Nominations Open for 10th Annual Canadian Law Blog Awards

So, what were you doing on December 1st, 2006?

My friends and I here at Stem Legal were doing all the things respectable Canadians were doing at the time: starting families, building communities, and consulting or working in the legal marketplace. I imagine myself downloading Nelly Furtado tracks from iTunes, Emma lining up to see a Da Vinci Code/Night At The Museum double feature at the local cinema, and Jordan binge-watching his DVD collections of High School Musical and Ugly Betty. The iPad was still three years away, the first Android smartphone had just been released, and Facebook still forced you to start your status updates with “is.” Yes, those truly were innocent times.

In the fabled spirit of optimism and possibility of 2006, I took a chance and decided to publish the Canadian Law Blog Awards, known then, as they still are today, as the Clawbies. When the Clawbies were first assembled, the purpose was simple: to create a fun and engaging way to encourage more participation in the Canadian legal blogosphere. At the time, the whole concept of Canadian legal blogging was still emerging; today, the list at lawblogs.ca is closing in on 500. Our original lineup of winners in 2006 included David Canton, Michael Geist, Vincent Gautrais, Allison Wolf, David Fraser, Neil Melliship and Melissa Kluger — clicking those links will take you to a series of interviews conducted by my colleague Emma Durand-Wood about what blogging continues to mean to these winners, ten years later.

So 2015 is a big year for us, and today is a big day. Because we’re very happy to announce the official opening of the 10th Annual Canadian Law Blog Awards! It’s our celebration of excellence in law-related blogging in Canada (and beyond). We want to honour the very best of the Canadian legal blogosphere: the most interesting, timely and helpful law or legal-industry-related blogs on the internet. The Clawbies are a crowdsourced effort that relies on the enthusiastic participation and support of Canada’s legal social media and blogging communities. But before you nominate, please understand our quirky rules:

Rule No. 1: Do not nominate your own blog for a Clawbie. It doesn’t work that way. The only surefire way of getting your work on our radar is to write a blog post about other bloggers. Follow this rule and your blog will be taken into consideration automatically.

Rule No. 2: Nominating a blog must happen in one of two ways:

(a) Write a post nominating up to three Canadian law blogs you currently read, with a brief explanation of why you think those blogs deserved an award in 2015.

(b) Tweet your nomination on Twitter, using the hashtag #clawbies2015

The categories are the same as last year — here’s a link to last year’s awards to bring you up to speed.

Rule No. 3: Don’t forget to look outside our borders. Each year we bestow a Clawbie to both a US-based and European blog, so be sure to let us know about your favourite blogs from around the globe.

Not sure where to start? Head over to lawblogs.ca, the comprehensive directory of Canadian law blogs: choose your favourite categories and start reviewing what’s out there. Once again, your Clawbie judges will be yours truly, Jordan Furlong, and Simon Fodden. We’re also welcoming our colleague Emma Durand-Wood into the judging fold. As the administrator of Lawblogs.ca, she sees more new blogs every year than any of us!

For the past decade, the Clawbies have allowed us to celebrate the best of Canadian legal blogs. We truly see value in how blogging has impacted legal commentary; how first-person opinion-driven writing has inspired digital conversations and opened up the web for the sharing of ideas. So this year, on the 10th anniversary of our little project, we’ll also celebrate the Canadian blawgosphere itself. You folks do great work, and we’re proud to shine a light on it.

One last important piece of information. The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, December 23, and we’ll announce the winners of the 2015 Clawbies on New Year’s Eve.

The rest is up to you. Start your nominating!

2014 Clawbies: Canadian Law Blog Awards

Okay, let’s get this out of the way at the start: we are fully aware there was no Justin Bieber reference in our all-CanCon Clawbies announcement post on December 1. This was not an oversight, but a deliberate choice on our part that great Canadian musical acts like k.d. lang and Rush merited our attention far more than did The Beeb. So please call off the hate emails and the tweeting campaign (although we will concede that the hashtag #ClawBieber was pretty clever).

With that hopefully cleared up, it’s down to business. For the ninth consecutive year, Stem Legal is very proud to bring you the Clawbies, the Canadian Law Blog Awards! Bestowed annually on New Year’s Eve, we continue to assert that while they might not be the most important legal awards of 2014, they are, without any question, the last ones to be handed out.

We launched the Clawbies back in 2005 as a fun and engaging way to encourage the growth of the Canadian legal blogosphere. Fast forward to 2014, and our evergreen list at lawblogs.ca is closing in on 500 Canadian law blogs. That kind of growth, of course, makes the task of choosing Clawbie winners more challenging every given year. The way we’ve come to compensate is to target a certain amount of ‘new blood’ each year within the awards. The net effect is that a blog that qualifies as a runner-up or even a winner in prior years, even though its quality has not dimmed one iota, might still find itself missing from our annual awards.

So if you’ve been named a Clawbie winner or runner-up in the past, and you’re not on this year’s list, please don’t be concerned! One of our goals here at the Clawbies is to constantly recognize new or previously unrecognized blogs that deserve people’s attention, while at the same time, mixing in those established blogs that continue to produce great work. It’s a delicate balancing act, and we hope we’ve managed to keep that balance another year.

