8 Useful TED Talks for Young Lawyers

8 Useful TED Talks for Young Lawyers

You’ve probably seen or at least heard of TED Talks, the viral educational videos featuring speeches by authors, experts, and researchers. But have you considered how they can help you in your career?

For those that may not know the history -- TED was founded in 1984 as a conference focused on the convergence of technology, entertainment, and design. The organization still holds its annual conference, but the topics have expanded to include almost everything you can think of. TED began recording talks and posting them online in 2006, which quickly skyrocketed the organization’s popularity. Thousands of TED Talks are now available to watch for free on and YouTube, and many of them have millions of views. 

In addition to the original conference, TED hosts special conferences like TEDMED, which deals with health and medicine, and TEDWomen, which focuses on gender issues. TED also allows anyone to organize their own independent conference, called TEDx. More than 30,000 TEDx conferences have been held around the world, often hosted by universities and community leaders. Like the original conference, talks are recorded and posted online for anyone to watch, with more than 100,000 videos from 133 countries available in the TEDx video library.

With so much completely free information available, TED is an excellent resource to expand your knowledge and, therefore, expand your career horizons. TED has over 70 videos related to law, and TEDx has even more. They range in topic from patent law to criminal justice reform, but all of them offer useful information that will encourage you to think differently—and being confronted with new ideas naturally makes you more creative and thoughtful in your own practice.  

You don’t have to stick to legal topics, either. Watch any videos that spark your interest, and you’ll always have something interesting to say when talking to partners or potential clients. Develop a deeper knowledge of your clients’ industries by watching related TED Talks, which not only allows you to provide better service to them but also separates you from your peers. Having insightful industry knowledge, beyond just the latest legal rulings, will prove to clients and partners that you’re more than a legal drone. 

The great thing about TED Talks is that each video focuses on one big idea. Although speakers have a lot of research to back up their talks, that information is distilled into a message that’s easy to understand and remember. It’s an entertaining way to learn, especially about topics you have little background in. And at 18 minutes or less, TED Talk videos won’t take up too much of your time. 

With so many videos, however, it can be difficult to know where to start. So, here are 8 TED Talks to start with, all of which are useful for young lawyers. 

The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

As a lawyer, clients depend on you to find creative solutions to their problems. But where do those original ideas come from? Organizational psychologist Adam Grant explains how the world’s best thinkers come up with their ideas in this TED Talk. Use the habits covered in this video to improve your own creative process and problem-solving techniques.

How Juries Are Fooled By Statistics

This is a must-watch for any criminal defense lawyer, or trial lawyers in general. Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly explains how people make mistakes when interpreting statistics, and how those human errors can have a devastating impact on criminal trials. Gain more insight into how juries think with this talk.  

Why Eyewitnesses Get It Wrong 

Another excellent TED Talk for criminal defense lawyers, this video explains why eyewitnesses often create false memories. Forensic psychologist Scott Fraser shares the story of a 17-year-old boy wrongfully convicted of murder based on faulty eyewitness testimony, and he explains how we can create better procedures to prevent wrongful convictions from happening.

Persuasion: Influencing the Rational Decision Maker

Siemon Scamell-Katz, the founder of international shopper strategy consultancy TNS Magasin, has spent almost two decades studying shoppers in their natural habitats. In this video, he shares his insights on how consumers navigate and make purchase decisions. Although this talk is based on the persuasion of shoppers, it delves into the broader implications of persuasion and explains how all people can be persuaded—a vital skill for any lawyer. 

The Importance of Space Lawyers

Professor of Space Law (yes, that’s a real specialty) Frans von der Dunk explains the legal implications of space travel in this funny and insightful TED Talk. Even if you’re not one of the few lawyers specializing in space law, this talk will open your mind to the areas of law that will become the norm in the future. 

What Moral Decisions Should Driverless Cars Make?

The classic ethical dilemma has become a reality with driverless cars, which must choose whether to save passengers or pedestrians in the event of a collision. This talk, presented by computational social scientist Iyad Rahwan, offers insight into the ways people make moral decisions and the ethical trade-offs we’re willing to make. This is an interesting talk to help you hone your skills in confronting ethical dilemmas. 

The Surprising Connection Between Brain Injuries and Crime 

Neuropsychologist Kim Gorgens researches the connection between traumatic brain injuries and crime, and she shares her shocking findings in this TED Talk. Upwards of 50% of people in the criminal justice system have a history of brain trauma, which decreases cognitive abilities and contributes to criminal behavior. Her talk may completely change the way you view the criminal justice system, as well as the strategies you use to represent your clients. 

The World’s First AI Legal Assistant

Technology is changing the legal industry, and as a young lawyer, you must be prepared for the future. In this video, lawyer Andrew Arruda explains the history and possibilities of ROSS, the world’s first artificially intelligent legal assistant, which can “read” millions of legal documents and understand research questions. Not only will ROSS make the practice of law cheaper, but it will increase access to justice for all. 

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GenLex Staff
GenLex is an online magazine geared towards encouraging and inspiring the next generation of world-class attorneys. This publication aims to supply young lawyers with early career guidance, insight into the profession, early publishing experience, and an opportunity to network. The GenLex staff is comprised of new and seasoned lawyers as well as others in the legal field.