So here we are. Finishing the most inglorious year that was 2020, deep in a global pandemic, and officially launching the 15th Annual Canadian Law Blog Awards. Fifteen?!? March feels like it was 15 years ago!
As we sit down to write this year’s kick-off post, we find ourselves thinking rosy thoughts about 2006, the year that the Clawbies were born.
It was a simpler time. Twitter had just launched, Facebook was in its early days, and Internet Explorer was still the dominant web browser (and we didn’t have a emoji to properly complain!) We didn’t know about the “social dilemma”. There was no iPhone yet. Netflix was still a DVD-delivery service (how quaint!).
But back to this 2020 thing. It hasn’t been the best of years. But the legal profession hasn’t stopped. Right? We’ve seen entire law firms working from home. Virtual workplaces evolving. Law school courses zooming (and testing with your camera on!) Bloggers are still writing, podcasts thriving, and sarcastic tweets are flying.
We are still collectively expressing our voices and writing about the law during a global pandemic. And if we’ve learned one thing from these past months, it’s that you don’t bet against the human spirit. Lawyers included.
The Clawbies have always been a year-end positive force. A revival of our spirits, as we head into a new year. We may guide this process and write up the final awards, but the Clawbies exist because of the nominations model. And believe us, it delivers! Each and every year we discover new personalities, new creativity, and new voices.
So let’s get to the nominating!
What’s eligible to win?
The Clawbies celebrate free online Canadian legal content. It’s all fair game: blogs, podcasts, videos, social accounts, legal newsletters, platform commentary, CanLII Connects, whitepapers, and beyond.
How can I participate?
Tell us who made the world a little better with their content in 2020.
What content blew you away? Responded to a pressing or unmet need in the community? Or compelled you to engage or share?
Using your Twitter account or law blog, help us identify your best of 2020.
As usual, we’ve really only got two rules.
Rule #1 (aka “the humble Canadian rule”):
Do not nominate your own publication or project for a Clawbie. It doesn’t work that way. The only surefire way of getting your work on our radar is to write a post about other commentary authors. Follow this rule and we’ll take a look at your work too!
Nominate up to three digital publications or authors via blog post or tweets (using the hashtag #clawbies2020). Please include a brief explanation of why you think those authors deserve an award!
Nominations will be accepted until the end of day on Friday, December 18th, 2020.
Then stay tuned, because this year’s winners will be announced on New Year’s Eve.
2020 has been such a challenging year for so many, and it will still be months or even years before we’re out of the woods. Let’s use the Clawbies to honour and acknowledge the passion and dedication that so many in the Canadian legal community have shown during these
unprecedented (<= first banned word of 2021) challenging times.
Let’s find some light in this dark place.
Welcome to the very last day of the 2010s! The previous decade has seen some real highs and lows for everyone, but the Canadian legal blogging and podcast community has made it through, bigger and better than ever and ready for the next ten years! While the 2000s head into their 20s, the Clawbies are now in their 15th year, and like many real-life adolescents, they’re ready for some major changes.
As we announced at the start of this month with the opening of nominations, the Clawbies (which originally honoured only blogs, then blogs and podcasts) now celebrate every form of digital publishing in the Canadian legal community: blogs, podcasts, videos, social accounts, legal newsletters, platform commentaries, CanLII Connects, white papers, a stellar SSRN account, or a serial magazine column.
We asked you, the faithful supporters of the Clawbies, to help us find the best of the best in all these categories–and you responded! We came away with an extraordinary collection of outstanding digital legal publishing in Canada, and we adapted our award categories to reflect what you told us about the new legal commentary landscape in this country. Like we said last year, “a new era in personal online legal publishing is truly upon us.”
We’re honoured to have the opportunity to recognize some of the most exceptional practitioners in this exciting new world. And so, in no particular order, and without further ado … the 2019 Clawbies winners!!
