In the era of COVID-19, nationwide protest movements, and a contentious political landscape, Todd Harris is finding a way to showcase lawyers and other professionals who work for the common good. 

TendingBar is a video podcast that explores American law and the lawyers who have used their careers to support the underlying values and goals of our legal system. It also features entrepreneurs and executives committed to public service. 

Harris, a Technology Transactions Partner with Womble Bond Dickinson and Adjunct Professor for Georgetown University Law Center, is the creator and host of TendingBar, which has now published six episodes with interviewees that include the top lawyer at ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) during the Obama Administration, Peter Vincent

Each episode is an in-depth interview with a lawyer, executive or academic about their career experience and the ideals that motivate them personally and professionally. While the guests come from a wide range of backgrounds and practice areas, the common thread in their careers is that they are choosing a path to serve others.  

“TendingBar started as an idea to help my students think broadly about their future legal careers,” said Harris. “When the pandemic hit, just as we were preparing our first episodes, it became clear that these conversations might encourage a broader audience, because they remind us that there are good people working to make a positive impact on our communities.  In the stress and turmoil of 2020, we could all benefit from hearing inspiring stories like these.”

In addition to Vincent, guests include Jen DeTrani, General Counsel of NISOS, a stealthily-growing cybersecurity company led by former Intelligence Community analysts now advising household name commercial entities. DeTrani began her professional journey at age 16 as an intern at the Central Intelligence Agency. During her interview, Jen talked about the importance of supporting the community of our coworkers during the COVID era:

“To the extent that you can give someone a push up, then do it,” DeTrani said. “The sense of operating from a place of abundance is where we ought to get. Just because I’m happy doesn’t mean you can’t be happy—in fact, it’s a multiplier effect. It doesn’t have to be formal; it just has to be kind.”

Harris also interviews other lawyers within his firm, most recently Kevin Hall, who led a coalition that successfully overturned South Carolina’s “No Promo Homo” law, which prevented schools from discussing same-sex relations and effectively stigmatized LGBTQ students and teachers, and Mark Schamel, a defense attorney known for representing police officers and federal agents, who recently helped a man wrongfully accused of murder leave prison after 15 years behind bars.

This week’s episode spotlights Womble partner, Ted Claypoole, a leading privacy expert who discusses potential risks to persecuted minorities and other vulnerable communities that may be the unintended result of well-intended contact tracing efforts for purposes of combatting COVID-19.  In particular, Claypoole and Harris discuss the recent example of South Korea, where contact tracing data has been misused to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. 

Harris, who grew up during the Civil Rights Era in Alabama, studied ethics and politics at two German universities, and graduated from Yale Divinity School, in addition to Yale Law, says TendingBar has become a kind of public service in its own right, as a platform to encourage community-mindedness and to promote the interests of diversity. 

“If you watch a few episodes of TendingBar, you might notice that these stories tend to highlight how lawyers and our legal system can protect vulnerable people, promote fundamental fairness, and combat discrimination of all kinds.  Wherever our particular career paths lead us, it is important for lawyers to remember those core ideas that underlie the system we serve.  TendingBar is just a platform to foster public conversation about those values and ideas, and to encourage us all to embrace them.”

TendingBar also features entrepreneurs and executives committed to public service, including Chris and Betsey Mercado, a United States military couple who founded Objective Zero, a peer-to-peer app created to help curb veteran suicide, and Jere Simpson, CEO of Kitewire and a once homeless man turned tech entrepreneur and philanthropist. 

Season 1 of TendingBar will run through mid-October, and Season 2 will be released in Spring 2021.  Video episodes are available at tendingbar.org, and audio-only versions are available on Apple, Spotify and Google Podcasts.  Follow TendingBar on Twitter @tendingbarcast