It’s the last day of 2020! This moment definitely has a “we made it!” feeling, doesn’t it? But as ugly as these past twelve months have been, there comes a time to shut down the negative feelings and embrace our collective optimism for the future. As the Clawbies caretakers, we want to be a part of that renewal.
Before we get into the winners, a small confession or two. Each Fall around mid-October, as we begin gathering our heads to focus on the upcoming Clawbies season, we wonder: Are the Clawbies still working? Is it worth the time investment? We can’t know the answer to these questions until after December 1st, of course, when the nominations begin. So like many decisions in life, the Clawbies are driven by a “leap of faith”.
Once the opening of nominations does come, we start our monitoring process; but more importantly, begin to realize why we still do this. As much as we genuinely care about quality legal commentary, it’s the peer-to-peer endorsements that mean everything in our process. Seeing those connections, or those receiving a little “pat on the back” from a colleague (or a competitor!) — that’s what drives writers to write; and quality commentary to move from concept to production.
In this years’ collection of winners, you will find both established and new personalities. The goal, of course, is to mix it up! Did we get a nod of recognition on a couple winners? Did we show you a new name or two that you haven’t seen before? If so, then our annual Clawbies production season was a success!
One final note: A big thank you to Emma Durand-Wood for the final draft and editing of this year’s awards. We couldn’t make the Clawbies work without Emma, so if you have won an award, please tag her in a tweet and let her know!
Now, on to this year’s winners!
Fodden Award 2020
Since 2010, this “big prize” honours the crème de la crème in Canadian legal commentary.
Since its inception in 2013, the NSRLP has won several Clawbies for specific streams of content: their blog, their podcast and self-help resources; this year, we are awarding the NSRLP’s collective body of work with the Fodden Award. The organization’s effort in amplifying the stories and voices of stakeholders involved in the Canadian self-represented litigant phenomenon–from litigants to A2J groups to judges to lawyers–is well deserving of this recognition.
Nominations praised the NSRLP for:
- “their continued effort in making the legal system more accessible to SRLs. Their recent primer is an essential tool for SRLs to be better prepared”
- “maintaining a current list of court changes nationwide due to COVID-19 ever since shutdowns started!”
- “promoting dialogue between self-reps and members of the legal profession. Understanding the ‘other’ side’s experiences and concerns is a very necessary part of resolving the current A2J crisis”
Kudos to Project Director Dr. Julie Macfarlane, whose 2013 research kicked off the NSRLP, and to the many staff and volunteers who contribute to this robust, invaluable resource.
Best Blogs & Commentary
There’s nothing like a classic, straightforward old-school blog. Here are the year’s best blogging efforts.
This year, Team ReconciliAction YEG (Law and Social Media students at the U of Alberta Faculty of Law) explored the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, five years in. Readers look forward to posts and value “their comprehensive, measured-yet-pointed, highly researched, well articulated assessment and grading of the implementation of the TRC’s calls to action.”
U of Calgary law professor Lisa Silver’s long-running blog remains helpful as ever. Students praise it as the “most informative criminal law blog around – definitely helped me out in both evidence and criminal procedure this term” and say “it’s been a lifesaver in 1L crim and I can’t recommend it enough”.
The U of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous Law Centre maintains this “well-researched, informative blog that provides updates on Canadian cases involving Indigenous issues.” The blog features a massive number of summaries of very recent cases, each with a concise, bold headnote that gives a helpful snapshot of the content within.
Readers appreciated the “balanced, reliable and even keeled voice” of Michelle Kelly and fellow condo lawyers at Ontario firm Robson Carpenter on their Condominium Management Law Blog. They provided timely and valuable insight on how COVID-19 affects condo dwellers and managers, without overlooking the basics like changes in legislation and caselaw.
This blog from West Coast Environmental Law, led by staff lawyer Andrew Gage, offers ample commentary on environmental protection and climate action in BC and Canada, with lenses of reconciliation and access to justice. The volume of informative, thought-provoking posts is commendable.
Every installation of Calgary lawyer Pawel Milczarek’s “Defence Toolkit” post features three case summaries with an author’s note for each. From the nominations: “This weekly summary is a handy, 29-45min Saturday read that is always worth the time it takes.”
Best Bloggers on a Platform or Group Blog
With giants like Slaw and ABlawg retired to the Clawbies Hall of Fame, this category lets us recognize individual bloggers who continue to shine in group blogs.
Readers appreciated Fluker’s “critically illuminating” admin law posts during the pandemic, noting they are “relevant, thoughtful and clear” and “have done major work in holding the government to account in using their emergency powers”. The nominations also note that “in addition to being a prolific blogger, Professor Fluker has long been an integral part of the ABlawg team, including editorial duties.”