Fodden Award 2019
Since 2010, the Fodden Award has been the top Clawbies honour, recognizing the very best in Canadian legal commentary. With eligibility broadened this year, it’s fitting that our 2019 Fodden Award winner is not a blog, but a legal newsletter.
Supreme Advocacy Newsletter
After 1000+ issues and 9000+ case summaries (and more than a handful of kilt stories), we can’t think of a resource more deserving of the Fodden Award than Supreme Advocacy’s Newsletter.
A veritable institution in the Canadian legal community, readers come for the Supreme Court of Canada case news and stay for the Last Word. Eugene Meehan and his team have been generously sharing their expertise with an enjoyable side of miscellany since the mid ‘90s. The newsletter represents an impressive commitment to free and open sharing of legal knowledge—the true hallmark of any Fodden Award winner.
Here’s to another 20 years of Supreme Advocacy Newsletters!
Best Blogs and Commentary
After 14 years of Clawbies, it’s still a pleasure to read a really well-written blog. This year’s recipients have achieved the deceptively tricky goal of conveying legal wisdom in an engaging and reliable way.
BC Provincial Court eNews
You might expect communication from a court to be stuffy and dry, but the British Columbia Provincial Court’s eNews blog takes a surprisingly accessible, conversational tone. From justice hackathons to court rules changes, to new publications and judge news, court happenings and opportunities for feedback, we’d love to see more courts across the country take a page from the BCPC’s blogging book.
BC Injury Law Blog
Erik Magraken’s personal injury blog has legions of loyal fans: according to one nomination, “He set a standard, as yet unmatched… Content worth reading, and daily reading for the PI lawyers out there.” Erik has been blogging for more than a decade, and his coverage of significant auto insurance changes this year was especially valuable to readers.
Freelance lawyer Erin Cowling has kept up a steady pace of honest revelations, useful tips for entrepreneurs and book reviews alongside her two outstanding series on diversity and inclusion in law firms and women leading in law. The proof is in the nominations: “one I always read” and “I think she finally convinced me to say ‘no’ to work.”
Vancouver Immigration Law Blog
Will Tao’s blog encompasses so much, it’s hard to know where to begin. It features in-depth coverage of immigration policy, cases and legislation and pays special attention to international students and migrant workers. But what makes it award-worthy is its candid discussion of power, privilege and race along with personal reflections. Will writes in an engaging, authentic style and raises the voices of those around him, too.
Chief Justice’s Blog at Access to Justice BC
As Chief Justice of the B.C. Court of Appeal and chair of Access to Justice BC, Robert Bauman has been blogging about A2J initiatives in BC for several years now. We’d love to see more blogging from Chief Justice Bauman but suspect he’s probably a pretty busy person ;)
Trauma & Lawyers’ Mental Health
With this new blog, Vancouver lawyer Crystal Tomusiak has started an overdue discussion of the impact of trauma on lawyers’ mental health. We applaud her courageous combination of intimate first-person narratives, frank observations about the legal profession’s shortcomings and vision for a healthier, more supportive profession.
County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA) Weekly Newsletter
Proclaimed by a fan as “the best in the biz”, the CCLA Weekly Newsletter acts as a central hub for news, announcements, recent decisions, tips & tricks, job ads and more. It’s a marvelously robust, must-read resource for the Ottawa-area legal community.
Best Bloggers on a Platform or Shared Blog
Last year we introduced a new award category to recognize an outstanding individual author on a group blog. There were many nominations of this sort this year! Here are the best of 2019:
Nigel Bankes (ABlawg)
Citing his “great analysis of everything going on in energy law, particularly in Alberta,” readers call him “the blogger’s blogger” who sets the standard for his fellow authors at ABlawg.
Patricia Hughes (Slaw)
Back on Slaw after a decade-long hiatus, Hughes is a prolific contributor who consistently writes balanced pieces on tough topics. “She writes about [what] people are looking for: freedom of religion & conscience, & political process. Basically how to know what’s right in our society.”
