, sit in the offices of Goldblatt Partners

When the two lawyers decided to press the government to change the law, podcasts had entered the mainstream. “We had been toying around with the idea of doing our own podcast,” recalls Blum. So they decided to for it. Ten minutes before they met with then-Liberal MPP Arthur Potts about the wait-list issue, they downloaded a basic recording app on their phones and prayed the quality would turn out alright. Blum and Doctor will be the first to admit they had no clue how to produce a podcast. “We had a lot of learning to do,” says Doctor. “We’re not journalists. And we have full-time jobs.”

To step up their storytelling and sound production skills, they took a one-day podcasting class at Camp Tech, a hands-on tech training hub for adults.

To produce the podcast, they transcribed their audio file and wrote a script for each episode. They also teamed up with Ellie Gordon-Moershel, an audio producer who helped refine those scripts and turn hours of research and conversations into compelling, binge-worthy stories.

When coming up with story ideas, they looked to the legal work of their firm for inspiration. One episode, for instance, focuses on unpaid work. This falls in line with what they do at Goldblatt Partners: fight for the rights of workers and trade unions.

“The issue of unpaid work is something that’s very important to us,” says Doctor. “Rather than talking about a specific case, we took a step back and talked about some of the systemic issues where law reform could be used to actually help people in a tangible way.”

The podcast also tackles investigates systemic problems in the criminal-justice system, such the high cost of inmate phone calls. They chose these issues because they saw an injustice that needed public attention.

“We wanted to try to bring stories forward as part of our legal advocacy,” says Doctor. “Changing the narrative outside of the court is an important part of that legal strategy and this podcast let us tell stories in a really creative way.”


Photography courtesy of Andrej Kopac