2010 CLawBies – Canadian Law Blog Awards

It’s New Year’s Eve, which means it’s time to unveil our picks for the year’s best Canadian law blogging. Welcome to the 2010 CLawBies — we might not be the most prestigious awards of the year, but we’re definitely the last ones to be handed out.

This year marks the fifth edition of the CLawBies, and we continue to be impressed not only with the depth of talent from which to choose, but also the ongoing success of our public nomination process. If you’re not familiar with it, we encourage nominations to be blogged or Tweeted — and once again, the process did more than just bring many great (and several new) blogs to our attention; it encouraged contact and new relationships between nominators and nominees. Part of our goal with these awards is to increase the size and strength of the Canadian law blogging community, and as the rapid growth of the revamped lawblogs.ca list indicates, we’ve succeeded. Our sincere thanks to everyone who participated!

You’ll notice a couple of changes in our lineup from previous years. We’ve renamed our top award — “Best Canadian Law Blog or Blogger” — in honour of Professor Simon Fodden, one of the founders and the driving force behind Slaw, which is widely recognized worldwide as one of the very best law blogs, period. With this name change, we are honourably retiring Slaw from CLawBies competition, installing it as a fixture in the blawgosphere to which all online publications, Canadian and otherwise, should aspire.

Naming the award after Professor Fodden performs two functions: first, it permanently recognizes that Slaw is, year in and year out, the best of the best in Canadian law blogging — in fact, it’s rapidly evolving beyond mere “blog” status into something much more. And secondly, it opens the competition to a wider pool of blogs that, great as they are, can’t compete with a colossus like Slaw. It’s a little like the old joke that the NHL would have to rename its Most Valuable Player Award the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. The NHL had Gretzky; the Canadian virtual legal community has Simon Fodden.

Some of our other categories have changed slightly, too. We’ve expanded the Best Practitioner Blog and the Best New Law Blog categories to bestow three awards each, in recognition of the fact that these categories have just exploded in the last 12 to 18 months. We’ve also addressed some gaps in our structure by adding categories for Best Legal News Blog and for Best Practice Group Blog.

Also, in case you’re wondering, blogs written by Stem personnel, including Law Firm Web Strategy, Jordan Furlong’s Law21, and the Vancouver Law Librarian Blog, aren’t eligible for CLawBies.

As usual, we offer two caveats. The first is that the CLawBies are based on no fixed criteria, only our personal sense of what makes a blog essential, informative and engaging — another set of judges might reach different conclusions. And secondly, please accept our standard advisory not to take the CLawBies (or any other blog Awards) too seriously. And be sure to review all the nominations.

And so, here are the 2010 Clawbies. Enjoy!

1) The Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law BlogMichael Geist. When corporations, journalists and the general public around the world tune in to read your opinions, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ve made an impact as a Canadian law blogger. University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist is renowned globally for his insights and advocacy on copyright law in the internet age, and his blog is an indispensable source of information about corporate and legislative strategies to affect the evolution of copyright. Unafraid to express opinions and court controversy, Michael Geist is our Fodden Award choice for best Canadian law blogger.

Runners-up: First Reference, a powerful collection of HR- and employment-law posts from multiple authors; ClickLaw, an extraordinary public legal education resource in BC.

2) Best Practitioner Blog – In the years since the Clawbies premiered, leadership in the Canadian law blogosphere has passed from the legal research, legal information and law practice management fields to the private bar. This is a testament to the evolution of the Canadian legal community and its openness to new ways of communicating. It’s also reflected in the great difficulty we encountered choosing the best practitioner blogs for 2010. While there are numerous excellent candidates, including those not listed among runners-up, we ended up with three picks:

Runners-up: the BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog by Erik Magraken; James Gannon’s IP Blog; and Wise Law Blog (440 posts in 2010!).

