Has anyone ever asked us to do this? Not at all. Do we have any kind of licence to do this? Not really. Did we receive a sternly worded letter from Wallace Shawn’s legal representatives in New York last week? Possibly. But despite all of that, for the eighth consecutive year, Stem Legal is very proud to bring you the Clawbies, the Canadian Law Blog Awards! Handed out annually on New Year’s Eve, we’re sticking to our time-honoured mantra that we may not be the best awards of the year, but we’re definitely the last awards of the year.
We started the Clawbies back in 2005 as a fun and engaging way to encourage the growth of the Canadian legal blogosphere. Today, no encouragement is required: the volume and quality of Canadian law blogging continues to grow every year, amazing and inspiring us along the way. And every year, the job of choosing the Clawbie winners becomes that much more challenging! There are so many gems out there that rewarding the richest and brightest, means we’re leaving many other fine jewels unrecognized.
In that regard, we have a sincere request: 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 think that it’s because we think your shine has faded! Far from it: the quality of posts from many previous winners has only continued to increase. But 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 churn out great work. It’s a delicate balancing act, and we hope we’ve managed to walk the tightrope another year.
As always, nominations for the Clawbies were submitted from lawyers and law bloggers across Canada by blog post, tweet, or email ballot. That list was supplemented by selections from our three judges: Steve Matthews, Jordan Furlong, and Simon Fodden. Put it all together, and we’re pleased to announce our picks for the best of the best: the 2013 Clawbies for the top Canadian law blogs.
May we have the envelopes, please?
1) The Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law Blog
First Reference Talks: This was truly a tough call, since we had several deserving candidates for Canada’s best law blog of 2013. But First Reference, which has been a runner-up in the past, gets our nod for an extraordinary year of providing consistently high-quality employment law and compliance information. FR jointly operates two great blogs: the original First Reference Talks, which tackles employment, HR, and payroll issues, and the more recent Inside Internal Controls, which updates readers on risk management implementation. Yosie St-Cyr and her team of bloggers from across the country deserve acclaim not just for the volume and regularity of their posts and the practical applicability of their updates, but also for their laser focus on our favourite audience: clients. Written for the people on the front lines inside corporations and governments, as well as lawyers in private practice, First Reference delivers the best of what blogs can do: help make the law accessible, understandable, and implementable.
Runners-Up: As mentioned, we had many candidates for the Fodden Award, but some of them have received their own specialty awards below. So here are three great blogs that deserve to be recognized, but that have not taken home their own hardware this year:
À bon droit, by Karim Renno of Irving Mitchell Kalichman in Montreal
Entertainment And Media Law Signal, by Bob Tarantino and his colleagues at Heenan Blaikie nationwide
The Trial Warrior, by Buddy Guy of the North Antonin Pribetic of Toronto
2) Best Practitioner Blogs
As usual, we recognize three blogs in this category. Here are this year’s winners:
Canadian Privacy Law Blog: David Fraser of McInnes Cooper in Halifax is a prior winner, but in 2013, the year of Edward Snowden and the NSA, he deserves special mention for his fierce critiques of privacy violations by government and corporate snoopers.
Employment and Human Rights Law in Canada: Lisa Stam of Baker & McKenzie in Toronto has become a powerhouse blogger in a crowded field of law that has no shortage of great writers.
Family LLB: Central Ontario divorce lawyer Russell Alexander writes about family law issues in a practical way. He’s clear, sincere, and isn’t afraid to experiment, as shown by his use of video content, or documenting of philanthropic activities. (Disclosure: Russell is a Stem client)
3) Legal Culture Award
This category recognizes 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’s award goes to:
Youth And Work, written by Andrew Langille, a Toronto-based labour lawyer who blogs about “youths, workplace law, economics, labour markets, education, and public policy.” Youth And Work tackles a wide range of issues surrounding the education and employment of the Millennial Generation, but takes special aim at the pernicious habit of unpaid internships and exposes the practitioners of this dark art with gusto. The best blogs become part of the conversation surrounding the issues they cover; Youth And Work’s unapologetically partisan perspective helps it meet that objective.
4) Non-Legal Audience Blog
This category honours blogs that specifically target a readership with very little knowledge of the law, but with a strong need for access to and information about legal issues. This year’s award goes to:
Susan On The Soapbox, written by Calgary lawyer Susan Wright, another blog that takes a strong position on issues of public policy and delivers rousing attacks on (or defences of) corporate and political maneuvers in Alberta and across the country. Like Youth And Work, Susan On The Soapbox will not be everyone’s cup of tea politically; but blogs like this deserve to be singled out for their passion, dedication, and most importantly, their interest in enlightening their readers and advocating their positions, which ultimately is what lawyer blogs should do.
