Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The 2008 Canadian Law Blog Awards

The Canadian Law Blog Awards

Steve Matthews, the mastermind behind the Canadian Law Blog Awards, has asked members of our nation's 'blawger' community to help him by proposing our nominees for this year's ClawBie Awards, presented to Canada's top law bloggers.

As a very appreciative recipient of such recognition last year, I want to speak for a moment about the award, itself.

The ClawBies are a different sort of award.

Unlike most other awards, including the Canadian Blog Awards and the current ABA Top 100 Awards, which are essentially crosses between popularity contests and voter-turnout drives, the public does not currently participate directly in the outcome of the ClawBies.

Rather, with Steve's call for nominations, they may be emerging as a straw-vote among law bloggers ourselves.

In this way, the Clawbies may perhaps be seen as the 'Oscars' of the relevant blog awards, to the extent that it is our yet-unnamed and largely-unformed 'academy' that will acknowledge those most deserving of cudos.

Steve's decision to ask the blawger community for nominations this year should represent a next step toward a conscious recognition that Canada's law bloggers do cumulatively represent a voice of increasing relevance within the legal profession and in the eyes of the public.

Influence

No Canadian blogger has more ably demonstrated the influence of our new medium in the greater public discourse than Michael Geist, my first nominee for a 2008 ClawBie.

As a vocal and persuasive critic of ill-conceived copyright reform legislation proposed last year by Stephen Harper's Conservative government, Mr. Geist successfully mobilized grass-roots opposition to the legislation via his law blog, media articles and the social media phenomenon, Facebook.

In the process, however, Mr. Geist emerged as significantly more than an online organizer.

When the dust settled and the impugned copyright bill was ultimately put to pasture in December 2007, it was apparent that Mr. Geist had not only assumed the role of the nation's moral conscience on intellectual property concerns - he essentially became the nation's unofficial Official Opposition on these issues, a role that continues to date.

Consistency

One common thread that runs through the best blogs is exceptionally good writing by commentators who speak their minds fearlessly, utilizing intelligent, challenging and highly entertaining voices that make you wonder what they'll have to say about any new issue as soon as it arises.

Although Law Is Cool is a collective that doesn't have a single, defining voice, I think it generally delivers the goods as Canada's most consistently interesting and entertaining law blog.

With subject matter that ranges wildly from strictly-student concerns to advocacy and politically-partisan treatises, Law is Cool is often first-out-of-the-gate with most legal and political developments of general concern, and is probably the site I click through and read most frequently.

Aside from that, its writers have been called more names by Mark Steyn than I have.

For that, I am eternally appreciative, and I gladly name Law is Cool as my second ClawBie nominee.

Access to Legal Information

The 'blawger' enjoys a special opportunity, apart from other blogs, to bring the law to the people.

It never ceases to amaze me how adept my clients now are at sourcing high-level information about their legal concerns online. As a practitioner I can vouch that answers to my own research questions are often but a click away.

Increasingly, the legal information required by the public and the profession can be found free of charge at the many Canadian law blogs whose raison d'etre is exactly that - to get information "out there."

Lots of law blogs do this well. Hull and Hull's Toronto Estate Law Blog does it best.

With ever-refreshing content in multi-media formats, I can't imagine that there is a better estate law resource in the nation for clients and lawyers alike.

As a trailblazer that sets the standard for providing timely, topic-specific legal information to the public-at-large in various media formats, Hull and Hull has my third nomination for a 2008 ClawBie.

Canada's Law Bloggers

Given the task of naming three nominees, those are mine. But are they really Canada's best law blogs, worthy of mention apart from their many peers?

Not necessarily.

I suppose I cast my votes for Canada's overall best law blogs when I launched Wise Law Reader a few short weeks ago, featuring many of the key writers I follow regularly.

And even so, I haven't finished adding sites.

The Court, Slaw, and Jordan Furlong's Law 21 are among the most frequently-recognized and discussed law blogs in Canada. All three are must-reads.

But comprised largely of academics, legal marketers and legal philosophers, these sites don't always provide the ears-to-the ground immediacy found at practitioner blogs like Stan Rule's Rule of Law, the ICBC Law Blog,  Canadian Privacy Law Blog and the indispensable Cavanaugh Williams Insurance and Litigation News blog, easily Canada's smartest lawyer-to-lawyer case law blog.

Also worthy of mention is Donna Seale's Human Rights in the Workplace, one of the many newer blogs that is becoming an important, contributing voice to Canada's online legal landscape.

It's increasingly tough to consider Canada's legal 'blawgosphere' as a monolithic entity, as there are now so many different types of offerings.

There are practitioner blogs, such as our own, written primarily by practising lawyers. There are academics' blogs and law student blogs.

There are those written by journalists, and those by professionals who provide important support services to the legal profession.

Our common thread is simply that all sites' discussions focus largely on trends in the law and developments in the legal marketplace, as a whole.

Cumulatively, there is a lot of good reading out there. And it keeps getting better.

Congratulations to all on a great year for Canadian law blogs, and our best wishes to Steve Matthews as he begins his 2008 deliberations.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Visit our Toronto Law Firm website: www.wiselaw.net

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