3) Legal Culture Award – We describe this award as the best Canadian legal blog that’s about neither substantive law nor law practice — the blog that best shines a light on some aspect of the culture of the legal profession. Our winner this year is Law and Style, the blog of Precedent magazine. Law and Style provides insight into the lives, worldview and interests of young lawyers in Canada’s large law firms. Featuring columns on everything from food and wine to fashion and social events, along with roundups of legal news from daily and weekly media and now job openings, Law and Style captures the zeitgeist of today’s associate with personality and verve. It is well on its way to becoming Canada’s answer to Above The Law and Roll on Friday, blogs that don’t just cover the profession, but also help shape it.

Runner-up: Law Is Cool.

4) Non-Legal Audience Award. In one sense, of course, most blogs are written for a non-legal audience, i.e., clients. But we mean this award for a blog that targets industries or communities outside the law that nevertheless are affected by the law. This year’s award goes to the Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP) blog at the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. Students and professors focus their efforts on alleged police misconduct and racial profiling, and this year included content on the G20 Summit in Toronto and the police response thereto. Most law blogs are written by and for people who work in office buildings; LEAP’s audience is the people who march past those buildings, and it keeps them informed and engaged with developments in their world.

Runners-up: Connie Crosby, the Environmental Law Centre (Alberta) and the WCEL Environmental Law Alert.

5) Friend of the North Awards – This award is meant to recognize American bloggers who look north of the 49th parallel to network and exchange ideas with their Canadian counterparts. As with the practitioner blogs category, the range of choices can be overwhelming. This year, we want to salute the stalwarts at Blawg Review, the weekly roundup of posts from the legal blogosphere that performs an outstanding service to the law blog community. Blawg Review regularly reaches across the border for Canadian hosts, including (in 2010) Law Is Cool, the Canadian Trademark Blog, Slaw, The Trial Warrior Blog, and yes, a monstrous (pun fully intended) entry at Stem’s Law Firm Web Strategy blog. Only when Blawg Review goes missing (as it currently is, with general manager Ed on sabbatical) do you realize how indispensable it is.

6) EuroCan Connection Award – This award recognizes European law blog friends who highlight and link to Canadian law blogs. For the third straight year, this award goes to Mike Semple Piggot, better known in the blawgosphere as Charon QC. Charon’s readership includes many Canadians, and the content continues to mix provocative, quirky, and investigative in equal measures, making it a must-read both inside and outside Canada’s borders.

7) Best Legal News Blog – This new award recognizes the rise of legal news blogs and services, which look set to become a substantial player on the Canadian law blog scene. Our inaugural winner is the FP Legal Post blog, produced by the Financial Post. Originally launched by erstwhile Legal Post editor Jim Middlemiss and now manned by Julius Melnitzer, Mitch Kowalski and Drew Hasselback, the Legal Post combines original reporting on corporate law and Bay Street developments with links to legal happenings all over the world. Its one-stop-shop approach gives its readers a single place to find legal news of interest in a timely manner. In 2010, few Canadian law blogs broke more stories, faster, than the FP Legal Post Blog.

Runners-up: Canadian Lawyer/Law Times Legal Feed, BC Law Watch Blog.

8) Practice Management Award – Most law practice management advice is “nice-to-have” stuff: how to run your practice more efficiently or market your practice better, and so forth. But some LPM advice is “must-have,” a category that certainly includes how not to be sued by your client or become the victim of fraud. For that reason, this year’s award goes to the Avoid A Claim Blog by Dan Pinnington of LAWPRO. Avoid A Claim not only delivers pragmatic instructions on running a practice well enough to keep the regulators at bay, but it also has begun tracking (with eye-opening illustrations) examples of actual attempted lawyer frauds. Dan’s blog is becoming a must-read in every jurisdiction, not just in Canada.

Runners-up: Thoughtful Legal Management, Social Media For Law Firms, Rants and Raves.

9) Law Librarian Blog Award – As the role of law librarians has continued to evolve over the past several years, so too have the number and nature of law librarian and legal research blogs out there. This year, we’re giving this award to Library Technician Dialog, a joint production of Karen Sawatzky and Brenda Wong. In addition to information on library developments and legal research, Library Technician Dialog also provides real thought leadership in this area, with posts on the implications of law library outsourcing, mentorship and management in law libraries, the development of e-books, and many other topics.