As always, nominations for the Clawbies were submitted from lawyers and law bloggers across Canada by blog post or by tweet. That list was supplemented by selections from our three judges: Steve Matthews, Jordan Furlong, and Simon Fodden. And that’s how we ended up with our 2014 Clawbies, the winners of which we’ll get to right now.

May we have the envelopes, please?

1) The Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law Blog

Double Aspect. We thought it was hard to choose among so many great candidates for the Fodden Award in 2013, but 2014 posed an even tougher challenge. In the end, despite so many worthy choices, we felt compelled to recognize Double Aspect, the Canadian constitutional law blog of Leonid Sirota, a J.S.D. candidate at NYU School of Law. Double Aspect is everything you want to see in a law blog: it addresses important topics, it presents intellectual challenges, it’s updated frequently and at length, and it’s written in a professional yet engaging style. Double Aspect was one of three winners of last year’s “Best New Blog” category and moved up quickly to take the Best Blog award in just its second year; it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a blog become this good, this fast.

Runners-up:

À bon droit, by Karim Renno of Irving Mitchell Kalichman in Montreal, consistently among the best of the Canadian blawgosphere

Canadian Appeals Monitor, by the lawyers of McCarthy Tétrault LLP, analyzes the appellate courts of Canada, including the S.C.C.

Russell Alexander’s Family LLB, which covers Ontario divorce law, continued to model the practical nature required when writing for a consumer audience.

2) Best Practitioner Blogs

As always, we have three winners in this category; notably, this year, each is the product of a small law firm or a sole practice.

Environmental Law and Litigation, by Dianne Saxe of Toronto, delivered both a coast-to-coast nationwide and international perspective on significant cases and regulatory developments in environmental law.

Family Health Law Blog, by Lisa Feldstein of Markham, Ontario, covers the intersection of family and health law from the everyday (legal issues for children and the elderly) to the specialized (reproductive and transgender rights).

Labour Pains, by Sean Bawden of Kelly Santini in Ottawa, is the best employment law blog in Canada, which is a high compliment. Engaging and timely, with a special focus this year on the law of independent contractors.

3) Legal Culture

If there was a recurring theme within the Canadian blawgosphere in 2014, it was the intersection of human rights and gender in the law and legal profession. Accordingly, we have two co-winners in our “Legal Culture” category this year, both from Ontario law schools.

Pantyhose and the Penal Code is a group blog by a coalition of female students at the University of Windsor Law School who write candidly on gender politics, rape culture on campus, and sexual harassment/assault within the legal profession.

The Institute of Feminist Legal Studies at Osgoode Hall Law School blog gave critical analysis of newsmaking stories such as those involving Manitoba Justice Lori Douglas and Jian Ghomeshi, and highlighted Canadian and international publications on reproductive rights, sexual violence, and racial and gender politics through the lens of feminist legal theory.

4) Non-Lawyer Audience

CanLII Connects (blog)The thousands of lawyers across Canada who use CanLII for their legal research every day would doubtless object to the classification of this blog as having a “non-lawyer” audience. But CanLII Connects, the new centralized collection of Canadian case commentary, is proving to be just as useful, if not more so, to the growing ranks of legal consumers who are navigating part or all of the journey through the legal system by themselves. This “self-navigation” promises to be one of the most significant trends in the legal market over the coming decade, and CanLII Connects is poised to be an invaluable resource in that process.

5) Friend of the North Award

This award originally honoured American legal blogs that took more than due notice of developments due north, but has since evolved into our own vote for best US-based law blog. This year, that award goes to:

Law Professor Blog Network, edited by Prof. Paul Caron and including no fewer than 56 different blogs (including last year’s winner in this category, The Legal Whiteboard). The LPBN is such an extraordinary resource, encompassing and exploring so many different aspects of the legal profession and legal jurisprudence, that in past years we’ve acknowledged individual member blogs, but not the whole collective. This year, we correct that oversight and recognize what might very well be the best, deepest, and most insightful ongoing scholarly resource the law has ever seen, online or off.

Runners-up:

Expert Thinking, the blog of expert application developer Neota Logic, which generated some of the most thought-provoking posts of the year.

Law Technology Today, the ABA LTRC’s blog-esque publication, which covers the latest commentary in legal technology.

Talent Think Tank, a new collective blog that addresses legal talent trends and issues, edited by Caren Ulrich Stacy of Legal Talent Lab and OnRamp Fellowship

6) EuroCan Connection Award

Equally, this award now reflects our choice for best law blog based in Europe, although this year’s winner has taken an interest in Canadian and American legal developments as well:

Legal Innovation, the blog of Swedish legal consultancy Virtual Intelligence (VQ Legal), has become a must-read resource for European lawyers seeking to stay ahead of legal market trends and master new tools and systems to improve their businesses. VQ principals Ann Björk and Helena Hallgarn keep their readers tuned into legal developments worldwide.

