2012 Clawbies – Canadian Law Blog Awards

For the seventh straight year, the Clawbies are here! Welcome once again to the Canadian Law Blog Awards, handed out annually on New Year’s Eve without anything remotely resembling a request from the blawgosphere to do so.

Stem Legal Web Enterprises founded the Clawbies back in 2005 as a fun and enjoyable way to encourage the growth of the Canadian legal blogosphere. To say that that effort has been a success is to understate the matter. In its first year, the Clawbies had the not-terribly-difficult task of choosing among exactly 43 Canadian law blogs. This year, that number has increased nearly tenfold: there are now more than 400 Canadian law blogs to be found on the internet.

This astonishing growth rate is a testament to the legal profession’s embrace of online self-publishing and all the benefits it delivers. But it also has made the Clawbies a far more challenging undertaking than it used to be. Not only has the quantity of Canadian law blogs increased, but so has the quality: of writing, of coverage, of frequency and of voice.

We believe unequivocally that this all-around improvement is a matter of every blogger raising his or her game in response to the high quality of content offered elsewhere across Canada, and we’re proud to have played some small part in that.  Accordingly, we’re now pleased to announce our picks for the best of the best: the 2012 Clawbies for the top Canadian law blogs.

May we have the envelopes, please?

1) The Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law Blog

Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog: Consistently one of the finest Canadian law blogs, and always a popular Clawbie nominee, the Workplace Law Blog by Osgoode Hall Law School professor David Doorey finally receives the Fodden nod this year. In 2012, David has further refined and sharpened a blog that manages the rare combination of being highly insightful, entertaining, and strongly opinionated (and now includes the occasional illustration!) The Doorey Workplace Law Blog explored a number of creative “what if” scenarios based on current affairs, such as whether governments could forbid an NHL lockout. David regularly gives his readers the information they need, along with a clear and well-informed perspective with which they can analyze and appreciate that information. This blog has always been among the best; this year, we recognize it as first among its peers.

Runners-Up:

Last year’s winner, Erik Magraken’s BC Injury Law Blog, continues to be a powerhouse.

Former OBA President Lee Akazaki’s new bilingual blog has debuted among the best.

Barry Sookman’s Copyright, Intellectual Property, Computer, Internet, and e-Commerce Law Blog does it all.

2) Best Practitioner Blogs

Once again for 2012, we recognize three blogs in this category. Here are this year’s winners:

A Bon Droit, by Karim Renno of Montreal, is accurately described by fellow winner Antonin Pribetic as “one of the best law blogs from a Quebec civil law perspective.”

All About Information, a group blog by five lawyers at Toronto’s Hicks Morley (led by Dan Michaluk) explores privacy and access issues in the legal context.

The Trial Warrior, Antonin Pribetic’s “strategic blawging about law and justice,” combines intellectual firepower with unapologetically strong views on the legal system.

3) Legal Culture Award

This category aims to recognize blogs that don’t necessarily fit easily into other standard categories, but that speak to a unique aspect or facet of the Canadian legal system. This year, we’re giving that award to First Reference, a group blog about payroll and employment law. A four-blogger team (led by Yosie Saint-Cyr) backed up by no fewer than 15 columnists, First Reference is as comprehensive and frequently updated a legal news resource as you will find online in Canada.

4) Non-Legal Audience Blog

As we noted above, most blogs are written for a non-lawyer audience — that is to say, for clients (and increasingly, for professionals who work with lawyers). But this category is meant to honour blogs that specifically target a readership with very little knowledge of the law but a strong need for access to and information about legal issues. This year’s award goes to SOQUIJ | Le Blogue, the official blog of Quebec’s Société québécoise d’information juridique, which provides understandable and accessible legal knowledge to everyday Quebecers (and to many of their avocat(e)s and notaires as well).

Runners-up: These blogs are singled out for their special focus on facilitating legal information to people without legal backgrounds and training.

Family Law Refocused, by the law firm of Cassels Murray in Victoria

Offside: A Sports Law Blog, by Ottawa lawyer (and radio host) Eric Macramalla

Pokerati, by Stuart Hoegner of Toronto and Las Vegas’s Gaming Counsel

5) Friend of the North Award

There’s always an embarrassment of riches in this category; considering the depth and quality of American legal blogging, we could give this award to any of ten blogs in any given year. In 2012, we felt the most deserving recipient was Strategic Legal Technology, by Ron Friedmann of Fireman & Co. Year in and year out, Ron’s blog is one of the most insightful in the blawgosphere and a must-read for anyone interested in the re-engineering of the legal process that Ron calls the #LawFactory approach. Strategic Legal Technology is especially aware of developments in this area that emerge from Canada and can always be counted on to spread the word about Canadian trends in legal process management.