Runners-up: Finding Legal Information, The Stream, Shaunna Mireau on Canadian Legal Research.

10) Best Legal Technology Blog – The official Clio Blog had its strongest year ever, with Jack Newton educating readers at every turn on the value of cloud computing and web-based services. We offer a full Stem-disclosure that Clio is our client, but we also point to the fact that we didn’t choose it in prior years as proof that something was different in 2010. The Clio blog sponsored and published a survey on the use of Macs in Law Firms, wrote on lawyer usage of mobile devices, and addressed methods to increase website speed. North of the border, Jack joined Slaw and continued to highlight our own uniquely Canadian issues with the Cloud. Add in Clio’s role starting the Legal Cloud Computing Association, along with many webinars, CLE presentations, articles and papers, and the Clio blog became the linchpin for everything the company supports. That’s exactly what a great company blog should do, and what makes it CLawBie-worthy.

Runner-up: Small City Law Firm Tech

11) Best Practice Group Blog – This is a new award for 2011, meant to recognize the growing number of law firm practice group blogs in Canada. Our inaugural winner in this category is the Ontario Condo Law Blog, written by the lawyers at Gardiner Miller Arnold LLP. Led by editor Chris Jaglowitz, this blog regularly delivers a variety of original topics and interesting links. Not only does it make for engaging reading, but the firm always makes clear just how well it knows its niche topic (condominium law) and its audience (condo corporations in the Greater Toronto Area).

12) Best New Law Blog Awards – Many great new entries in the legal blogosphere in 2010 made this a difficult category to assess, especially since the debuting blogs covered the whole gamut of subjects addressed in these awards. For our money, the best new law blogs in Canada were:

  • Toronto Estates & Trusts Monitor, by sole practitioner Megan F. Connolly. No stranger to social media (she previously worked at podcasting pioneer Hull & Hull), Megan launched her blog in August 2010 and immediately displayed a knack for making her subject accessible (many of her posts answer common estate questions), interesting (with posts on “green” burials and Lee Harvey Oswald’s coffin), and timely (recent posts on dementia are of great interest to those with aging parents). Extra credit for managing all this great content as a solo.
  • Entertainment & Media Law Signal, by the Heenan Blaikie Media Law group. Led by veteran law blogger Bob Tarantino, this blog received multiple nominations in 2010 and has displayed great content from the start. The Signal isn’t afraid to highlight and recommend the ideas of other blogging lawyers who aren’t members of their firm, a sign of both a mature and confident editorial team and a focus on readers’ best interests.
  • Adam’s Law Blog, by Toronto criminal lawyer Adam Goodman. Great blogging is often about finding your written voice and then combining it with clear ideas. Adam Goodman’s blog-writing skills were remarkable out of the gate — his G20 posts especially stood out in 2010, making us look forward to more in 2011.

Runners-up: the Western Canada Business Litigation Blog; Employment & Human Rights Law in Canada; Offside: A Sports Law Blog.

13) Law Professor/Law Faculty Blog Award – Paralleling the growth of practitioner blogs in Canada is the growth of law professor and law faculty blogs, many of which incorporate the work of students and are in the process of reinventing the concept of a “law review.” Our award for best law professor/law faculty blog this year goes to Vincent Gautrais and the blog named for the title he holds at the Université de Montréal: Chaire en droit de la sécurité et des affaires électroniques. This blog provides frequent and detailed updates on privacy and e-business law that feature personal assessments of and insights into the issues at hand, as well as lively comment sections. Incorporating the work of both Vincent and his students, this blog looks like the evolution not just of the faculty journal, but also of the law class itself.

Runners-up: The Court, Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog, University of Alberta Faculty of Law Blog.

So that’s it — our picks for the best Canadian law blogs of 2010. Please make the time to visit each of our winners and runners-up, and enjoy the broad spectrum and ever-increasing quality of the Canadian blawgosphere. Happy new year!

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