Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who does this thing?

My name is Nathaniel Burney, and I do all the drawing and wording. Please call me Nathan. Do not call me Nat or Nate — it confuses me and I get this worried look.

2. Are you really a lawyer?

Yes. I went to Georgetown Law, where I was an editor of the American Criminal Law Review. I started out defending juveniles in D.C., then was a prosecutor with the Manhattan D.A.’s office for about 9.5 years, first in the Special Narcotics office and then in the Rackets bureau. I’ve been doing mostly criminal defense since then, both white-collar and street crime, federal and state.

3. Really? So why are you doing a webcomic?

I didn’t mean to. It just kinda happened.

See, I had this law blog on my website. Fairly wordy, written for fellow lawyers. And I’d had this recurring kind of post where I tried to debunk some of the amazingly idiotic myths that persist about the law. Then I realized that the people who actually believe these myths aren’t likely to read a densely-worded law blog. So I started a little Tumblr on the side, with some hasty doodles to get the ideas across more easily. I didn’t think anybody would read it. Within two months I had a book deal, and ever since I’ve been frantically trying to figure out how to draw better. Advice is gratefully accepted (and many thanks to the established webcomic artists who’ve given me some pretty good tips!)

Anyway, I haven’t quit my day job. And I spend as much time as I can playing with the wife and kids. So I basically work on this during the time I used to spend watching TV and playing video games AND I MISS IT SO MUCH!

4. Who is this meant for?

The comic is written with a high-school student in mind. But it’s meant for anyone who wants to know more about American law and how it really works.

5. Where are all the case names and citations?

I’m not trying to get you through law school. I’m trying to get the basic points across. Case names and citations don’t help, they only get in the way.

I made a conscious choice at the beginning not to use them. They add nothing to the discussion, can confuse matters (especially since even well-known names likeĀ Miranda v. Arizona tell you nothing about a case’s subject matter), and for the most part nobody cares what the name of the case was that added the fourth element to the test we now use.

But also, it frees me up from the tyranny of the casebook. Law school teaches concepts bit by bit, assembling rules from decisions of many cases. Always the same cases. But by ignoring case names, I get to come up with my own scenarios that let me present the rules all at once, in a manner that’s hopefully more easy to understand.

6. So what else are you leaving out?

Not much, I hope. If I do this right, you’ll learn all the important concepts that would be covered in a first-year law school class — the “what” — as well as the policies behind them — the “why.”

7. What other webcomics do you read?

Questionable Content is my morning-coffee soap opera. Lackadaisy and Dresden Codak are the ones that never seem to update but are so worth it when they do. Romantically Apocalyptic. String Theory. SMBC. XKCD. Left-Handed Toons. Invisible Bread. Scandinavia and the World. Two Guys and Guy. Cyanide & Happiness. Pie Comic. Toonhole. Balderduck. Poorly Drawn Lines. Basic Instructions. Extra Ordinary. Boulet.

8. Beverage of choice?

Scotch. Neat.

9. Do you moderate the comments?

Almost never. Once in a blue moon I’ll have to step in when someone’s trying to use my site as a forum to spread misinformation. I won’t tolerate that. But that’s rare.

So far, I’ve been pretty lucky. Most of the comments are civil and thoroughly interesting — my favorites are the ones that catch me out in a mistake, or present a different way of looking at things.

10. Can I contact you?

Sure. Email me at nburney@burneylawfirm.com.

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