Electronic Legal Aid News, by B.C.’s Legal Services Society
SOQUIJ | Le Blogue, the official blog of Québec’s Société québécoise d’information juridique
5) Friend of the North Award
This category recognizes outstanding US blogs that at least nod toward legal developments north of the 49th parallel. We’ve been surprised and pleased by the attention this award has generated among our American friends and the number of nominations it generates. This year’s award goes to:
The Legal Whiteboard, a member of the Law Professors Blog Network, edited by Law Professors Bill Henderson, Jeff Lipshaw, and Michele DeStefano. With applications to U.S. law schools in free-fall and first-year enrollment at its lowest level since the 1970s, American legal education is in crisis. There is no better resource for the latest news, analysis, ideas, and critiques about what’s not working anymore and what might work next than The Legal Whiteboard. Intriguing developments in articling have landed Canada on the radar at this blog, cementing its choice as this year’s Friend Of The North.
3 Geeks and a Law Blog, by Toby Brown, Greg Lambert, Lisa Salazar, and Ryan McClead
Sarah Glassmeyer, the eponymous blog of the Chicago-based Director of Content Development for the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction
VoxPopuLII, the blog of the Legal Information Institute (you know, the U.S. equivalent of CanLII)
6) EuroCan Connection Award
This category honours outstanding blogs from the United Kingdom and continental Europe, although we may expand it globally to account for the rising number of strong blogs elsewhere in the world. This year’s award goes to:
Legal Futures Blog, by Neil Rose of London. The Legal Futures site itself is an online publication focusing on the extraordinary changes underway in the British legal system; but we are specifically honouring the LF Blog, which complements the news with trenchant commentary and timely insights into the impact of the Legal Services Act and many other changes to the governance of lawyers and the operation of the legal market in Great Britain.
7) Legal News Award
National Magazine: We’ve been keeping a certain distance from this blog since its debut, since one of our judges, Jordan Furlong, served as National’s editor for 10 years. But enough time has passed, and National’s blog has flourished so completely, that we feel it’s finally due. Whereas National magazine publishes only eight times a year, its blog is updated several times a month with the latest news and developments from the Canadian and global legal scenes. The blog’s use of video interviews is especially well-executed. This is a template for how a magazine and a blog can be effectively integrated.
Legal Post, by the Financial Post’s Legal Section
Legal Feeds, by Canadian Lawyer magazine
8) Best Practice Management Blog
Thoughtful Legal Management: We received several nominations for David Bilinsky’s blog about running a sound law practice, and for good reason. Always one of the most wide-ranging blogs in terms of topics, TLM this year canvassed issues from security to strategic planning, from people management to marketing, and from collaboration to productivity. Dave is one of the founding parents and most influential members of the Canadian blawgosphere and deserves to be recognized as the author of 2013’s premier law practice management blog.
Avoid A Claim, by LAWPRO’s Dan Pinnington
The Lean Law Firm, by Gimbal Canada Lean Practice Management Advisors
9) Best Law Library Blog
The Stream: We find it hard to believe that The Stream has never won a Clawbie before, and we want to correct that oversight today. Published by Courthouse Libraries BC, The Stream has long been one of the leading online voices for the law in that province. In addition to providing outstanding coverage on the latest research tools and changes in legislation, The Stream was one of the first “library blogs” to incorporate commentary from their user-base: local practitioners! This mix not only makes for interesting reading, but makes The Stream worthy of a (long-overdue) Clawbie.
Library Boy, by Michel-Adrien Sheppard of Ottawa
Off the Shelf, the Osgoode Hall Law School Library blog
10) Legal Technology
DroitDu.Net: This excellent blog covers issues relating to information technology throughout the Francophonie, focusing in particular on e-business, e-commerce, cyberlaw, intellectual property, security, and privacy law. The work of a six-university team, DroitDu is led by previous Clawbie winner Prof. Vincent Gautrais of le faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal. Canada has been lacking a powerful legal technology blog for some time; DroitDu sets the pattern for what such a blog would look like.
Runners-up: Since we’ve given the Legal Tech Award to a blog that deals with IP, we want to take this opportunity to recognize three other top-notch intellectual property blogs that tackle technology issues as well.
