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Celebrating 100 episodes of Tiny Chats

Celebrating 100 episodes of Tiny Chats

August 24, 2022 -- What do sea captains, children’s books, music, and pop culture have to do with state courts? Most people would say nothing at all. But to Tiny Chats creators Danielle Hirsch and Zach Zarnow, the parallels are more obvious.

“The goal of Tiny Chats is to share useful resources and highlight inspiring programs to judges, court staff, and justice system partners in a package that is creative, brief, and easy to watch,” Hirsch said.

The duo’s knack for creative (and fun) learning has now generated 100 episodes of bite-sized annotated videos about access to justice and court operations.

“A successful Tiny Chat leads to some kind of positive change in the courts. That can be something small, like one individual clerk changing their behavior or trying out a new practice, to something big, like a state supreme court or administrative office issuing new guidance to all the courts in that state,” Zarnow said. “All the jokes are in service of this practical goal of helping courts change for the better.”

Those familiar with Tiny Chats know that Hirsch and Zarnow are all about the jokes. But they also work hard to keep things short, light, and informational. Since the series started, Tiny Chats has upped its costume game and video production. And they look forward to more costumes, more exciting guests, and more creativity in episodes to come.

Reflecting on 100 episodes of Tiny Chats, we asked Hirsch and Zarnow to share some additional thoughts about their work.

Q: Is there one episode that you’re especially proud of that made a complex idea/process more accessible for the public?

DH: I am super proud of our Get in the Circle Tiny Chat, where we made a short public service announcement/explainer video on service of process. It is scrappy (we made it in PowerPoint), and it makes service of process as a concept easy to explain and we’ve since had it subtitled in many commonly spoken languages. We have shared this video far and wide, and it now appears on several state court and legal aid websites.

ZZ: Our Legal Information v. Legal Advice episode is one we call "evergreen" because this is a topic that will always be of interest and which has a bit of nuance to it that we break down using the game Uno and some of my wife's jewelry. I'm proud that several courts have used that episode in their internal training materials or shown it at conferences, and I know of legal aid offices that have put it on their websites. Some professors are even incorporating it into their syllabi.

Q: How do you balance the nontraditional approach of Tiny Chats with the serious nature of the work of the courts?

DH: There have been several Tiny Chats where the subject is obviously serious, and we don’t add any jokes, costumes, or riffs. For example, we have a series of first-person interviews where we simply ask a court user to share their experiences with a court (the good, the bad, and the unflattering) as a teaching moment for us all.

ZZ: We have some rules—we never make fun of the guest, we never make fun of the work, and if we have a theme or wrapper we run it by people first and don't require them to participate in that part. What that usually means is the jokes are at our own expense or we are the ones looking silly, but that is fine—whatever it takes to help break through all the other things competing for peoples' attention.

Curious about some of the creators’ favorite episodes? Check out Goodnight Status QuoSea Captains and KiosksMaking Friends, Judges Edition and File for Free.

Nominations open for 2022 Warren E. Burger Award

NCSC is currently accepting nominations for the 2022 Warren E. Burger Award for Excellence in Court Administration. This prestigious award honors nonjudicial court leaders whose service has significantly contributed to improving the administration of the state courts. Recipients demonstrate professional expertise, leadership, integrity, creativity, innovativeness and sound judgment. Nominations are due Friday, Sept. 30.

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