Welcome to New Year’s Eve 2018! As we wait with great anticipation to see what 2019 has in store for us, we’re taking a final look back over the past 12 months to gauge the very best legal blogging and podcasting Canada had to offer. It’s the 13th annual Canadian Law Blog Awards, the last (and therefore the best) awards of 2018.
The 2018 Clawbies mark an inflection point in the history of these awards. While we’ve always honoured the best legal blogging in Canada, we started last year to also recognize outstanding providers of Canadian legal podcasts. This year, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number and quality of these podcasts, as well as in the support they receive in response to our Call for Nominations. It feels like a new era in personal online legal publishing is truly upon us.
Every year, the number and quality of Canadian legal blogs and podcasts increase, and lawblogs.ca now tracks an astonishing 500 blogs and podcasts about the law based here in Canada. This vibrant and dynamic community grows a little larger every year, and we’re honoured to have the opportunity to recognize some of its most exceptional practitioners.
Without further ado … the winners!!
Fodden Award for Best Canadian Legal Blog
Winner: The Docket by Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman. A finalist for last year’s Fodden Award, The Docket has the honour of being the first podcast to take home the big prize, thanks to the duo’s inimitable blend of whip-smart analysis, conviction and humour. Alongside an impressive roster of guests, the Docket team dissected the year’s many constitutional and criminal justice developments and the cases and issues that had everyone talking, and of course, treated us to more highly anticipated “aftershow” episodes for The Staircase. Top marks to these two bold hosts who aren’t afraid to mince words–or to share their bloopers!
Runner Up: O’Faolain by David Whelan – who also takes home Best Law Library Blog this year. We’re hard-pressed to find a better example of good old-school blogging than Whelan’s, thanks to ample real-world anecdotes from the workplace, personal reflections and stunning photography. O’Faolain readers appreciate this this timely, relevant content–as one nomination put it: “Sometimes I feel like he’s a mind reader, as I’ll be thinking about a particular topic and then I’ll discover he’s just written something on it.”
Runner Up: IdeaBlawg by Lisa Silver, who took home Best Law School/Law Prof Blog award last year. As one nomination put it, “the most informative, contextualized and well written criminal law blog and podcast in Canada”. With analysis, reviews, speeches and case/legislation comments, Silver’s contributions are admirable.
Best Practitioner Blog Awards
Winner: Employment & Human Rights Law in Canada by Lisa Stam. Having taken home Clawbies in 2011 and 2013, this blog is a perennial favourite among readers. Stam achieves a tone that’s light and pleasurable to read, while keeping her content highly informative and authoritative. New bloggers would do well to study her style.
Winner: Labour Pains by Sean Bawden. This three time winner never slows down, demonstrating his practice area savvy through a reliable mix of case summaries, legislative comments and useful tips, complemented by attention-grabbing titles and imagery. Per one nomination: “As Sean’s commentary shows, he knows the law.”
Winner: Kate Dewhirst Health Law. A winner in last year’s Best New Law Blog category, Dewhirst continues to wow with her frequent and wide-ranging commentary on all things health law (and moments of candid vulnerability). Through blogging, Dewhirst has found a perfect way to communicate the deep passion she has for her practice area.
Best Business of Law Blog Award
Winner: Inter Alia Law Blog by Darlene Tonelli. Along with its companion Lawyer Life Podcast, the Inter Alia blog gave us lots to chew on this year. Two well-written, thought-provoking series examine themes of challenging the status quo, embracing innovation and disruption, and finding happiness and fulfilment in your legal career.
Runner up: The Lean Law Firm by Gimbal Canada. The Lean Law Firm breaks down the complex world of project management and process improvement and provides practical tips on how to make your firm run more smoothly and be more profitable, along with real-world case studies of how clients put these tips into practice.
Runner up: Eva Chan. Chan’s blog helps lawyers keep tabs on the ever-changing social media landscape and how to combine online marketing and networking efforts with offline tactics for maximum effect.
Best Legal Culture Blog Award
Winner: Diversonomics Podcast by Gowlings WLG. Hosts Sarah Willis and Roberto Aburto recently wrapped up a third season tackling the timely and critical topics of diversity and inclusion in the legal market. This “much needed and courageous conversation” (as one nomination put it) dives into race, gender, mental health, unconscious bias, allyship and much more.
