Well, this was an incredibly challenging year, but we made it! Congratulations, everyone, for getting through 2020! We’re confident that 2021 will bring us better times and … hang on.. [puts hand to earpiece] … it seems we’re getting some new information here….
Okay, so it turns out that was 2021. Sorry about that. We’re getting intense deja vû vibes these days, and we’re sure you must be as well. But we stand by our praise to you and to everyone – we have gotten through another year, and while these might be tough times, we’re impressed (but not surprised) that you’re all proving even tougher.
What has also impressed us is the unbelievable resilience, originality, and commitment of the Canadian legal content community. Even during some of the most trying times any of us have encountered, Canada’s legal bloggers, podcasters, vloggers, Tweeters, and other content creators have managed to up their games even more. You’ve done us all proud, and we’re very happy to recognize the best of the best of this community.
Because it’s time once again for the Annual Clawbie Awards, handed out each year on New Year’s Eve by your intrepid panel of judges. We might not be the most important awards of the year, but we’re ….? That’s right — the last awards of the year! And we have an outstanding lineup of winners just waiting to be announced.
So why wait any longer? Here are your 2021 Clawbies!
Fodden Award 2021
Since 2010, the Fodden Award has been the Clawbies’ top honour for Canadian legal commentary, recognizing a single, outstanding publication. This year, our “best of the best” award goes to…
The Lash Condo Law Blog
From timely advice to evergreen guidance, with an approachable, accessible style, the Lash Condo Law Blog has it all. We’re hard-pressed to find a better current example of a law firm blog that people will actually want to read. (Funny accompanying images help, too!)
Denise Lash and her colleagues write in an engaging and enjoyable way that is surprisingly rare these days, and their COVID content was particularly invaluable in 2021.
Since their inception, the Clawbies have sought to highlight the best law blogs of the year. With so many competing mediums, it’s not an easy task to stand out as a blogger, but these publications shine.
On their blog, the Canadian Environmental Law Association (a specialty legal aid clinic in Ontario) examines a remarkable range of topics through an environmental law lens, from lead in drinking water and environmental racism to energy justice and carbon pricing. Canada’s environmental challenges are daunting, but this blog reminds us there are dedicated professionals working for change.
BC Estate Litigation Blog
James Zaitsoff and Duncan Manson have created a reliable and informative niche blog, posting legislative updates and case comments with takeaways on BC estates decisions. They also share monthly reading roundups of interesting estate litigation news and content from colleagues across the country.
Know How: The Blog of the Great Library at the Law Society of Ontario
Through the Know How blog, the staff of the Great Library at the Law Society of Ontario provide an ongoing stream of quality current awareness tools, regulatory updates, and legal research primers that tackle the mundane to the esoteric, with a side of interesting seasonal content. Mini-series like “Myths of Legislative Research” and “Legal Research Survival Guides” were standouts this year.
Vancouver Immigration Law Blog
Will Tao dives deep into the intricacies of the Canadian immigration system and shares step-by-step guidance on how to navigate it, alongside reflections on what it means to be an immigration lawyer in a colonial system. Tao’s contributions to the immigration law sphere are prolific and long-standing (he’s also got a new podcast, Imm Light of All Circumstances).
Over the last few years, email newsletters have been gaining popularity as a medium. These three winning publications are must-subscribes, but also reside online for the benefit of future searchers.
Ronalee Carey Law Newsletter
Ronalee Carey’s monthly newsletter has many fans, who praise its accessibility, timeliness and wit. From the nominations: “It’s quoted/shared internally by IRCC because it’s that good.”
Sunday Evening Administrative Review
Mark Mancini’s Sunday Evening Administrative Review (SEAR for short) provides summaries and analysis of new caselaw and is a weekly goldmine for admin law geeks. The in-depth content is thorough, insightful, and conversational.
First Peoples Law Report
From First Peoples Law, the First Peoples Law Report is a comprehensive weekly newsletter that includes a categorized roundup of news from across the country, caselaw and case comments, firm and lawyer news, initiatives, and events. From the nominations: “I rely on it for authoritative national Indigenous content.”
Best Bloggers on a Platform/Group Blog
Although group blogging giants like ABlawg and Slaw have been retired to the Clawbies Hall of Fame, this category allows us to continue to recognize both new and long-term contributors to mutli-author publications.
Tweeted nominations admired Marcelo Rodriguez’s advocacy for legal information in Central America. We might take that a step further and say Marcelo’s Slaw column has its eyes around the globe! From Afghanistan and Iran, to Haiti and the Canadian Territories, Marcelo watched the “big picture” issues in 2021. Going beyond how jurisdictions created and managed their research material, Marcelo wrote about barriers to dissemination, justice issues, pride in the courts, and use of social media. And yet, it feels like he’s just getting started!
Coming up on his tenth year writing at Slaw, Michael Erdle’s writing continues to stand out for its passion about Canadian dispute resolution! He was one of the earliest choices for a Slaw-CanLII ebook and isn’t afraid to explore (and sometimes challenge) the latest decisions, dispute methods, or technology. The Clawbies always try to notice authors who are passionate about their topic – and it continues to be a pleasure to watch Michael explore!
Best Podcasts/Video Series
Podcasts continue to be an in-demand format for legal commentary. Anecdotally, it seems that more people are starting podcasts than starting blogs these days! Here are our favourites for 2021.
Translating Criminal Law (TCL)
The TCL Podcast has the distinction of being the first father-daughter publication to win a Clawbie! Using pop culture and goofy characters to explain concepts, Peter Sankoff and his 12-year old daughter Penny have created a delightful (and G-rated) podcast that’s at once entertaining for adults and educational for kids.