Mark Mancini (Double Aspect)
Readers appreciate his “up-to-date and insightful thoughts on administrative law and statutory interpretation.” Another conceded “I rarely agree with him but he knows his admin stuff. Respect.”
As a medium, podcasts are growing more and more popular every year—in fact, a recent study found that a third of Canadian internet users listen to podcasts! We’re adding more to the podcast category at lawblogs.ca all the time. Here are this year’s favourite Canadian legal pods.
Every Lawyer Podcast
Giving a welcome voice to a range of remarkable guests from across the country, the standout Conversations with the President series on this CBA podcast explored personal stories of diversity in law.
Lawyer Life Podcast
Co-hosts Darlene Tonelli and Mike Anderson of Inter Alia Law dissect “the professional, personal, and political lives of lawyers” on their refreshingly honest and relatable weekly show, now in season 3.
Lawyer Mindy Caterina and comedian Garrett Jamieson have paired up to produce a lively and interesting pod “for everyone who is curious about law, rights, and the questions that matter most – like, when can the cops strip search you???”
Canadian Senator Kim Pate and law student Reakash Walters “bring issues affecting folks on the margins, to the centre” with frank discussions of criminal justice issues and beyond.
Paw & Order
The animal law podcast from Peter Sankoff and Camille Labchuk was a favourite again this year, with listeners praising its “up-to-date news, thoughtful and engaging themed discussions” plus “witty banter [that] never fails to entertain.”
Best Twitter Accounts
Nominations were extremely enthusiastic about this new category! Here are six must-follow Canadian legal tweeps:
Orlando Da Silva (@orlando_lsm)
We can’t recall anyone in recent memory championing lawyer mental health issues like Orlando Da Silva has in recent years.
Elsa Ascencio (@elsaasce)
“One of the bravest, most compassionate, insightful voices on Twitter,” Elsa Ascencio used social media to mobilize the #demandinclusion campaign during this year’s LSO Bencher elections.
Joshua Sealy-Harrington (@JoshuaSealy)
Dubbed “a true force on this site this past year,” Joshua Sealy-Harrington received many nominations and was praised for “bringing conceptual clarity to everything he touches.”
Maggie Wente (@maggie_wente)
Top marks to Maggie Wente for “hard-hitting tweets and insight into indigenous issues.” (And also for making us laugh really hard.)
Erin Durant (@ErinDurant42)
Erin Durant is “a cyber mentor to all” who “motivates and advocates 280 characters at a time.”
Best A2J Resources
Some of the most exciting legal information work happening these days is taking place with the aim of improving access to justice. While an overwhelming number of people and projects nominated for this year’s Clawbies fit the A2J bill, we’ve selected three in particular that are outstanding.
The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) is no stranger to Clawbies wins, and this year they were given high praise for their collection of free resources designed to support SRLs. “I know of no better legal research guide for SRLs than the NSRLP’s amazing CanLII Primer.” The primer is available in French and English and was prepared by Julie Macfarlane and Tamara Thomas.
JP Boyd on Family Law
This Clicklaw Wikibook is a testament to the power of collaboration and plain language open legal information, and should be considered a model for other projects. This comprehensive and wildly popular one-stop-family-law-shop was created by legal web pioneer JP Boyd QC and evolved into its wikibook format in 2012. Boyd and Megan Ellis QC now oversee the volunteer editor pairs who maintain the wikibook.
BC Provincial Court Twitter Town Hall
2019 saw the third edition of the BC Provincial Court’s “Twitter Town Hall”, which prompted 170+ questions by participants and almost 150 responses from the team of BCPC Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie, BCCA Chief Justice Robert Bauman and former SRL Jennifer Muller. Being able to ask questions of a judge in public, online, and have them answer is “practically unprecedented”—kudos to the BCPC for this remarkable initiative.
Best Innovative Projects
Here are three projects that demonstrate creativity and outside-the-box thinking in a notoriously risk-averse profession.