Runner up: Cowling Legal Blog. Erin Cowling was tired of reading stories about women leaving the law, so she found more than 30 of them to interview about leading in law. One nomination said the series is “phenomenal & inspiring to Canadian female lawyers, and reflects true diversity”. We can’t wait to see how our 2017 Fodden Award winner builds on this series in 2019.
Runner up: Law Student Blogs. When blogging first gained traction over a decade ago, law student bloggers were some of the earliest participants. Not blogging for their firms at that point, but writing independently, and crafting original and leading commentary. In 2018 we think law students are overdue for recognition. Our newest HOF entry, The Court, is one example, but we would also like to honour two excellent and committed law student blogs: Cassels Brock & Blogwell–a voice for the firms’ students for an entire decade–and McCague Borlack’s A Day in the Life.
Best Change & Advocacy Blog Award
Winner: Jumping off the Ivory Tower Podcast by NSRLP. Prof. Julie Macfarlane and Dayna Cornwall “showcase visionaries, social justice warriors, and legal system disrupters” from Canada and abroad. One nomination praised their “important work highlighting #a2j issues and bridging the knowledge gap between the public and the legal community. Podcast is well-produced and easy to listen to.”
Runner up: Rights Watch by CCLA and Pro Bono Students Canada. This joint project features student bloggers from across the country, who highlight news and developments related to basic rights and freedoms in Canada. With impressive frequency and both English and French entries, this blog is a must-read for anyone with an interest in human rights and civil liberties.
Runner up: F This! West Coast LEAF is shifting toward a more diverse and inclusive view of feminism, and their new multi-author blog is “a space to explore ideas and directions for change through an intersectional feminist len”. Topics to date have included consent, voting rights, solitary confinement, and reconciliation.
Best Law Library Blog Award
Winner: O’Faolain by David Whelan. With his finger on the pulse of law libraries, legal information and technology, Whelan writes conversational, timely and thoughtful posts that draw readers in and encourage new ways of looking at the library and legal world.
Runner up: Robeside Assistance by the library staff at the County of Carleton Law Association. Kudos to the Robeside team for achieving that elusive blog goal: a perfect balance of utility, fun, and community-mindedness.
Runner up: Library Boy by Michel-Adrien Sheppard. Described in one nomination as “a stalwart of Canadian legal library blogs”, Library Boy has been running steadily since 2005, keeping tabs on and sharing the latest library and law news and resource that so many of us rely on.
Best Practice Group Blog Awards
Winner: Hull & Hull Blog (& Podcast) Hull & Hull have a history of groundbreaking work. As one of this country’s earliest firm bloggers, along with the first influential podcast for trusts and estates law, this firm has been there. 2018 was another solid year of creative commentary.
Winner: Condo Adviser by the condo law team at Gowling WLG seems to work harder each year. 2018 saw the firm publish more than fifty posts, tackling issues like electric vehicle charging stations and the handling of cannabis legalization.
Winner: CCPartners Blog With the number of employment law blogs across Canada, it really does take a team to stand out! Few multi-author blogs can boast the variety of writers that this boutique firm does–most of the firm participates! Better yet, the firm’s youth seems to lead the way.
Best New Law Blog Awards
Winner: Moly Law Blog by Sarah Molyneaux. Dubbed “progressive and empowering” and “a joy to read” in the nominations, Molyneaux’s labour, employment and human rights blog clearly has a loyal readership. Of special note here is the blog’s particular focus on gender issues, feminism and the #MeToo movement within the employment context.
Winner: Juriblogue. This French-language blog is a joint project of the Association of French Speaking Jurists of Ontario and PratiquO. One nomination praised Juriblogue “especially in these linguistically precarious times in Ontario, for its promotion of the practice of law in French outside of Québec”.
Winner: Crossroads Family Law Blog. Marcus Sixta and his team discuss both the realities of the family law legal system in Alberta and BC, and the challenges families face when relationships break down. The blog shares useful information and examples of how the firm has helped clients through mediation, coaching and unbundled legal services.
Best Law School/Law Professor Blog Award
Winner: Intrepid Podcast by Stephanie Carvin and Craig Forcese. Profs Carvin and Forcese infuse the serious (and potentially dry) topic of national security law and policy with a hefty dose of personality and humour. Per one nom: “Seriously, I’ve listened to every episode at least once and assigned it to students and classes. It’s not just interesting and informative, it’s a public service.”