Justice in Pieces
When remote learning hit in early 2020, JP Rodrigues called up some friends to serve as guest speakers to his paralegal students at TriOS College. Nearly two years in, Justice in Pieces has a massive archive of lively interviews with everyone from mere mortal legal professionals to MPs, mayors, benchers, and judges. Incredibly, JP continues with *daily* live interviews, weekdays on YouTube Live. Talk about lemons into lemonade!
Off the Tracks Podcast
Only a year into the pod game, Erin O’Rourke and Piper Riley Thompson’s Off the Tracks Podcast has already released nearly two dozen engaging episodes on “doing law differently.” Interviews with guests explore law school debt, entering or leaving law mid-career, interesting jobs in law, and more.
For a second year, listeners found Myrna McCallum’s Trauma-Informed Lawyer podcast to be an invaluable resource, saying it “should be mandatory listening for the profession.” This year, McCallum and her guests delved into MMIWG, mental health courts, trauma and resilience in policing, privilege and oppression in law school, and more.
Best Twitter Accounts
Proof that good things come in small packages (280 characters, to be precise!). This year’s winning Tweeps are:
Followers appreciate Harpreet Saini’s generosity, humour and warmth, calling him “a force for kindness and positivity about private practice, full of gems of wisdom and encouragement.” Come for the law and you’ll enjoy the pop culture and funny kid stories, too.
Back again for a second year, folks can’t get enough of Chris Sewrattan’s (@sewrattanlaw) ONCA case summaries. One nomination admitted “I don’t even practice criminal law and still read each of those case summary tweets.”
Best Innovative Projects
Though these four projects defy categorization, they have one thing in common: an fresh and innovative use of format, theme, medium or content.
Black Femme Legal Toolkit
We love a good niche, and the Black Femme Legal Toolkit is a perfect example from Samantha Peters and their team. This is an online resource for Black queer women, femmes and gender diverse folks across the 2SLGBTQI+ spectrum who need workplace-related support in Ontario.
Happy Lawyer Profiles
The Happy Lawyer profile series from Not Your Average Law Job bring “much-needed positive vibes & authenticity to the profession” and shine a light at the many different paths to career contentment. With 30+ profiles from across Canada (and counting), that’s a lot of inspiration.
“But I Look Like a Lawyer”
The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers BC’s half-hour video documentary “But I Look Like a Lawyer” captures personal stories of discrimination, stereotyping, and bias experienced by members of the Pan-Asian legal community in British Columbia from every level of experience and practise area.
Back in the Clawbies for a second year, Legal Listening gets even better with age. This year, Karly Lyons and Zach Battiston continued with interesting collaborations to produce audio versions of notable cases and delved into new areas, like recordings of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.
Best Multi-Platform Presence
This category recognizes an author who stands out because of their willingness to experiment with media and bring those platforms together to deliver commentary in a unique way.
Erin Durant caught our attention in 2021 because of the honest and genuine introspective voice that she writes with. From controversial topics in sports, to documenting her firm’s committed support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Durant Barristers blog is varied and reflective. Add in a media mix of LinkedIn publishing (her candid February 2021 post detailing her mental health crisis went viral) and Twitter (@ErinDurant42), and chances are, Erin’s digital presence has a little something for you too!
Best Long-Form Publications
Open access legal information grows each year, often in longer formats, involving collaborative teams, and creating innovative digital products. Here are two excellent additions to the Canadian legal information landscape for 2021.
One of the longer discourse nominations that caught our eye this year was The Gladue Principles: A Guide to the Jurisprudence and its accompanying guides. USask PhD student & sessional lecturer Benjamin Ralston’s free ebook was worthy of its own accord, but the additional guides for judges, crown counsel, defence counsel, and report writers delivered a unique lens for each audience group to reflect upon.
Civil Procedure and Practice in Ontario (on CanLII)
Following up on last year’s award-winning collaborative effort for British Columbia, CanLII partnered with Windsor professor Noel Semple to produce Ontario’s “first and only guide to Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure, Courts of Justice Act, and Limitations Act”. Written by a sizable group of practitioner specialists, Civil Procedure and Practice in Ontario delivers a significant addition to the free law movement for the province of Ontario.
Hall of Fame
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 2021 inductees:
The University of Alberta Faculty law blog won its first Clawbie as a humble faculty-led law blog back in 2007. A decade later, the blog went through a pleasant rebirth to become ReconciliACTION YEG, and went on to pick up three more Clawbie awards in short order! ReconciliACTION YEG (which moved to a new website home this fall) is authored by a team of law students in the University of Alberta Faculty of Law and focuses on a new theme related to reconciliation each year. Students grapple with complex Indigenous issues and current events, resulting in sometimes uncomfortable but overdue and necessary analysis and introspection.
David Whelan’s blog O’Faolain has always delivered the best of what first person narrative has to offer. David “thinks and writes” in a fluid motion – about legal information services, workplace issues, or his comfort level with a vendor taking him out to lunch. We’re reminded that “blogging” gives glimpses inside the person we’re reading with real-world anecdotes we wouldn’t find in any other medium. A winner of eight Clawbie awards, including the Fodden Award in 2018, O’Faolain might be our most decorated HOF winner to date.
And there you have it – the 2021 Clawbies are in the books. Our congratulations to all the winners, and our sincere gratitude to everyone who nominated an entry or was nominated for one – even if this wasn’t your year, please keep writing, recording, podcasting and Tweeting for your audiences. Everything you say and do makes a huge difference for the readers, listeners, and content consumers of Canadian law.
And even though it’s been a long December, we have reason to believe, like Counting Crows once sang, that this year will be better than the last. So celebrate the good times that have gone and even more, the great times that will come, and we’ll see you in 2022!