The British blawg / law blog
Welcome to the June 2011 UK Blawg review, a quarterly round up of British Blawgs (legal blogs) and discussion.
In the last Blawg Reivew, Brian Inkster took the past as his theme. Speaking from his newly materialised Time Blawg, he took us on a journey back into the mists of 2006 (or even earlier), before whisking us back again to see where those original bloggers were today.
Today I am going to see if the UK Blawg time rotor can give us a peek into the future. One of the things I will be looking at is whether blogs are just a frivolous fancy, or whether they can be a serious support to a law practice.
Because this is the year when everything changes. Deregulation is coming in October (2011) as the Legal Services Act 2007 finally comes into force. Lawyers (they say) are going to be forced to do things differently. Will blogging be a part of this new future?
I start with a serious and thought provoking post, the time is now from Viv Williams on Legal Futures which discusses the problems raised by deregulation and the options available to law firms. Well worth reading if you are a law firm principal. We all need to think about these things.
But back to blogging.
Blogging inspires passion among its practitioners, and there have been several law blog events, none of which sadly I have been able to attend (living as I do in the wilds of Norfolk – or Norwich as many people call it). The most recent event took place on 19 May 2011 and had as its theme the future of legal blogging.
It appears to have been well attended and was reported online by Siobhain Butterworth of the Guardian who commented that “blawgs seems to be in blossom”. (It was also reported in the Times but I can’t show you that as it is behind their paywall).
The event brought forth an interesting crop of blogs on what the future of legal blogging might be.
James Wilson writing on Halsburys Law Exchange feels that legal blogging ensures more debate about the rules that govern us, and keeps better scrutiny on those who make and enforce them, which has to be a good thing
Adam Wagner writing on the UK Human Rights Blog is more concerned about the ethical side of blogging – do lawyers have a duty to correct errors in the press about legal cases, and explain the law to the general public?
Law student Dylan White found the event inspiring and thinks that the current crop of law students is the future of blogging
Emily Albon writing on Lawbore Future Lawyer thinks it is a great way for law students to show their engagement with the subject, and has many benefits to the student blogger, not least helping them find a job in due course.
But, firmly grasping the commercial nettle in his canny Scottish fist, Brian Inkster asks is law firm business development the elephant in the #LawBlogs room? A question answered in part in the vigorous debate which followed in the comments section. Brian’s posts generally attract vigorous comments – a sign of a good blog.
So we have a number of themes identified there:
- Providing informed comment on legal topics and news items
- Educating the public
- Correcting reporting errors
- Keeping a scrutiny on law makers and enforcers
- Supporting a law firm / promoting the writer
I think I would add to that, writing for the love of it. Anybody who chooses to write a blog and keeps it up for more than a year, must enjoy writing or they wouldn’t bother with it.
So lets go look at British law bloggers blogs and see what they are doing.
The top ten blogs of 2011
Where can we find law blogs? One place I discovered recently is Cisions list of top ten Law Blogs. Cisions is a resource for PR and communications professionals – lets see which blogs they put at the top. In reverse order:
No 10 is Pangloss from Lillian Edwards, Professor of E-Governance at The Law School of Strathclyde University who writes on online privacy and security law, cybercrime, online intermediary law, etc etc. Recent posts include Do you want to know a secret about twitter and superinjunctions and Return of the Robots! and Hay on Wye Festival! which looks at re-drawing (Sci fi writer) Asimov’s laws of robotics.
No 9 is Pink Tape – a blog from Lucy Read of the family bar. She covers all manner of things, from a talk by HH Judge Bellamy (not y’know, the wildlife bloke, but the other one), to legal blogging goes boom
No 8 is my blog - The Landlord Law Blog. Here I mostly have educational posts for landlords / tenants such as What can you do if your tenant just WON”T GO!, and comments on news items such as Tenancy Deposits – the law that never was plus there is the newish blog clinic where I publish readers problems, such as International students still waiting for their deposit after three months
No 7 is the Marilyn Stowe Blog – a very professional looking blog and the winner of the UK Blawg awards 2010 no less! This is a family law blawg – and she has recently considered what makes a good family law blogger , as well as looking at Michelle Obamas sound relationship advice and how to avoid the CSA.