Runner Up: ReconciliYEG . This collaborative blog from Cree, Metis and settler law students at University of Alberta Law had another outstanding year and continued to garner recognition and appreciation from the legal community “for the creative, powerful and generous work they do to foster learning/unlearning”, as one nomination put it.
Runner Up: Robson Crim Legal Blog. Based out of Robson Hall Law School at the University of Manitoba, this collaborative blog features posts by law students and academics from across Canada. Case comments, current events, book reviews, law school events and more make up this a true “Canada-wide research hub” for criminal law.
Best Niche Blog Awards
Winner: Lash Condo Law Blog by Denise Lash. Overdue for a win, this blog tracks all the latest development in condo law in Ontario and beyond. Its content and volume are commendable–and inspirational. According to one nomination, “Denise is the reason why I blog today.”
Winner: Paw & Order Podcast by Peter Sankoff and Camille Labchuk. Paw & Order is a terrific example of how easy it is to produce great content when you’re passionate about the subject–this this case, animal law. Also takes home this year’s unofficial “best name” prize!
Winner: RT Blog by Rubin Thomlinson. Their topic–workplace investigations–has never been more relevant. The RT team takes care to write thoughtful but practical pieces on sensitive, complex matters.
Best Podcast or Vlog Awards
Winner: Of Counsel Podcast by Sean Robichaud. In just one year, Robichaud has compiled a standout catalogue of interviews with some of the most recognizable names in Canadian law, deep-diving into the evolution of their legal careers and discussing what keeps them going. Per one nomination, “I learn; I’m inspired; I’m empowered; I think about what made me go into law. I get so much direction from every single episode”
Winner: Cases That Should Have Gone to the SCC But Didn’t by Kyla Lee. Lee’s video series is clever, entertaining and has some passionate fans, one of whom raved that “Kyla is a one woman media army using new and old media to make the law far more understandable and accessible, and that’s truly what effective legal blogging is all about.”
Winner: Stereo Decisis Podcast by Robert Danay, Oliver Pulleyblank and Hilary Young. Stereo Decisis is a lively podcast series with hosts from both coasts, and informative, engaging and candid. From the nominations: “I always learn something when I listen” and “They seem willing to talk about just about anything (witness the episode “The Beverley Bralette Edition”).”
Runner up: Objection! By Kelly Doctor and Nadine Blum. Objection! is an eye-opening mini-series about “injustices, big and small”. Episodes on unpaid work, child care as a human right, and other meaty topics left us wanting more. Here’s hoping for additional episodes in 2019!
Best Blogger in a Group Blog or Platform
As more veteran Canadian legal blog heavyweights are retired to our Clawbies Hall of Fame, we found ourselves wondering whether that might preclude some standout individuals from getting due credit. To that end, for the first time, we’re naming a “best blogger in a group blog or platform”. In the future this could be an individual blogger from a HOF group blog such as ABlawg, or someone publishing original content on CanLII Connects.
Identifying an inaugural winner in this category wasn’t hard. Slaw is blessed with so many quality writers. That said, selecting a standout like Omar Ha-Redeye is a choice few would argue. For the past decade, only Simon Fodden could be said to rival Omar both in volume and original thinking. While Slaw’s regular columnists contribute six bi-monthly columns, Omar’s presence is punctuated by fifty annual pieces as a blogger. Boom!
2018 Hall of Fame
Each year we add one or two blogs to our Clawbies Hall of Fame. New entries must have at least three prior Clawbie awards for consideration. Here are the inductees for 2018:
- The Court: It seems fitting that The Court joins the Clawbies Hall of Fame this year. When the blog won its first Canadian Law Blog Award back in 2007, we remarked that “spearheaded by Slaw’s Simon Fodden, this group of law student editors is working hard to become the equivalent of the SCOTUS blog in the US.” After more than a decade of continuous publishing, The Court continues to impress.
- Legal Sourcery: Sharing a reliable mix of practical tips, events, library news and resources, and legal developments and happenings in Saskatchewan–all in an personable and engaging way–Legal Sourcery has still got that “info-cool factor” we love. In a province with a small legal community, Legal Sourcery hits way above its weight.
And that’s it–the Clawbie awards are in the books for another year! Congratulations to all the winners and runners-up, and sincere thanks to everyone who nominated a candidate on their own blog or via Twitter. A special shout-out to all the hard-working Canadian bloggers who didn’t receive a Clawbie—keep up the great work! Your peers have your back.