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February 11, 2013 The Modern Law Library

What if Crim Law was taught by cartoons?

By Lee Rawles

When he started a Tumblr called The Illustrated Guide to Law, Nathaniel Burney’s intention was to teach high-school-aged kids a little more about the law through illustrated comics—for example, that an undercover officer does not have to identify himself or herself if you ask, “Are you a cop?” To his surprise, the greatest response came from law students, who loved his humorous take on explaining the basics of criminal law.

Read Chapter 15: Self Defense (PDF)

It’s not meant to be a replacement to law school, says Burney, but his book The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law is just the first in a planned series to cover all the courses of a 1L. He discusses how the project developed with ABA Journal podcast editor Lee Rawles.

For a look at the next book, The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Procedure, you can watch its development at


Boston Globe: “The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law”

Associate’s Mind: “Review: The Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law”

Listen to the Podcast

In This Podcast:

Lee Rawles
Nathaniel Burney studied law at Georgetown University, where he was an editor of the American Criminal Law Review and a student practitioner defending juveniles in the District of Columbia. In between classes and the library, he worked at the Supreme Court as personal assistant to retired Chief Justice Warren Burger, and jammed in a bar band called The Ambulance Chasers. After law school, he moved to New York City to be a prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. After several years in Special Narcotics, he moved on to the famed Rackets Bureau, where he investigated political corruption and cleaned up a mafia-controlled labor union. Meanwhile, he lectured on criminal law at New York City schools and coached student mock trial teams. He did not play in a band, which was probably for the best. In 2006, Mr. Burney returned to the defense side, focusing mostly on complex cases like wiretaps, securities fraud, antitrust, and loitering. In addition to his Illustrated Guide to Criminal Law webcomic, he also teaches the “Hope for Hopeless Cases” series for West LegalEdCenter, and is training his kids to be rock stars.