No 6 is Law Actually an amusing blog from “a typically deranged law graduate, with a poor taste in blogging and too much spare time on his hands” who in between posts works in-house for a wholesale business telcoms operator. He serves up an entertaining mix of commentary such as Woman goes hyper at dunkin donuts, lawyer in waitering funds law degree by dropping trousers and the unfortunate (although probably fictitious) story of Employees & the right to erm … play at work.
No 5 is the well respected Head of Legal blog from barrister and former government worker Carl Gardner. I can remember Head of Legal from way back in the early days of legal blogging. He comments on legal stories in the news such as can the Danes ban Marmite? and Mosely v. UK.
No 4 is the UK Human Rights Blog – from barristers chambers One Crown Office Way publishing several human rights posts daily. This blog burst upon the blawgosphere fairly recently but is up there with the best. Recent posts include why religious freedom does not stop at the prison gate and how the police may have a duty to inform victims of phone hacking .
No 2 is the Magistrates Blog – another long running and very well respected blog. The Magistrates Blog is anonymous and and all names in cases are changed. A recent oddments from the front line post had a very sad and telling comment from a South London JP on the day his court closed and the insensitivity of HMCTS, and plate sin with gold looks at the nature of theft.
The top spot (cue drum roll) is taken by Charon QC, an enormously popular legal blog which has been around for a very long time. Charon QC himself apparently does not exist (so how come he does all those podcasts then?) but is a figment in the imagination of law lecturer Mike Semple Piggot.
In view of this it is perhaps not surprising that in a recent post the learned QC (or maybe his alter ego) had a few things to say about the new college of humanities. Other recent posts include episodes from the continuing story of that ever popular and ethically rock sold law firm Muttley Dastardly LLP plus various law reviews, for example on Legal tweeters on TV – Miscarriages of Justice – Politicians interfering with the judiciary?
Charon QC is probably the best known of all the legal blogs, partly because it has been around for such a long time, but mainly of course because it is a stonking good blog.
So thats the Cisions top ten for May 2011. Its also interesting to see what their top ten was the last time they reviewed law blogs in September 2009. All of the blogs listed are still going (albeit some maybe in a slightly different format).
The top ten blogs of 2009
Here the countdown was as follows:
No 9 – Family Lore from John Bloch – John is a long established and well known family law blogger, and I was surprised not to see him in the 2011 list. I have a soft spot for Family Lore as it was reading this which inspired me to start blogging way back in 2006. Recent posts include one on how divorces can be aimiable and one about a considerably less amiable couple spying on each other on facebook His blog is also home to the family law wiki.
No 8 – Yay! Me again! – Landlord Law Blog
No 7 - Current awareness from the Inner Temple Library. This seems to be mostly extracts from online news reports and links to them. Looks like it could be a good source of stories for the law humour blogs.
No 6 – the Barrister Blog (Tim Kevan) again
No 5 – Nearly Legal. I know the Nearly Legal blog very well as it deals with my area of law, ie Landlord and Tenant, although NL covers all the social housing cases whereas I just do the private sector. Nearly Legal himself is actually a good example of how writing a blog can help with your career. He started it back in 2006 while unqualified (hence ‘nearly legal’) and has since qualified and works now at a good London legal aid firm (I was going to say a quality firm but that word is now perhaps best avoided).
Nearly Legal is now written by a team of solicitors and barristers (including the original NL) and provides what is more or less a legal reporting service on case law in the housing area. It is hugely respected and rightly so. Generally the reporting is straight and serious, but I commend to you Hot tub lovin’, the Daily Mail and Article 8 (don’t ask) and Oh Cluck where NL considers setting up a specialist hen and rabbit practice.
