At last, the day we’ve all been waiting for has arrived! Yes, we’ve finally reached the last day of 2016.
We don’t know about you, but this year couldn’t have ended fast enough for most of us. It’s been an annus horribilus in so many ways that they hardly need recounting, and a lot of people will turn the calendar to 2017 with great relief and much hope for a better year ahead.
But while this has been an unusually difficult 366 days, it’s also true that it hasn’t been completely irredeemable. Indeed, this list of 99 good things about 2016 should lighten your heart considerably. And of course, there’s the other, better reason why we’ve been waiting for today: It’s our great pleasure to announce the winners of the 2016 Clawbie Awards!
Whatever else we’ve endured in 2016, it must be said that Canadian legal blogging had one of its best years ever. Over at lawblogs.ca, we’re now tracking 485 blogs and podcasts about the law based here in Canada, and we’re delighted that so many new entries join their ranks every year. The 2016 Clawbies, which are detailed below, reflect that reality.
What gives us the greatest satisfaction and encouragement is that almost without exception, the voices of the Canadian legal community are voices for positive change. Not only the blogs listed below, but the overwhelming majority of all Canadian law blogs, are constructive, enlightening, and forward-thinking. The conversations that take place among lawyers in blog comments sections and in cross-referenced posts, even when disagreements arise, are respectful and fair. And the consistent theme of the content posted in these blogs is the ongoing journey towards a better, more effective, and more inclusive legal system for all residents of Canada. That’s a unifying goal if ever there was one.
And yet, as 2016 passes into ignominious history, we shouldn’t assume that the passing year will take all its troubles with it. Many of the alarming and distressing developments of 2016 will be with us tomorrow morning as well, if not for several years to come. Not all the voices we’ll hear next year will be choruses for positive change; quite a few of of them will be the exact opposite.
As lawyers and legal professionals, this presents us with both a special challenge and a unique opportunity. Our challenge will be to identify troubling new trends in society that could pose threats to access to justice, human rights, and the rule of law. Our opportunity will be to continue to use our voices, in our blogs as well as in every other aspect of our professional lives, to stand firm in opposition to transgressions against the rule of law, and to work harder than ever to effect positive change in the law and in our lives. That’s our New Year’s wish for you.
And now … the winners!!
You’ll notice some new award categories for 2016, replacing some others that were no longer as effective as they once were. But we’ve kept many of our mainstay categories, none more important or as esteemed as our very first award:
1. The Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law Blog
Winner: The Court
It’s no exaggeration to say that The Court, the Supreme Court of Canada analysis blog produced by faculty and students at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, is a contender for this award every year. During a decade in which the SCC has had an enormous impact on the lives of Canadians and the livelihoods of lawyers, The Court has been there every step of the way to summarize, advise, and analyze the Supreme Court’s rulings. Yet in 2016, The Court’s frequency of posts, breadth of coverage, and depth of analysis pushed it over the top and garnered the blog its first Fodden Award since 2008.
Runner-up: Deal Law Wire
We’ve been increasingly impressed with the quality of practice group blogs emerging from Canada’s large law firms. But this year, Deal Law Wire from Norton Rose Fulbright Canada broke through and crossed over from one of the best practice group blogs to simply one of the country’s best law blogs, period.
Runner-up: Robichaud Blog
Proof that a blog can experience some quiet stretches and still come roaring back is the blog of Toronto criminal defence lawyer Sean Robichaud. In 2016, Robichaud Blog generated standout posts like Thinking of becoming a criminal defence lawyer? 10 things to know and The Barristers Act in Ontario has to go.
2. Best Practitioner Blog Awards
Winner: McElroy Law Blog: It’s gratifying to see blogs that previously won in the “Best New Blog” category go on to win Best Practitioner Blog awards, as is the case with Ottawa criminal defense lawyer Anne-Marie McElroy. Her posts are filled with timely and insightful commentary, complemented with carefully curated monthly criminal law new roundups.
Winner: Welcome to the Food Court: Another former Rookie of the Year that has graduated to MVP, this hybrid blog/podcast illustrates the myriad ways that food law and regulation affect our daily life. Toronto food lawyer Glenford Jameson is so deeply involved in the world of food law that he helped organize Canada’s first-ever food law and policy conference in Halifax this fall.
