“As the days grow shorter and the year draws to a close, the Canadian legal community lights up with the spirit of recognition and celebration. It’s that time again when we welcome the excitement and honour of the 2023 Clawbie Awards. This year, we continue our tradition of acknowledging the brightest, most innovative, and impactful voices in Canadian legal commentary. Join us in celebrating the exceptional contributions that have enriched the Canadian legal landscape this year, and let’s usher in a new year of insightful legal discourse!”
Did you like that introduction? Did you find it inviting and engaging? We kind of hope you didn’t, because it was written by ChatGPT-4, based on all the previous Clawbie Awards introductions here. If we hadn’t told you that, you might never have suspected that paragraph was written by a machine. And that’s the foundational challenge of this crucial moment in our collective history: the issue of trust.
Generative AI can easily pass for human work. Misinformation and disinformation routinely masquerade as the truth. Social media platforms like Twitter (we refuse to call it anything but that) are dissolving in a sordid soup of “Verified” self-promoters and fear-mongering conspiracists. It seems like nobody knows what’s reliable anymore – no one knows who to trust.
We aim to help change that.
Here at the Canadian Law Blog Awards, we’ve been recognizing and celebrating the best of Canadian legal publishing for 18 years, expanding our ambit over time from blogs to social networks to new forms of written, audio, and audio-visual content. We’ve done this to reward the efforts of all these volunteer authors, podcasters, and videographers, and to encourage more publishing that enlightens, informs, and entertains people about the law.
The pinnacle of our efforts, our favourite moment of the year, is this annual announcement of the Clawbies winners on New Year’s Eve (as we always say, we might not be the best awards of the year, but we’re definitely the last). But our celebration this year is tempered by the hard reality of our times and real anxiety about what might lie ahead in 2024 and beyond. How can we stand up to so many bad actors so committed to spreading falsehoods and misleading the public?
As far as we’re concerned, we do it by doubling down on the truth and on trustworthiness. This year, underlying our choices of Clawbies winners is a decision to especially recognize and reward those individuals who have put in the hard work, year after year after year, of bringing light to darkness and order to confusion. We honour the heroines and heroes, frequently unsung and invariably uncompensated, who explain and analyze and demystify the law for both professionals and the public, for no other reason than that “truth about the law” is just about the most important truth there is.
If you find yourself looking out over the chaos of the modern media landscape and asking yourself, “Who can I trust?”, our humble suggestion is that part of the answer can be found below. Trust the people who want you to know the truth about the law – what the law says, how it works, what it can do for you, and why it should do more for you. Trust the people who care enough about the law, and about you, to bring you the incredible published works you’ll find here.
“You cannot ask the darkness to leave,” the Tibetan Lama Sogyal Rinpoche once said. “You must turn on the light.” Here’s to all the lamplighters of the law – those recognized below, those nominated but not recognized this time, and all those who are working hard, right down to these last hours of the year, to keep the light on. Join us in celebrating the 2023 Clawbies winners!
2023 Fodden Award
Since 2010, the Fodden Award has been the Clawbies’ top honour for Canadian legal commentary, recognizing a single, outstanding publication. This year’s winner is:
Blogue du CRL
This year, we are excited to be honouring one of the country’s longest-running and most successful group blogs: Blogue du CRL, published by the Jeunne Barreau de Montréal’s Research and Legislation Committee.
For well over a decade, Blogue du CRL has been the go-to current awareness tool for Quebec professionals, publishing an ample and steady stream of case summaries and legislative developments.
The scale of the blog is huge, with more than 50 volunteer writers, and also featuring case summaries from SOQUIJ and occasional contributions from Jeune Barreau’s other committees.
Congratulations to all Blogue du CRL participants, present and past, for their remarkable dedication and achievement!