No 4 – panGLos (as aforesaid)
No 3 – Baby Barrista from Tim Kevan – formerly in the Times but now (since the paywall came in) in the Guardian and on its own site here. This as everyone will know is the account of a fictional junior barrister. Recently he has been considering selling off the Inns of court and upholding the rule of law.
No 2 – Binary Law from publishing consultant Nick Holmes (who also produces, with Delia Venables, the excellent Internet Newsletter and who initiated the Free Legal Web). Nick has probably been blogging longer than any of us, as he set up in February 2004! Nick tends to concentrate on publishing related posts such as Innovations in law publishing and the death of (some) print but of particular interest to us today is his post Too many #LawBlogs?
The no. 1 post in 2009 was the excellent Magistrates Blog, so not a lot of change there as it is No 2 now.
Some more blogs
A few (well quite a lot really) other notable blogs I need to mention are as follows
The Jack of Kent blog, from London lawyer and writer provides intellectual comment on the news, with some philosophical musing thrown in. Posts range from legal gags on Wikileaks to whether Pippa Middleton should have a page on Wikipedia (answer, yes).
Trouble Ahead from Mike Scutt is specifically about UK legal services deregulation. Recent posts include the The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Legal Services Act and countdown to the LSA where he provides a handy list of acronyms.
Mike also blogs as Jobsworth on his legal specialism Employment law where he asks whether the government should cap discriminaton awards and whether stressed workers are more at risk of redundancy.
Alrichs weblog from journalist Alan Rich looks at legal related items in the news such as the Jonathan Sumption debacle and Privacy, human rights, horizontality and the issue of judicial underwear
Steven Mather has a rather snazzy blog which covers legal, mediation and geeky issues among others. He is asking if chimps are more intelligent than most under 16s and looks at Ken Clarke’s plans for compulsory mediation of small claims.
piBlawg from 1 Chancery Lane covers personal injury issues eg we are the village green preservation sociey, God save Donald Duck, vaudeville and variety and the fashon for fraud
The William Flack Blog is another housing law blog from social welfare lawyer William Flack, who is wondering if the telephone gateway to legal aid services is a good thing and has a few thoughts on Sharon Shoesmiths sucessful appeal. William has also set up a social welfare law wiki
Legal 2.0 is from Jon Busby, Business Development Director at Epoq Legal. He wants to know if you want the truth or somethig beautiful and talks about how legal tech can do much more than make you accessible (well he would wouldn’t he?)
The LegalBratBlawg is from Tim Bratton general counsel at the Financial Times, who has recently looked at the case for self regulation – however I found his white font on dark background blog very difficult to read – am I alone in this?
John Floods Random Academic Thoughts is another long established blog, recently he has been telling us that we might not have realised that the world was ending, and looking at risk management in from father confessor to compliance officer
The Pain Smith landlord and tenant blog is very well known to me, working as we do in the same field, and is full of excellent posts, and sometimes breaking news of their own cases. For instance in the Potts v. Dansley Pays case. It is also, like many blawgs, reminding people that Bailii is appealing for funds.
Finally, I would like to include a blog which I have enjoyed for some years, Technollama. The author, formerly a lecturer at University of Edinburgh School of Law has now returned to his ancestral acres in Costa Rica but as his blog remains as entertaining as ever, I venture to include it. For example in a recent post on the internet nobody knows youre a meme he has some excellent advice for dealing with strangers on the internet. He also wonders if we should have any expectations of privacy in the internet age.
Pause for reflection
So, having had a whistle stop tour around the legal blogosphere (with apologies to anyone who has accidentially been left out), what does it say about blogging and the future of the profession?
There is as we have seen a huge range of blogs, running from the mostly commercial, which are mainly about the authors products, to the blogs (particularly the anonymous ones) which are written purely for the love of it with no expectation of reward..