Caryma Sa’d’s Landlord & Tenant 101 Comic Series
Folks praised Caryma Sa’d’s eye-catching, effective use of comics in this consumer law resource, and also gave props for using graphics to great effect during the 2019 bencher campaign.
Darin Thompson’s CPD Podcast
Darin Thompson’s “innovative approach to offering free CPD credits via podcast learning combined with engaging interviews with diverse, forward-thinking voices in the legal sector is brilliant.”
Breanna Needham’s #RobingRoom Campaign
Breanna Needham earns a Clawbie for “leveraging social media for social change” with her successful campaign to get equal robing room conditions for women lawyers at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Best Law Library Resource
The Clawbies were launched from a law library, so this category will always have a special place in our hearts!
There’s really only one word—stellar—to describe David Whelan’s blog, where he writes first-person reflections on law libraries and technology. From the nominations: “One of the most useful sites where I learn things to move forward with my work.”
CALL for Innovation Podcast
Colin Lachance recorded this series of interviews at the 2019 CALL/ACBD conference in partnership with vLex—we think this is probably the first-ever Canadian law library podcast! More please!
Best Student Projects
Law students are some of the hardest working, most enthusiastic members of the Canadian legal community, and these three projects are a perfect illustration of that.
The Law School Show Podcast
By law students and for law students (past, present and future), The Law School Show aims to give “unencumbered access to key career-shaping information.” Now at 120 episodes, the pod features fascinating interviews with lawyers, academics and other guests, digging deep into their legal career journeys and areas of expertise.
Created by Pro Bono Students Canada, the U of Calgary Faculty of Law and CJSW, Hearsay is a public legal education podcast. Law students conduct interviews with lawyers, judges, academics, journalists on timely and interesting topics.
Little Legal Summaries
Windsor law student Sara Little is carving out a niche for herself with this blog, which features brief, comprehensive summaries of recent Canadian criminal appellate decisions.
Best Multi-Platform Presence
Not content to simply write or podcast, these two legal online superstars show us how to cover ALL the bases!
Thanks to her podcast, YouTube channel, blog and Twitter presence, Vancouver criminal defense lawyer Kyla Lee has a lot of fans. From the nominations: There’s “no one more deserving of a #clawbies2019 award than you for your vast & far reaching online presence… You’re really out to create the change you want to see in the world.”
Ontario divorce lawyer Russell Alexander publishes a seemingly never-ending stream of quality blog posts, podcasts, eBooks, weekly videos and shares it all on social media. Russell’s popular FamilyLLB blog has slowly been evolving into a full-fledged family law portal.
Hall of Fame
Every year, we add several names to the Clawbies Hall of Fame. Publications must have at least three prior Clawbie awards for consideration. Once they have joined the Hall of Fame ranks, they are no longer eligible for future Clawbies, but can show off their achievement with the official Clawbies Hall of Fame badge.
Here are the 2019 inductees:
Four-time Clawbies winner Sean Bawden’s job title has changed, but the quality of his blogging hasn’t. Sean won a “best new blog” Clawbie in 2012, and seven years later he’s in the Hall of Fame. Congratulations on your formidable track record, Sean!
Kudos also to Rod Escayola and the condo law team at Gowlings WLG for their new place in the Clawbies Hall of Fame. Condo Adviser has previously been awarded best niche blog and best practice group blogs—twice. Keep up the great work!
Employment & Human Rights Law
Lisa Stam won her first Clawbie back in 2011 and twice again after that. We’ll say it again: Lisa’s blogging sets the standard, anyone who wants to up their blogging game should study her style. A well-deserved win!
And that’s it — the Clawbie Awards are in the books for another year (and decade)! Congratulations to all the winners and nominees, and our 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, podcasters, and other publishers who didn’t receive a Clawbie — keep up the great work! Your time will come.
Best wishes from the Clawbies team (Emma, Jordan and Steve) to all the Canadian law bloggers and podcasters, and everyone who reads and listens to them, for a bright and happy 2020!