Litige municipal au Québec
Alexandre Thériault-Marois, Pascal Marchi, Alexandre Paul-Hus, and Anne-Marie McSween – all lawyers working for municipalities in Quebec – have been publishing their collaborative blog since 2018. From planning to property assessment, elected officials to ethics, the blog features succinct and easy-to-digest caselaw summaries and commentary on all aspects of municipal law. We’ve had a lot of Clawbies winners in the municipal law niche over the years, and it’s a pleasure to recognize one publishing exclusively in the French language.
Librarian of Things
In a sea of ever-evolving publishing platforms, Windsor Law librarian Mita Williams’ Librarian of Things is refreshing in its embrace of classic blogging, with thoughtful professional reflections, annotated link roundups, presentation slides and more.
Sport Law Blog
We’ve always loved a good niche blog, and Toronto firm Sport Law’s blog is a great example, showing (not just telling) the firm’s expertise by covering a wide range of topics, some expected (codes of conduct, fraud prevention) and others surprising (grief and loss; the meaning of hope). The blog reflects the mammoth challenge of improving the culture of sport at all levels in Canada.
The Authentic Lawyer
Ontario lawyer/entrepreneur Aaron Baer and his US counterpart, Dhawal Tank, have created a Substack newsletter that’s jam-packed with candid and engaging pieces that push back on conventional practice management, marketing, and work-life balance strategies.
Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR)
Since 1970, the Canadian Law Library Review has been the voice of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD), sharing news, happenings, expertise and book reviews from law library professionals across the country. In 2018, the publication became open access, with 10 years’ worth of searchable archives on CanLII. An invaluable contribution to the Canadian legal infosphere!
Sunday Night Administrative Review
Mark Mancini’s weekly Substack newsletter, Sunday Night Administrative Review (SEAR), is a perennial reader favourite. The Allard Law PhD candidate shares insightful and authoritative case comments along with detailed analysis and predictions. This year, SEAR fans also had the option to tune into audio versions via Apple Podcasts or Spotify, thanks to a partnership with legal tech startup Dicta.
Women in Canadian Criminal Defence
Established in early 2022, WiCCD (pronounced “wicked”) has produced a huge amount of excellent video content in just the past year, with two standout video series hosted by Maya Shukairy. The ‘Who Cares?’ series explores the issues of the day with a wide cross-section of legal professionals, and ‘Find Your Niche’ is a celebration of accomplishments of women in Canadian criminal defence.
Halifax privacy lawyer and professor David Fraser is a long-time blogger who has recently added video to his content repertoire. With a knack for distilling complex privacy issues into easy to understand terms, Fraser’s videos are playful and conversational, but always based in fact and real-life relevance.
Cases That Should Have Gone to the SCC, but Didn’t
Showing no signs of slowing down, Vancouver criminal lawyer Kyla Lee is creeping up on 300 episodes of her YouTube series, ‘Cases That Should Have Gone to the SCC, But Didn’t.’ These succinct (under 4 minutes) weekly videos give Lee’s passionate take on why certain cases should have been heard by Canada’s highest court.
Modern Law Podcast
Thoughtfully hosted by Yves Faguy of CBA National, the Modern Law Podcast features interviews in English and French with a fascinating variety of lawyers, profs and thought leaders from across the country. As a bonus, full transcripts for many episodes are available.
In All Fairness
Brought to us by the CIAJ, In All Fairness explores how we can all contribute to improving the administration of justice in Canada, through much-needed interdisciplinary discussions on topics of harm reduction and drug toxicity, wrongful conviction, A2J collaboration, rooted constitutionalism, and much more.
Indictment: Criminal Justice System on Trial
A companion podcast to UBC prof Benjamin Perrin’s new book of the same title. Indictment asks “What can people who were incarcerated, and survivors of violent crime teach us about improving the justice system?” and looks for answers with a series of raw and frank interviews with people who have experienced the system first-hand.
The Art of Persuasion
Ontario lawyer Guy Pratte gets the goods on what it takes to master the art of convincing others. Season 1 of his new podcast has excellent production values and an all-star cast of guests that includes legendary litigators, past prime ministers, iconic actors and more.