Runners-up: Again, almost too many to count, but we want to recognize three in particular:

Above and Beyond KM, by Debevoise & Plimpton’s V. Mary Abraham (queen of the legal Twittersphere)

The Legal Whiteboard, the single best resource anywhere for trends and developments in legal education

3 Geeks and a Law Blog (last year’s winner) by Toby Brown, Greg Lambert and Lisa Salazar (and newest geek Ryan McClead)

6) EuroCan Connection Award

After many years of bestowing this award on a British law blog, we felt it was time to recognize the excellent quality of law blogs on the Continent. Accordingly, this year’s EuroCan Connection Award goes to the Legal Innovation Blog, by Helena Hallgarn and Ann Björk of VQ Virtual Intelligence in Strängnäs, Sweden. Admirably global in its scope, including Canadian developments, the Legal Innovation Blog explores the possibilities and imperatives of changing the way lawyers do business in a new marketplace.

7) Legal News

Our 2012 winner in this category is not a traditional legal media outlet; it’s a lawyer blog that does an outstanding job of filtering and curating news of interest and importance to legal professionals. The daily 140Law feature of the Wise Law Blog in Toronto receives our vote for performing, as Shaunna Mireau points out, much the same service that America’s Above The Law does for its readers: “a daily offering of legal headlines offered as a roundup post.” Garry Wise puts great effort into this consistent feature and deserves equally great appreciation for his ongoing efforts.

Runners-up: Three solid entries by our major legal media outlets:

Legal Feeds, by Canadian Lawyer magazine

Legal Post, by the Financial Post

National Magazine’s brand new blog, by the Canadian Bar Association.

8) Best Practice Management Blog

It’s the rare blog that can truly be described as a “must read,” but Avoid A Claim by the Lawyers Professional Indemnity Company (LAWPRO) fits that bill. Authored by legal practice management trailblazer Dan Pinnington, Avoid A Claim is essential reading far beyond the borders of Ontario, picking up an audience throughout North America for the latest news on the frauds and scams that criminals try (too often successfully) to inflict on lawyers. All this, plus valuable practice management tips, makes Avoid A Claim the best of a very strong field.

Runners-Up:

The Lean Law Firm, by Gimbal Canada Lean Practice Management Advisors

Social Media For Law Firms, by last year’s winner Samantha Collier

A special mention for Mitch Kowalski, a fearless voice for change in the legal profession who blogs at both Slaw and the Legal Post.

9) Law Library Blog

Off the Shelf, the Osgoode Hall Law School Library Blog, is not your standard candidate in this category. While it does include notes on new titles and services that all good law library blogs provide, it complements that useful content with a regular supply of topical links to interesting blog posts and videos. We also liked the engaging (and sometimes irreverent) writing tone.

Runners-up:

Finding Legal Information, by David Whelan

Library Tech Dialog, by Brenda Wong and Karen Sawatzky

On Firmer Ground, by various private law library interest groups, including CALL

10) Legal Technology

Slaw.ca might be retired from Clawbies competition, but that doesn’t have to include its affiliate sites. Accordingly, we want to recognize Slaw Tips, an outstanding compendium of useful advice and suggestions about technology for lawyers, legal research and practice management.  Each of these blog subjects regularly touches on navigating one’s way around technological barriers, in our view making Slaw Tips Technology required reading in the legal technology category.

11) Practice Group Blog

We started this category a few years ago to help encourage the growth of practice group blogs in midsize and large law firms, which we thought (and still think) are an ideal vehicle by which a firm can showcase its services in a niche area. That effort has paid off so well that there are now any number of terrific candidates for this award. This year, the best Practice Group Blog Award goes to the Entertainment and Media Law Signal by Heenan Blaikie, led by veteran law blogger Bob Tarantino.

Runners-Up: So many to choose from, but here are three we really liked.

Deal Law Wire, by Norton Rose Canada

The Project Law Blog, by Lawson Lundell

Tax Blog, by Thorsteinssons (full disclosure: a Stem Legal client)

12) Best New Blogs

As we suggested in the introduction, the number of new law blogs in Canada has been growing by leaps and bounds. That makes the task of choosing the best new law blogs especially challenging, because there are so many candidates and the quality bar has been raised higher than ever. Here are our three selections for best new Canadian law blogs.