John Gregory (Slaw)
Publishing legal technology columns at Slaw.ca for more than a decade makes John Gregory Clawbie-worthy all on its own. But to be clear, it’s John’s approach that makes him a special voice in our Canadian ecosystem. His vision starts with the technology itself, exploring applications or the evolution a device (or service) is taking; only then do we see the rights, interests, and the law applied. Technology is an exploration with John, and has been for more than three decades. His passion is anything but ordinary.
With so many new podcasts going live all the time, it can be hard to keep track of them all. Here are five standouts for 2020.
Myrna McCallum’s Trauma-Informed Lawyer Podcast (in partnership with the CBA) is “an invaluable resource for anyone working in/around the criminal legal system and who work with people dealing with trauma” and brings a “much needed speciality to the profession”. Numerous nominations thanked McCallum for improving their legal education through better understanding of trauma and mental health.
Legal Listening features recordings of seminal Canadian legal decisions in an easy listening audio format. The pod garnered a ton of nominations praising their spirit of collaboration, access to justice efforts and “staggering rate” of production. Founders Zach & Karly and their many guest readers make the law more accessible, convenient and interesting while “providing a space for the broader legal community and students to participate!”
Family lawyer and mediator AJ Jakubowska’s Sane Split podcast features commentary and interviews that are insightful and accessible, avoid legal jargon and focus on “the human aspect of separation”. Listeners praise “her ability to provide pragmatic family law information through sincere human compassion”.
Ontario law firm Oatley Vigmond’s Exhibit Eh podcast, which focuses on personal injury law & practice, includes a wonderfully varied stream of bonus “Eh-OK” podcasts. Created as a response to COVID-19, these episodes are a “series of short, entertaining ‘check-in’ conversations” with a long list of guests in law, health, and even sports and music.
Independent Senator Kim Pate and law students working at her office host another phenomenal year of Appointed, which tackles Canada’s complex social justice issues through interviews with a wide variety of guests. This year featured a series examining guaranteed livable income from different perspectives, along with episodes on food insecurity, restorative and transformative justice, Indigenous self-determination, child welfare and more.
Best Twitter Accounts
By popular request, we began including Twitter accounts in last year’s awards. Here are four more great Tweeps to follow on the original “micro-blogging” platform.
Nominations for Dr. Ogbogu, a professor at University of Alberta Law and Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, praised his timely insight on public health, politics and racial inequality. “During this unsettling year, his tweets were a dependable source we could rely on for insight and clarity on these issues.”
To follow Danielle Lussier, a Métis professor and the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law’s Indigenous Learner Advocate, on Twitter is to delve into the Indigenous legal pedagogy of beadwork and to witness a learning law school community.
Ontario lawyer Naomi Sayers “built a bot that compiles COVID-19 court decisions across the country” that’s “perfect for keeping one’s finger on the pulse of case law amid the pandemic.” @indigibot (“Indigenous + Bot”) currently tweets out COVID-related content but was originally created as a way to keep tabs on Ontario and federal admin law changes (Sayers’ area of practice/interest).
Followers appreciate Toronto criminal lawyer Chris Sewrattan’s “timely dissection of recent cases”, noting his impressive continued output in the midst of the pandemic, and calling his ONCA summaries “valuable” and “the best”.
Best Innovative Projects
Necessity is the mother of invention–two things there was a lot of in 2020. Cheers to the creative and generous folks who gave their time and energy to create these three marvelous projects.
Heather Hui-Litwin created this remarkably robust website and accompanying YouTube channel as a public legal education resource for litigants in Ontario. From decoding legalese to how to Cerlox bind a document (really!) this project addresses the need for clear, practical guidance and information for anyone navigating the civil justice system.
Seeing that law student employment opportunities (particularly in criminal defence) would be hit hard by the COVID crisis, U of Alberta law professor Peter Sankoff raised over $120,000 to place 100 law students in summer internships by offering low-cost online CLE sessions. While registration fees were used to raise funds, Sankoff made the sessions free for anyone out of work because of COVID. And did we mention he suffered a major health emergency in the middle of it all? Sankoff’s project exemplifies the spirit of generosity we aim to recognize with the Clawbies.
This huge project, which harnessed the power of dozens of volunteer writers, editors and contributors, produced the first-ever open access manual of civil litigation for BC. The publication contains extensive annotated court rules, topical pathfinders and a guide to civil procedure. The manual meets a need for user-friendly legal information and demonstrates the willingness of professionals to share their time and knowledge. (Disclosure: Stem Legal was a consultant on this project.)
