Welcome once again to the CLawBies, the Canadian Law Blog Awards, handed out annually on New Year’s Eve. As we again count down the year’s final hours, the CLawBies continue to adhere to our founding motto: “We may not be the best law blog awards of the year, but we’re definitely the last ones to be handed out.” 2011 marks our sixth consecutive year of bestowing CLawBies on Canadian legal bloggers without ever, technically, having been asked to do so.
As you might know by now, we don’t take ourselves especially seriously when handing out CLawBies. What we do take seriously, however, is the Canadian law blogging community, which has been getting bigger and better every single year since blawgging (cf. Denise Howell) first started. We don’t claim any credit for that growth, but we are proud to have the opportunity to promote Canadian online legal commentary and to single out what we believe are the best examples of this rapidly expanding community.
If this is your first encounter with the CLawBies, allow us to fill in the basics. We are looking for the best law blogs in Canada. Every December, we ask Canadian lawyers and legal professionals to nominate candidates via blog posts or Tweets — once again, encouraging contact and new relationships between nominators and nominees and strengthening the bonds within our unique community. (And in case you’re wondering where Slaw is on our lists, we’ve retired it from competition — it’s just too good. Simon Fodden of Slaw also joins as a judge this year!)
As usual, we also 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 and equally reasonable conclusions. And secondly, please accept our standard advisory not to take the CLawBies (or any other blog awards) too seriously. We have singled out only a few of the nominees; please be sure to review all the nominations. One of the principal reasons we encourage public nominations is to demonstrate that diversity of opinion.
Without further delay: here are the winners of the 2011 CLawBies!
1) The Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law Blog
B.C. Injury Law Blog: Consistently one of the strongest, most accessible and most frequently updated blogs in the country, the B.C. Injury Law Blog is an overdue recipient of our top award. Erik Magraken blogs from the Victoria office of MacIsaac & Co. about personal injury law in B.C., with a particular focus on matters relating to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. A bit of CLawBies trivia: Erik is the first private-practice winner of the Best Law Blog Award since Rob Hyndman was a co-recipient of this honour in 2008.
Runner-up: First Reference
2) Best Practitioner Blogs
As we highlighted last year, the growth of private-practice law blogs in Canada over the past few years has been phenomenal. A community once dominated by law professors, law librarians, legal technology experts and other non-practitioners is today much more balanced by the number of practicing lawyers who share their opinions, and is much the better for this diversity.
Once again, we hand out three awards in this increasingly populated space:
- Employment & Human Rights Law in Canada: Employment law blogs in Canada represent one of our strongest genres, in terms of both overall number and ClawBies participation. So it was remarkable when such a high percentage of those bloggers entered the name “Lisa Stam” in their nomination posts. Call that peer credibility, and call Lisa Stam a 2011 CLawBie winner.
- James Gannon’s IP Blog: Focused, insightful, and opinionated, James Gannon’s blog is deeply concerned with emerging issues of technology and freedom of expression. Sporting both law and engineering backgrounds, James delivers the requisite depth of coverage, making him a “must read” in the field of Canadian IP and technology law blogs.
- Youth and Work: We love niche blogs at the CLawBies, and few blogs have defined and filled a niche so quickly and with such a refreshingly different focus as Andrew Langille’s blog. Exploring a variety of employment law topics, this blog’s advice is equally suited to both younger employees and to employers with a youth-dominated workplace.
3) Legal Culture Award
Canadian Legal History Blog. There’s a blind spot within the Canadian legal profession: especially when compared to other countries, we don’t know nearly enough about our collective professional history. The Osgoode Society’s Canadian Legal History Blog addresses this problem and fills that gap, with frequent posts that, in their own words, “share knowledge and discuss aspects of the unique and exciting legal history of our country.”
4) Non-Legal Audience Blog
This award is intended to recognize blogs whose readership is neither other lawyers nor the blogger’s own client base, but rather, that are published for the benefit of larger non-legal communities who are nevertheless affected by and benefit from knowledge about the law.
This year, we honour the blog of B.C.’s collaborative public legal education initiative, ClickLaw. Published by the Courthouse Libraries B.C. and 24 contributor organizations, Clicklaw is flat-out one of the best public legal education and free legal resource blogs to be found anywhere. This blog consistently adheres to its plain-language writing style, even among a relatively large group of contributing bloggers, and always seems to deliver topics that are useful and informative. Simply exceptional!