Fertility Law Canada, by Sara L. Cohen at D2Law in Toronto, is one of the most fascinating new law blogs in Canada, addressing legal and policy issues around reproductive rights and assisted reproductive technologies. Note: Although this blog officially debuted in 2011, it was with only one introductory post in late December — not enough to lose its “rookie status.”

Kelly Santini LLP’s Employment Law Blog for the Suddenly Unemployed, by Sean Bawden of Kelly Santini in Ottawa, makes wrongful dismissal and other employment law case comments accessible and enjoyable, while winning hands-down 2012’s “Best Blog Name” award.

Ontario Construction Law and Litigation Blog, by Adam Zasada of Robson Carpenter LLP, manages the same trick, injecting insight and humour into the standard case commentary and keeping a tight focus on the interests of the reader.

An honourable mention goes to The Treasurer’s Blog, by Law Society of Upper Canada Treasurer Thomas Conway. It’s laudable in no small part because it marks the first time that the leader of a Canadian lawyers’ governing body has entered the blawgosphere and engaged on issues of substance; we encourage other law society leaders to follow the Treasurer’s example. But with only four entries in 2012, we can’t (yet) give it an award or a finalist designation.

13) Best Law School/Law Professor Blog

This is always one of our toughest calls, since the quality of Canadian legal academic blogs is uniformly high. This year, however, our choice was made easier by the outstanding performance by ABlawg, the University of Calgary Faculty of Law Blog. Relevant and well-read beyond the walls of academia, the ABlawg is frequently consulted by practitioners throughout the province of Alberta, and it’s the rare law school periodical of any type that can lay claim to that accomplishment.

Runners-Up:

Administrative Law Matters, by Prof. Paul Daly of the Faculté de Droit, Université de Montréal

Ideablawg, by Lisa Silver at the Department of Justice Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary

The Court, headquartered at Osgoode Hall Law School (giving Osgoode an unprecedented Triple Crown in this year’s Clawbies).

And that’s it — our 2012 Clawbies are in the books. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists, as well as to every Canadian law blogger who contributed to the depth and richness of the country’s legal blogosphere this year. We encourage you to keep going, and we encourage lawyers and legal professionals of all stripes to join the rapidly expanding pool of self-published online legal content in 2013. Happy new year!

Clawbies 2012: On Your Mark, Get Set, Nominate!

Just like holiday shopping, the Clawbies season kinda sneaks up on you. Like today! We’re now ready to officially open the 7th annual Canadian Law Blog Awards. Our celebration of excellence in law-related blogging and one of our favourite times of the year here at Stem Legal.

The awards honour the best of the Canadian legal blogosphere: the most thoughtful, useful, and timely law or legal industry-related blogs out there. Over the years the nomination process has evolved from a one-man show to a team effort that spans the country and beyond. We couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) do any of this without the enthusiastic participation and support of the Canadian legal social media and blogging community.

If you’re a seasoned Clawbies participant, you know the rules of participation; it hasn’t changed from last year. If you’re new to the process, here’s the drill. There are three ways to nominate a blog:

  1. Tweet your nomination via Twitter with the hashtag: #clawbies2012. We’ll be monitoring!
  2. Email your favourite blog, including a couple sample posts or any other notable highlights, to Steve Matthews at steve@stemlegal.com. We’d prefer a public nomination, but still welcome participation from folks who don’t blog or tweet.
  3. Write a blog post nominating up to three other Canadian law blogs you currently read, with a brief explanation of why you think those blogs were award-worthy in 2012. And for crying out loud… don’t nominate your own blog! Nominating others will put your own blog in the running. Modest Canadians would never nominate themselves, right? ;)

Our award categories will be the same as in past years, so don’t worry about suggesting new categories or categorizing your nominations. And while our focus is on Canadian blogs, we always like to highlight a couple of international blogs that deliver quality reading to Canadian legal audiences. See the Friends of the North and EuroCan Connection categories from past years for examples. So feel free to submit a US or European blog that fits that bill.

Another helpful tool for making your 2012 selections: earlier this year we annotated the blog listings over at Lawblogs.ca with past Clawbie winners. As you surf around the site, you will see the badge integration and year of each award; or you can look at the entire list of winners here. For a comprehensive list of established Canadian law blogs, please check out the lawblogs.ca directory.

Finally, I’m pleased to announce that Simon Fodden (Slaw founder, and for whom the Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law Blog is named) will again join Jordan and myself on the judging panel this year. You can keep track of all the incoming nominations at the Vancouver Law Librarian Blog over the coming weeks.

The deadline for nominations is Thursday, December 27th, and the winners of the 2012 Clawbies will be announced on New Year’s Eve.  Until then, happy nominating!