Winner: Family LLB: The consistently entertaining and informative blog of Russell Alexander, who operates several family law offices north and east of Toronto, remains one of Canada’s most widely read and consistently publishing bloggers.
3. Legal Culture Award
Winner: Erin Cowling
Toronto freelance lawyer Erin Cowling’s blog features frank discussions of gender and racial diversity in the legal profession, along with recaps and feedback on legal industry events and the occasional book review. Cowling’s curiosity, candour, and conversational approach make her blog a must-read.
Runner up: Jeffrey Miller: The former longtime columnist for The Lawyers Weekly has made a seamless transition to the Web. Jeffrey Miller’s eponymous blog accurately describes itself as covering “all areas of jurisprudence – everything at the tragicomic intersection of law and life.” Miller reflects on an eclectic mix of everything from Downton Abbey to Donald Trump.
Runner up: Law & Innovation: The blog of Toronto litigator Heather Douglas remains one of Canada’s most interesting and wide-ranging reflections on the role of law in society. Ranging from justice for Indigenous persons to the legal issues surrounding the theft of Kim Kardashian’s jewelry, Law & Innovation covers the entire spectrum of what law means in our culture.
4. Change and Advocacy Award (New)
Our new award category seeks to recognize blogs that drive positive change in the legal system. The winner of last year’s now-defunct “Non-Lawyer Audience Blog” is the first winner of our Change & Advocacy Award: Prof. Julie MacFarlane’s essential blog tracking progress in the fight to improve access to justice.
Runner-up: Reconciliationsyllabus: We’d be hard-pressed to name a more important and timely conversation in Canadian legal education in 2016 than this one. This collaborative blog is “a Truth & Reconciliation Commision-inspired gathering of materials for teaching law”, where law professors and others reflect on and share concrete examples of how best to respond to TRC Call to Action #28.
Runner-up: Access to Justice Blog: One of Canada’s longest-running and most important proponents for legal system reform and improvement is the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, and the CFCJ’s Access to Justice blog consistently raises and deals with practical issues of actually achieving progress in improved legal services accessibility.
5. Best Law Library Blog Award
Winner: Robeside Assistance
If we had an award for Best Law Blog Name, this would be a perennial favourite. But until we invent that category, we’ll recognize Robeside Assistance, the blog of the County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA) in Ottawa. Offering a mix of new legal updates and research tips with archival gems and human interest stories, this is what a law library blog should look like.
Runner up: Legal Sourcery: Another contender for Best Law Blog Name, the blog of the Law Society of Saskatchewan’s Law Library is an annual contender and past winner of this award. Featured blogger Reché McKeague and his team of five staff bloggers keep this one of the most frequently updated library blogs in the country.
Runner up: Library Boy: For nearly twelve years, SCC reference librarian Michel-Adrien Sheppard has summarized important news and happenings for law librarians across Canada. His dedication to legal blogging remains at the top of the profession, and makes Library Boy a critical current awareness resource.
6. Best Practice Group Blog Awards
Winner: Les Actifs créatifs: We mentioned earlier that the practice group blog category is now teeming with high-quality entries. Among the best this year was Les Actifs créatifs (in English, “creative assets”), a French-language IP and intangible asset law blog from the lawyers of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada.
Winner: Risk Management & Crisis Response: One of the reasons we like this blog, produced by Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, so much is that it’s a cross-practice project, drawing in practitioners from multiple areas of law with a common focus on one of clients’ top priorities: the identification of possible risks and what to do when those risks go bad. The Clawbies have long supported client-perspective blogs, and this is a great example.
Winner: Canadian Energy Perspectives: There are so many great blogs generated by the lawyers of McCarthy Tétrault that it’s difficult to pick the best in any given year. But in 2016, Canadian Energy Perspectives stood out for timely and trenchant analysis of the energy and environmental issues that are having a major impact on Canada’s people and economy.
7. Best New Blog Awards
Winner: News from the Break Room: The great new blogs just keep emerging in Canada. Toronto employment lawyer Shaun Bernstein’s well-written employment law blog includes useful information for employers and employees alike.