Barry Sookman’s eponymous blog from McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto
Excess Copyright, by IP lawyer Howard Knopf of Moffat & Co., Macera & Jarzyna in Ottawa
IP Osgoode, by Osgoode Hall’s IP Law and Technology Program, led by Prof. Giuseppina D’Agostino
11) Practice Group Blog
Canadian Appeals Monitor, by McCarthy Tétrault LLP, covers the niche topic of the appellate courts of Canada, including its strong regular contribution, ‘This Week at the SCC.’ This is a topic that really does take a national firm to pull off.
Litigation & Dispute Resolution Blog, by Davis LLP, turns a potentially large and unwieldy topic into an engaging, diversified read, thanks to a wide range of contributors and a lively writing style.
Western Canada Business Litigation Blog, by Lawson Lundell, is a great example of a niche blog that defines its audience and its subject narrowly and goes deep every time, delivering focused value to a smaller core readership.
12) Best New Blogs
The Canadian Legal Research Blog, by Catherine Best of Boughton Law Corporation in Vancouver, marks the entry into the Canadian blawgosphere of one of Canada’s pioneering legal research authorities. When Catherine’s blog was the first to highlight the new historical hansard website in November, it confirmed something we already suspected: she’s going to be a great blogger! Be sure to follow this one in 2014.
The Canadian MMA Blog has a familiar author (Erik Magraken, a past winner of the Fodden Award for his first blog on B.C. Personal Injury Law) and a highly unconventional topic: legal issues arising from the red-hot world of mixed martial arts. A great example of blog design that’s perfectly aligned with topic and audience, too.
The Treasurer’s Blog, by Law Society of Upper Canada Treasurer Thomas Conway, received an honourable mention last year and gets a full Clawbie this year. As we said in 2012, we applaud the provision of regular updates and perspectives from the leader of Canada’s largest lawyer jurisdiction, and we urge other law society presidents and executive directors to follow Treasurer Conway’s lead and communicate through blogs with the constituencies they govern.
13) Best Law School/Law Professor Blog
ABlawg, the University of Calgary Faculty of Law Blog. No other Canadian law blog received as many nominations as this one, many of them from practicing lawyers who find ABlawg’s updates and insights highly valuable. This is not just the best academic law blog in Canada, a category that is very difficult to win; it’s one of the best law blogs around, period.
Administrative Law Matters, by Professor Paul Daly of the Faculté de Droit at l’Université de Montréal
Double Aspect, a Canadian constitutional law blog by Leonid Sirota, a J.S.D. candidate at NYU School of Law
The Court, by Osgoode Hall Law School faculty and students, led by Professor Ikechi Mgbeoji
Special New Award: Blawg Review, In Memoriam
Everyone in the blawgosphere, in Canada and worldwide, was deeply saddened to hear this past fall of the passing of Ed, the anonymous editor of Blawg Review. If you’re new to the world of legal blogging, you might not appreciate just how significant a role was played by Blawg Review, a weekly “carnival” that invited a different legal blogger to write a roundup of the previous week’s best entries, often according to a theme that appealed to the blogger or his or her readership. Blawg Review was essential during those early days of the legal blogosphere, helping new law bloggers increase their exposure, and generally, helping bloggers to read each other’s work.
Blawg Review very much became a victim of its own success: the small and scattered legal blawgosphere that it helped nurture in its early days evolved into a powerhouse so vast and diverse that today, the ABA Journal has difficulty figuring out which of the best blogs should qualify for its “Top 100” list. As the blawgosphere became more independent and self-sustaining, Blawg Review updates became less frequent, although Ed was delighted to see so many voices establish themselves. Those of us who had the good fortune to correspond and/or speak with Ed consider ourselves truly fortunate to have received the friendship of an astonishingly generous and self-effacing mentor.
Ed himself always protected his anonymity, but after his death, it was acknowledged by those who were closest to him that he was, in fact, Canadian; another point of pride for us! But Blawg Review was never a “Canadian law blog” — it belonged to the entire blawgosphere — and so it never received a Clawbie during its run. In recognition of Ed’s tireless work on behalf of law bloggers and to honour his memory, we’d like to change that. We are creating a posthumous Blawg Review In Memoriam Award, given this year to Ed in recognition and gratitude for his legacy. This award will be given out again in future years, as the occasion calls for it, to recognize the giants of Canadian law blogging. It’s our way of remembering someone who would have been prouder than anyone to see the Canadian blawgosphere flourish.
That’s all for us this year, folks. Our congratulations to all the winners and runners-up, plus our deep appreciation to all the Canadian blawggers who do amazing work but who were not recognized this year. Our sincere thanks to everyone who blogged, tweeted, and emailed their nominations for this year’s awards. We look forward to seeing you all again in 2014.
Happy new year from the Clawbies!