By chance, an all-Toronto edition ;)
Toronto human rights lawyer Nicole Biros-Bolton brings 20 years of front-line experience as a counsellor and advocate for women and children to her TikToks, which focus on demystifying the legal system, educating on human rights, and connecting followers to local resources.
Toronto immigration lawyer Paul Vitti shares tons of practical tips and insider info to make the immigration process go smoothly, from study permits to sponsorships, border crossings to citizenship, and frauds and scams.
Using lots of real-world examples from his own practice, Toronto employment lawyer Walter Yoo offers guidance on all sorts of work-related topics on everything from employment law myths to privacy rights, and benefits fraud to off-duty conduct.
Best Blogger on a Group Platform
As one of the longest-standing columnists on Slaw.ca, John Willinsky has traditionally covered the intersection between scholarly publishing and open access. With 85 columns over a span of 15 years, John cut new ground in 2023, tackling the impacts on authorship and original writing by LLM AI technology. John’s take was anything but protectionism. He pushed back at the US Copyright Office and those quick to cry ‘infringement’, and encouraged LLM access to a greater volume of the often closed scientific literature.
Best Innovative Projects
From Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, Abajignmuen (whose meaning is “giving back” in Mìgmaq) is a portal that highlights student, faculty and staff work in aboriginal and Indigenous law, with a special focus on A2J projects. Kudos to the site’s creators for the great concept and execution.
AC Friends of Court’s School for Family Self-Litigants
BC-based Amici Curiae Friends of Court has been offering practical and much-needed support to self-represented litigants since 2011. Inspired by a national version offered by NSRLP, this year they offered BC’s first family law course geared towards educating self-litigants who are navigating their own family law case, through a free 12-week live online course series. Best of all? The recordings are being added to YouTube so that they will have an even greater reach.
CCLI Knowledge Hub
The Canada Climate Law Initiative’s Knowledge Hub is dubbed ‘Canada’s one-stop-shop for everything related to climate governance’ for good reason. This is a comprehensive collection of publications ranging from discussion papers, reports, case studies, guides and more, plus the ability to filter by audience, topic, jurisdiction and resource type.
Notes Between Us
With both a website and LinkedIn presence, this international collaborative law librarian project includes a strong Canadian contingent and a safe space to have nuanced conversations on everything from workplace ethics to soft skills to career development and beyond. With some social platforms (no names!) imploding under aggressive or abusive remarks, it was natural for smaller communities to emerge and fill those gaps. Like-minded interest groups, or even professional groups like NBS, seem to be leading the way. If this is your crew, be sure to check them out in 2024!
Report on Civility and Professionalism in the Legal Profession
The Toronto Lawyers Association has produced a timely report on civility and professionalism in the legal profession, the result of many months’ of consultation with TLA members through surveys and facilitated discussions. This highly readable and well-organized report explores causes, effects, and potential solutions, concluding that “Whether incivility is empirically greater or less than before the pandemic or just…different…ultimately does not matter. What does matter is the strong sense that the situation is “bad enough.”
2023 Hall of Fame Inductee
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. Inductees will no longer be considered for annual Clawbies, but are recognized with a Hall of Fame badge for their use, as well as a notation of the honour at lawblogs.ca.
The 2023 inductee is:
Vancouver Immigration Blog
It’s hard to find a better example of great legal blogging than three-time Clawbies winner Vancouver Immigration Blog, by Will Tao.
Having won in 2015, 2019 and 2021, Tao’s posts on the intricacies of the Canadian immigration system are full of practical information and industry analysis. And yet, despite being packed with technical information, the Vancouver Immigration Blog is anything but dry, thanks to Tao’s use of first-person voice and the palpable sense of humility and collegiality in his writing.
Congratulations – your place in the Clawbies Hall of Fame is well-deserved!
And with that, the 18th annual Clawbies are on the books! From all of us on the Clawbies team (Steve, Jordan, Sarah, Emma), thank you to everyone who created and supported great Canadian legal content this year, and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2024!