Runners-up:

Legal Futures Blog, the companion blog to Neil Rose’s indispensable Legal Futures British online legal news service, remains a powerful force.

Marketing Jurídico, the blog of Spain’s online lawyer platform Responsea, provides unparalleled legal marketing advice for Spanish-speaking lawyers.

Validatum Pricing Blog, by London-based (but New Zealand-born) Richard Burcher, is one of the world’s premier source of legal pricing intelligence.

7) Legal News Award

This award is also one of our toughest to choose, because the quality and volume of content from the perennial contenders is so consistently high. This year, our gut feeling was that the best Canadian legal news award should go to:

Legal Feeds, by Canadian Lawyer magazine, edited by Gail J. Cohen

Runners-up:

Legal Post, by the Financial Post’s Legal Section, edited by Drew Hasselback and Mitch Kowalski.

National Magazine, the eponymous blog of the CBA’s flagship periodical, edited by Yves Faguy.

Wise Law Blog, by Toronto lawyer Garry Wise, which rounds up the key legal headlines of each day.

8) Best Practice Management Blog

An Open Mind: This year, we’re going in a new direction with this award, which traditionally has recognized blogs that advise readers about the nuts and bolts of the business of law. We realized that we’ve been overlooking a critical aspect of practice management that often goes under-publicized: legal ethics and professional responsibility. To rectify that oversight, and to recognize one of Canada’s most insightful blogs, we’re bestowing this award on Toronto lawyer Lee Akazaki, whose blog is “About Canadian Law and Professionalism.”

Runners-up:

Avoid A Claim, by LAWPRO’s Dan Pinnington

Rants and Raves, by legal consultant Patrick McKenna

Thoughtful Legal Management, by Thoughtful Law’s David Bilinsky

9) Best Law Library Blog

Legal Sourcery: As a law library blog newcomer, Legal Sourcery made a serious impression in 2014. The hard-working blogger team (whose members double as the reference team) at the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library jumped into the blawgosphere full-force. With regular updates, engaging topics, and fun Twitter personalities, this group was instrumental to bringing back the info-cool factor to law library blogs. We’re proud to award them this year’s Clawbie.

Runners-up:

Bora Laskin Law Library Reference Services Blog at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law

Off the Shelf, the Osgoode Hall Law School Library blog

10) Legal Technology

O’Faolain: David Whelan has a long history as a legal technologist. Beyond his role as Manager of Legal Information at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Great Library, David shares his digital experiences (and experiments) at O’Faolain. From the latest legal apps, gadgets and web tools to lawyers who are configuring their practice in the cloud, David’s advice was worth your time in 2014 and definitely Clawbie worthy.

Runner-up: The Clio Blog, produced by legal cloud services leader Clio, received enthusiastic support from #Clawbie nominators on Twitter.

11) Best Practice Group Blog

Entertainment & Media Law Signal remained in top form as Bob Tarantino and his team  brought their media law analyses to Dentons LLP.

Global Workplace Insider, by Norton Rose Fulbright’s Employment and Labour Law team, generated timely updates and insights into labour and employment law from across Canada.

Pensions & Benefits Law explored and illuminated issues related to this field, courtesy of the pensions and benefits lawyers at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.

12) Best New Blogs

We can remember a time, early in the Clawbies’ history, when it could be a challenge to find three nominees for this award. Today, the challenge is in choosing the very best from among an annually strong field of new arrivals in the Canadian blawgosphere.

Access To Justice in Canada is a new blog from a familiar blogger, Vancouver family lawyer J.P. Boyd, but it already looks like an essential read in a critically important area for the legal profession.

Michael Spratt, the eponymous blog of an Ottawa criminal defence lawyer, premiered as one of the most outspoken and forthright blogs Canada has hosted for years, especially in terms of federal policy in the criminal law area.

Privacy and IT Law, by Éloïse Gratton, National Co-chair of the Privacy Practice Group at McMillan LLP in Montreal, made an impressive debut in one of the strongest areas of Canadian law blogging.

13) Best Law School/Law Professor Blog

Our final entry was again one of our most competitive fields, but despite the high quality of competition, this year the winning blog was clear in our minds.

Administrative Law Matters, by Université de Montréal Assistant Professor Paul Daly, isn’t just the best law professor blog in the country; we think it’s one of the best blogs, period. Astonishingly high rates of both volume and quality set Paul’s blog apart and marked it as one of the most important resources for understanding what is frequently one of the most arcane and intricate of legal subjects.

Runners-up:

ABlawg, the collective blog of the professors at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law

The Court, by Osgoode Hall Law School faculty and students, led by Professor Ikechi Mgbeoji

Ideablawg, by University of Calgary sessional instructor Lisa Silver

There you have it, folks: our take on the best of Canada’s blawgosphere in 2014. Our congratulations to the winners and runners-up, and our sincere thanks to everyone who participated in our nomination process in blawgs and on Twitter. We can’t wait to see what Canada’s legal bloggers have in store for us in 2015. Thanks again, and happy new year to all!