Faculty of Law, but on TikTok

This story was originally published in The creators — a newsletter on the people who fuel the economy of creators. Receive it in your inbox.

For the uninitiated, the law can be confusing.

Through their shared TikTok account @the.law.says.what, Maclen and Ashleigh Stanley are working to demystify it, explaining case law and court cases to an audience of 914,200 subscribers. They created the account in August 2021 to promote Maclen’s book, What does the law say? Things You Didn’t Know About the Law (But You Really Should)!).

By breaking down important laws in a concise and entertaining way, the Stanleys hope to give more agency to viewers who want to understand their rights. They also post on YouTube and have a podcast on Patreon.

The pair met when Maclen was late for Harvard Law School orientation and took the last seat in the auditorium next to Ashleigh. Ashleigh, 29, now works in entertainment corporate law at a large firm while Maclen, 31, set up her own firm two years ago, representing victims of sexual assault, gender discrimination sex and sexual harassment. The couple now divide their time between Nashville, Tennessee and Los Angeles.

They spoke to Rachyl Jones of The Observer this week.

Can you tell me how you started on TikTok?

Ashley: Thanks to a lot of persuasion. Last summer Maclen wrote a book and we found that during the publishing process no one promotes your book as much as you would like. He came to me one day and said, “Let’s create a TikTok to promote the book. And that was an absolute “no” for me.

I didn’t want to be the grumpy millennial doing the fashionable dances. He promised it would be about the book. These would be legal issues. And it was always a “no” for me, because I thought nobody would care. Lawyers are notoriously dry, and the law is not inherently interesting to most people. The purpose of his book was to break down the laws that everyone should know in everyday language. And so once we started talking about doing a TikTok in that vein, I decided to give it a try. I didn’t think it would go anywhere.

And Maclen, why did you need Ashleigh’s help with this?

Maclen: I mean, how many Harvard law degree spouses do you know? It’s memorable. I also thought it would be fun to do it with my wife.

Ashley: We work well together. We both have different strengths. He is very creative. I’m good at editing and more detail oriented.

Why do you think people want to know more about the law, especially the nearly 1 million people on TikTok?

Ashley: I think people don’t know they care about the law until you explain something to them that they didn’t know they didn’t know—if that makes sense. And I think we’re giving interpretive tools to things that people are already interested in.

Maclen: Right. You can articulate interesting aspects of the law in the right way, it’s engaging and sometimes humorous. I mean, there’s a lot of laws in the books like annulment by the jury that many people do not know, but they are very interesting. It’s just in a boring package.

Ashley: It seems so boring. Cancellation by the jury.

Maclen: Yes it does. But there are all these flaws that are very interesting. Ultimately, the legal system is that rule book that humans have created to control themselves. It’s quite an interesting thing to learn if you do it the right way.

Maclen, do you think your popularity on TikTok has helped you find customers?

Maclen: No, actually. And I really didn’t want to advertise my business on TikTok. To be honest, I advertise my book, but those are two different worlds for me.

Can you tell me more about how you used the Internet to promote your book?

Maclen: The internet has probably been my biggest promoter. It’s been mostly TikTok. We had a very successful video with a few million views. And I pinned a comment at the top mentioning that my book is out and it has more information. My editor came back and said, “What happened? You just got so many new sales. A few hundred people bought the book based on that review alone.

Do you have any idea who your viewers are?

Maclen: It runs the gamut in terms of age. And most of our viewers don’t know the law. I think it’s because we target topics that will appear on the “For You” page simply because the topic itself is interesting. A good example is the Amber Heard trial. We added a few hundred thousand subscribers to our account because we made some videos about it.

Where do you see this brand in the future?

Ashley: Big open question. None of us thought it would be this big.

maclen: We’ve had people approach us about having some sort of spin-off educational TV show and a more high-profile podcast.

Ashley: Yeah. We just want it to be the right thing because on a personal note, our biggest problem in life right now – which is such a big problem in the world – is that at the end of every day we all say to ourselves both: “Where did the day go?

So what keeps you going with your TikTok?

Maclen: I was a teacher a bit before law school, and I really enjoy educating.

Ashley: People tell us that we inspired them to go to law school, that they are grateful for what we do.

Do you have any advice for other creators?

Maclen: Keep doing it. It took a few months of continuous posting, building a brand, and getting people to recognize our brand. And then it worked. So you never know, I would just say to whoever is out there keep trying. Because it can work.

This interview was originally published in The Creators, a newsletter about the people who power the creator economy. Get it in your inbox before it goes live.

Jon J. Epps