Best Law Library Resources
The very first edition of the Clawbies was penned from a law library, so this category is near & dear to us. Hat tip to the hardworking info pros who support their patrons and peers through these resources.
Only on Twitter since March of 2020, the Law Society of Ontario’s Law Library “leads the way with its engaging, effective, and entertaining Twitter account.” This feed shares useful and interesting information, uses photos to great effect, and runs weekly fun facts, legal research tips and more.
The Law Society of Manitoba’s Great Library blog is a one-stop shop for court notices & practice directions, library news & resources, substantive law updates, legislation, legal research tips and local legal community blog posts. An invaluable current awareness tool for Manitoba legal professionals.
For an incredible 15 years now, SCC librarian Michel-Adrien Sheppard has been steadfastly sharing the things well-rounded and well-informed law library folks need to know (aka “law library blogaliciousness”). From conferences to research, statistics to court news, Library Boy captures an astonishingly wide variety of citations related to the library and legal worlds.
Best Student Projects
Law students shared a truly awesome amount of energy, creativity and passion this year; here are three websites that demonstrate those efforts perfectly.
The Collective is “a diverse group of law students committed to sharing our understanding of the law in an accessible way.” These U of Windsor Faculty of Law students volunteer as writers, editors and translators to create short and sweet legal summaries of criminal law cases “with hopes of making the law more understandable and accessible for everyone.”
Calling it “one of my favourite law blogs” and “much-needed content for law students”, nominations for this blog praise its network of great writers. Founder/editor Joey Galinsky noted the lack of first-person commentary on the Canadian law school experience and assembled a team of more than a dozen writers to fill that void. As a bonus, audio versions of posts are being produced for the accompanying Law School Life & Beyond podcast.
Inter Alia, the U of Ottawa’s Faculty of Common Law student magazine, has “provided timely, frequent and innovative communication” that “helped foster a sense of community amongst students and become a leading voice during these trying times”. Readers appreciate “their commitment to diversity, bilingualism, & moving the legal profession forward!”
Best Multi-Platform Presence
This category recognizes an author who stands out because of their willingness to experiment with media; and then bring those platforms together to deliver commentary in a unique way.
Calgary business immigration lawyer Evelyn Ackah shares her legal wisdom, personal experiences and insights via her website, YouTube channel and podcast. “Evelyn shares important updates & news in immigration law, inspirational success stories about people achieving their #CanadianDream + motivating news about her firm and #WomenInLaw.”
Law & Laughter Awards
Laughter’s always the best medicine, but in 2020 we appreciated clever comedic content more than ever.
Toronto lawyer-slash-breakfast connoisseur Ian Perry’s video installments are “a breath of fresh air” that provide guaranteed LOLs in this seriously blah time. Perry serves up verdicts on breakfast and coffee offerings from court-district cafes, with a side of Toronto law community insider intel.
“Canada’s cutest satirical law firm” is just the snark we needed this year, with nominations crediting the account “for helping keep me to within my usual minimal standards of sanity.” Props to its unknown author!
Sometimes you have to laugh, otherwise you’d cry, and the anonymously-penned @MediocreLaw is a great example. “Partly jaded; fully witty. Offers brutally honest insight into our profession’s (dysfunctional) idiosyncrasies from articling’s perspective. Follow this reflection of a smeared mirror.”
2020 Clawbies Hall of Fame Inductees
In 2016, we began “retiring” a handful of past multiple-year winners into the Clawbies Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame recognizes the hard work of these authors and also makes space for new voices in the main awards. This year’s inductees will no longer be considered for annual Clawbies, but they are recognized with a Hall of Fame badge for their use, as well as a notation of the honour at lawblogs.ca.
Here are the 2020 inductees:
After more than 100 episodes, The Docket hosts Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman are still nailing it with frank opinions, enlightening conversations, and unabashed geekiness. They won Clawbies in 2016 and 2017, plus the Fodden Award in 2019, sealing a much-deserved place in the Hall of Fame.
One of the Clawbies’ biggest supporters over the years, Erik Magraken’s BC Injury Law Blog has had its share of Clawbies wins, including the Fodden Award in 2011, along with awards in 2009 and 2019. Since March of 2008, Erik has published more than 2600 case law summaries, making Erik not only one of Canada’s longest serving bloggers, but delivering regular and reliable commentary that his peers can count on.
And that’s it, folks — this year’s Clawbies are in the books! Congratulations to all the winners, and our sincere thanks to everyone who nominated a candidate on their own blog or via Twitter.