There are numerious examples of blogs dealing with all the themes identified at #lawblogs, with many blogs falling into more than one catetory. Lets take a look.
Providing informed comment on legal topics and news items
Most blogs do this to some extent or other. Some are humorous such as Law Actually, and some mainly comment on political and current news items, for example Head of Legal blog and Alrichs weblog. Others keep readers up to date in their particular field, such as the Pain Smith blog and Technolama.
Educating the public
Most blawgs consider this to be one of their main raison d’être. For example if you want to know what it is like being a Magistrate – read the Magistrates blog. If you want to know want the top human rights issues are today – read the UK Human Rights blog. If you want to know what its like being a trainee solicitor, read LeagleagleMHM’s diary of a trainee solicitor.
For those of us who blog under our own or our firms name, it is not entirely altruistic. ‘Content marketing’ as it is called, is a proven method of marketing. It consists providing useful and helpful content to the public on the basis that it will raise the bloggers profile (and the profile of their business) and improve their chances of survival in a hostile world.
For example, my Landlord Law blog publishes a lot of educational material, as does Steve Williams Motoring lawyers online. Then, some excellent blogs are written with lawyers as potential customers in mind, for example Julian Summerhayes and Legal 2.0 from Jon Busby.
Free Legal Web. On the theme of education, I must mention again the innovative and rather wonderful Free Legal Web. This collects legal articles and blogs published around the blogosphere and publishes them all in one place to make life easier for the seeker after legal knowledge.
The FLW is presently concentrating on housing law, and the three main housing blogs (Nearly Legal, Pain Smith and my own – although we are not the only contributors) all have special categories on our blogs for FLW so posts can easily be uploaded to the beta housing law pilot. However I believe Nick has plans to extend FLW to other areas of law. You can read more about it all here.
Correcting reporting errors
The barristers blogs do a very good job with this, for example the Human Rights Blog and Nearly Legal (although NL has both barrister and solicitor writers). However there are sometimes restrictions on what barristers can say about their own cases – discussed by Adam Wagner on the UK Human Righsts blog here.
Keeping a scrutiny on law makers and enforcers
Lawyers blogs, due to their specialist knowledge, are well placed to do this. For example most blawgs are united in condemning the gradual dismantling over time by government of our once proud legal aid scheme. In my own area we have all been highly critical of the tenancy deposit legislation. Other niche blogs will do the same for topics in their area of expertise.
Supporting a law firm or promoting the writer
One reason why many of us blog is to support our business, and there is nothing wrong with this. But does it work?
Brian Inkster asked this question on the Time Blawg – do clients search online for a solicitor? The answer seemed to be probably yes. My experience has been very much “yes” and Paul Hajek has also had a big success with his property blogs. It would be great if some legal bloggers could leave a comment below about the effect their blog has had on their practice.
Writing for the love of it
I suspect that this applies to most blogs, certainly the ones that last. I first started blogging because I wanted to write and express myself. It takes a lot of effort to maintain a blog – it should be something you enjoy doing – otherwise why do it?
Many of the blogs discussed above deal with things which interest the writer, and are perhaps written more for themselves or other lawyers than for clients. For example Jon Bloor’s Penninsulawyer and Brian Inkster’s Time Blawg. And indeed the blog you are on right now (or should be, unless this post has been scraped), my Solicitors Onlne blog, which I set up when I decided to limit my Landlord Law blog to landlord and tenant topics only.
We’re all publishers now
One of the wonderful things about this new interconnected world we live in, is that we can all be publishers now. Gone are the days of having to kow tow to ‘them upstairs’ for a book contract or a column in the paper. All it takes is a bit fiddling around on blogger or one of the other free providers and Bobs your uncle!
So are blogs set to grow into the future? You bet they are! As we have seen, there are masses of thriving and interesting law blogs out there covering a huge and diverse spectrum of legal topics. Their authors do not look like stopping any time soon.
But what do YOU think? You’ll find a comment box just below…