5) Friend of the North Award
In past years. we’ve handed out awards to bloggers in the U.S. and Europe who consistently cited Canada and Canadian legal developments. This year, we’re changing the criteria somewhat to recognize our favourite U.S. and U.K. blogs that deliver valuable insight to Canadian readers. Considering that we’re talking about a talent pool more than 3,000 blogs deep, this is hardly an easy task. Nonetheless, we’re proud to honour:
3 Geeks and a Law Blog: There are very few “must-read” law blogs, fewer still that cover a range of topics from law libraries to knowledge management to law firm pricing to legal futurism. Toby Brown, Greg Lambert, Lisa Salazar and their guest bloggers consistently deliver the goods.
6) EuroCan Connection Award
Similarly, this award now recognizes what we think is the best law blog coming out of Great Britain or the European Union. As Canadians, there’s a natural inclination to highlight our Commonwealth cousins in the UK (as we did this year), but we’re keeping the name for now, with consideration for future expansion.
Legal Futures: Neil Rose’s essential website, detailing the extraordinary changes underway in the UK legal market, features a blog with breaking news and exclusive scoops every single week. Lawyers in every jurisdiction benefit from Legal Futures’ reports and analysis of the Legal Services Act and its ongoing reinvention of the legal profession in the birthplace of the common law.
7) Legal News
Legal Feeds, the blog of Canadian Lawyer magazine and the Law Times newspaper. One of the strongest output volumes of any Canadian law blog, Legal Feeds features a mix of breaking top news, less formal industry developments, and early teasers of print-copy stories. This is what a legal periodical blog should look like.
8) Best Practice Management Blog
Social Media For Law Firms: Practical, accessible and well-written, Samantha Collier’s blog is aimed squarely at the typical lawyer curious about social media but seeking foundational knowledge on what he or she should do and not do. An overwhelming favourite among (you guessed it) social media nominators, Samantha’s blog helps define the nuances of building online relationships and expanding content engagement.
9) Law Library Blog
Blogue du CRL. Written by the Comite de recherche et legislation de l’Association du Jeune Barreau de Montréal, this is one of the deepest and most diverse examples of online information resources for lawyers and legal professionals. It’s also a leading example of the growing presence and impact of French-language law blogs in Canada.
10) Legal Technology
Small City Law Firm Tech: A runner-up last year, Vivian Manning’s blog broke through a crowded and competitive category to take home the CLawBie this year. Practical and insightful, with a strong combination of roundup and original posts, this blog complements Vivian’s other online authorship such as Attorney At Work.
Runner-up: Canadian Cloud Law Blog
11) Practice Group Blog
Canadian Securities Law: One of the strongest entries in the trailblazing stable of excellent practice group blogs from Stikeman Elliott, Canadian Securities Law keeps its readers updated and fully informed of all relevant developments in a high-powered and highly competitive industry where time and information really are money.
Runner-up: Entertainment and Media Law Signal from Heenan Blaikie
12) Best New Blogs
We had an enormous selection of great new law blogs to choose from in 2011. Making picks in this category is never easy; but of all the new 2011 bloggers, we felt these were the best:
- Edilex Blog Juridique: An excellent example of the impact of multiple-author law blogs that cover a wide range of legal topics. The next Slaw?
- Le Droit au Silence: Véronique Robert of Montréal writes one of the best criminal law blogs in Canada in either language.
- Lee Akazaki: The eponymous blog of the former OBA president addresses a host of issues, with a focus on mentoring initiatives for new lawyers.
13) Best Law School/Law Professor Blog (Tie)
Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog: For many years, one of Canada’s strongest blogs in both legal academia and law practice, David Doorey’s blog had perhaps its best year yet. Check out his top ten posts of 2011 to see why we were so impressed.
Legal Frontiers: McGill’s Blog on International Law: Setting new standards for the production quality and technological savvy of legal education blogs, Legal Frontiers is a well-written, comprehensive blog with a welcome diversity of contributors and an obviously global outlook.
And that, folks, is the ballgame for another year: our picks for the best Canadian law blogs in 2011. Please visit and congratulate each of our winners, and don’t forget to thank our finalists and distinguished nominees for all their hard work! The Canadian blawgosphere continues to offer outstanding quality of legal knowledge, insight, and analysis; if you haven’t yet taken advantage of this enormously useful resource, make it your first 2012 resolution.