Attorneys Amber Fulmer, Dayne Phillips and Joseph Bias, all of Columbia, have been friends since attending the University of South Carolina School of Law together. While their lives diverged after school, the gang recently began getting back together, not just to catch up on old times, but to create a podcast where they interview South Carolina attorney celebrities big and small.
The podcast is called Direct Examination in reference to the interview format of the show, which comes out weekly and features in-depth talks with well-known attorneys and politicians from the state, while also managing to keep it light.
In its three months of existence, the side project of the three practicing attorneys has spoken to the likes of defense attorney and state senatorial candidate Dick Harpootlian, South Carolina Bar Executive Director David Ross, Supreme Court Justice John Few, Netflix celebrity (of “The Staircase” fame) David Rudolf, and former medical malpractice defense attorney turned hip-hop star Eric Poston, better known by his stage name Ducati James.
Phillips said the idea for the podcast came from his own interest in another law podcast, based out of Missouri.
“One of the things that had inspired me in the recent past was listening to a podcast called Maximum Lawyer, which is made by two lawyers out of St. Louis,” he said. “I enjoyed that so much and looked at the fact that we didn’t have one already in South Carolina.”
The group said that considering the amount of flak the profession gets from mainstream media and the general public, they thought they’d do something to show the lighter and brighter side of what it’s like being an attorney.
“Many people’s first impression is something they see on TV or when they’re sitting in a lawyer’s office,” Fulmer said. “This [podcast] shows we’re relatable, that we’re people too … It makes listeners more comfortable and shows that we’re not as intimidating as they think we are.”
Phillips said it’s nice to get the chance to showcase the positive things that attorneys are doing to make South Carolina a better place.
From there, Phillips reached out to his law school buddies, Fulmer and Bias, “two of the funniest lawyers” he knows, in an effort to keep the show fun and entertaining. The crew said things weren’t easy at first, as they collectively had little experience with podcasts or, despite Fulmer’s undergraduate degree in public relations, in broadcast media. They reached out to another friend of Bias, experienced radio and podcast producer Brindy McNair, to help improve the sound quality and editing of the show.
“Basically, we realized we were woefully inadequate,” Bias said. “The person who puts in all the hours is Brindy.”
While the show has had many highlights in its short run, all three friends jumped at the zaniness of one of their latest episodes, James, the lawyer-turned-rapper. James, who attended Duke University and the University of Virginia School of Law, told them he has stepped away from practicing for the time being to concentrate on his hip-hop career.
While the show is comedic, it is simultaneously introspective and thoughtful with their subjects.
“If you watch the YouTube videos first you’ll have a picture of who you think [Ducati James] is, but those are two different people,” Phillips said. “He’s the epitome of why you shouldn’t make assumptions or stereotype people.
They said interviewing Justice Few was another highlight.
“We were elated to talk to him,” Bias said. “He got a chance to talk about his new website [scprobono.org, a new initiative launched by the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission], and we got a chance to joke around with a Supreme Court justice.”
Fulmer recounted that Few once served as the Duke Blue Devils mascot, and as part of that once jumped out of a helicopter.
“I thought about this, to go back to my boy Ducati, we had two Duke grads in a row whose careers took very different directions,” Bias said.
When asked how they find their subjects, the crew said it’s a combination of availability and fairness.
“We always will reach out to a political opponent if we’ve interviewed one side,” Bias said. “We’re into interviewing basically anybody who’s interesting to talk to, has a good story, or who can provide some type of information.”
Phillips chimed in that it doesn’t have to be specifically about the law, but at least related, hence the interviews with Poston and Rudolf.
While the crew said their audience is growing with each successive episode, for them it’s all about having fun.
“Basically, we’re just here to goof off,” Bias said.
While they aren’t sure when season one will end, they said they plan to go out with a bang, hosting the last episode of the first of hopefully many seasons in a bar.
“We want to sit in a bar with lawyers and see what happens,” Bias said. “Anybody is welcome, and we’ll just do a question and answer format.”
Otherwise, the crew said they hope to continue the podcast well beyond just one season and hope to have a presence at bar conferences to potentially broadcast updates on the various CLEs.
In the meantime, they intend to balance the rigors of working in the law (Phillips is a defense attorney, Bias is an insurance defense attorney, and Fulmer is a family lawyer) with having fun with their friends, while making new ones.
Interested readers can check out the podcast on one of the many podcasting networks, including iTunes and stitcher.com. Immediately prior to this publication, the crew did an episode devoted to answering listener questions, but they also highly recommended the episodes interviewing Ducati James and David Ross.
New episodes come out each Friday.
Follow Matthew Chaney on Twitter @SCLWChaney