Winner: Municipal Matters: Full-service law firm Barriston Law of Barrie, Ontario, and several nearby communities has produced one of the year’s best new blogs, a highly conversational, informative, and relevant discussion of emerging municipal law issues.
Winner: Eva Chan: It’s been too long since we’ve had a new social media and lawyer marketing blog in Canada, so we’re very happy to see Toronto social media strategist, consultant and trainer Eva Chan debut with her self-titled blog this year.
8. Best Law School/Law Professor Blog Award
Winner: National Security Law:
Well into the second decade of what might be called the “Homeland Security Era,” it has never been more important to understand the legal and social implication of anti-terrorist legislation and growing executive-branch power. Professor Craig Forcese of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law continues to generate some of the best analyses of this critical area.
Runner up: Robson Crim: This blog could have made the Best New Blog shortlist, but even so, this is an impressive debut for a cross-country collaborative criminal law blog based at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law — with another year under its belt, this could take the Winner title in 2017.
Runner up: IdeaBlawg: Consistently one of the most thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating law blogs in Canada, IdeaBlawg by Lisa Silver of the University of Calgary Faculty of Law is a one-of-a-kind essential read.
Runner up: Blog of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law: It speaks to the incredible volume of high-quality law school blogs in Canada that U of A Law’s Blog, a perennial contender for best blog in the country, takes a runner-up prize for another year of great blogging.
9. Best Niche Blog Award (New)
Winner: Condo Adviser
There are now so many Canadian blogs devoted to narrow or specialized topics that we decided it was high time to give the Niche Blog its own award category. The blog of the Condominium Law Group at Gowling WLG takes home the inaugural Niche Blog Clawbie for its insightful and frequent posts and its eye-catching unique design.
Runner-up: Alcohol & Advocacy: The blog of Dan Coles, a litigator at Owen Bird Law Corporation in Vancouver, advises hospitality industry clients about liquor licensing regulations in B.C. and across the country.
Runner-up: Rosen Sunshine LLP Blog: This Toronto health law boutique’s blog is remarkably prolific, covering a range of health law topics from regulatory issues to legislation to front-page news stories. Rosen Sunshine‘s coverage of the medical assistance in dying issue was a highlight of 2016.
Runner-up: Animal Justice Blog: It’s hard to find a topic more niche than animal protection law, and that’s the subject of this fascinating Toronto-based blog headlined by Nicholas dePencier Wright and a team of lawyers and other professionals.
10. New: Best Podcast/Vlog Awards (new)
Winner: The Docket: The Clawbies are getting on the podcast train! Michael Spratt and Emile Taman provide a mix of academic and practitioner information in a conversational, entertaining format.
Winner: Building NewLaw: Supported by Counter Tax Lawyers, Building NewLaw interviews lawyers, legal technologists, entrepreneurs and other like-minded people who are changing the the practice of law.
Winner: Peter Sankoff: Our first video blog award goes to University of Alberta Law School Professor Peter Sankoff, who analyzes new court rulings in short video recordings.
Bonus: The Clawbies Hall of Fame!
We’re excited to announce the creation of the Canadian Law Blog Awards Hall of Fame! Every year, we will induct into the Hall blogs that have won a Clawbie (not just a runner-up award) at least three times. Starting this year, these blogs will no longer be considered for annual Clawbies, but they will be recognized with a Hall of Fame badge for their use, as well as a notation of the honour at lawblogs.ca.
Please welcome our inaugural Clawbies Hall of Fame class!
- Avoid a Claim (Dan Pinnington)
- Law of Work (David Doorey)
- Michael Geist (Michael Geist)
- Slaw (Collaborative)
- Thoughtful Legal Management (David Bilinsky)
And there you have it: the 2016 Clawbies are in the books! Our thanks to Emma Durand-Wood, Simon Fodden, and Jordan Furlong for helping out with this year’s awards, to all the bloggers and tweeters who provided countless great nominations to consider, and most of all, to Canada’s law bloggers: keep raising your voices for positive change in our world and our profession. Congratulations to our winners, runners-up, and nominees, and Happy New Year to all!