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The following articles were first published in the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers.
The state of legal blogs
By Delia Venables
Legal blogs have been mainstream since the mid-2000s. Originally they seemed very modern, but now they seem rather ordinary. One has to ask “what are they for?” That is where the topic becomes interesting again.
Blogs are pretty normal now; but they are not necessarily called blogs and are used in a number of ways:
- individual thoughts on current legal developments – the classic blog;
- industry updates for clients – most large law firms have extensive blogs, suites of blogs or update sites, including Pinsent Masons (OUT-LAW), Simmons and Simmons (Elexica), Herbert Smith, Kingsley Napley, Field Fisher, Hogan Lovells, Clyde and Co …;
- law updates for lawyers – many of the blogs described below are in this category, with leading examples being the ICLR Blog, Current Awareness from the Inner Temple Library, Free Movement Immigration Law Blog, Panopticon, UK Human Rights Blog and the UK Supreme Court Blog;
- subscription information services – free and paid;
- magazines which provide information in a more literary way than just nuggets of information but which are still purveyors of legal information topics (for example this Newsletter);
- news sources – this was a new idea in the early 2000s but this has largely been overtaken by Twitter where the news can be found literally as it happens.
Below is my personal selection of interesting legal blogs. Apologies to all the other excellent legal blogs not mentioned!
Nick Holmes maintains probably the most comprehensive (and up to date) catalogue of legal blogs anywhere in the infolaw Lawfinder Blogs section.
Azrights News and Media covers intellectual property, internet, technology, online business law, litigation, branding and all things digital. The blog is provided by Shireen Smith, the firm’s founder. People who will find this blog useful range from one-person startups to established international tech PLCs, as well as all those interested in business and entrepreneurship, internet and technology and intellectual property and media law.
BarristerBlogger comes from criminal barrister Matthew Scott of Pump Court Chambers, who specialises in serious crime, including murder, serious sexual and violent offences, offences against children as well as cases involving drugs and fraud. His blog provides legal comment, argument and discussion on these topics. He won the Comment Awards 2015 Best Independent Blog.
Current Awareness from the Inner Temple Library provides up-to-date information regarding new case law, changes in legislation and a wide variety of legal news, which library staff think will be of interest to lawyers practising in England and Wales. The content is selected and updated daily with a wide variety of entries on most days.
Cyberleagle, Graham Smith’s blog on law, IT, the internet and new media. Graham Smith is a private practice lawyer based in London, dealing with IT, internet and intellectual property issues. Fewer topics covered than in some blogs, but in considerable detail.
DavidsonMorris Immigration Blog is very comprehensive and informative in covering all aspects of UK immigration law with real time updates on changes to legislation, as well as keeping an eye on global immigration.
Family Law from LexisNexis provides analysis of market issues for family lawyers. The increasing demise of family legal aid, the economic downturn, changes to the court system and a raft of legislative changes are reshaping the family law market. Family lawyers need to adapt their services, whether by changes to fee structures, increased use of ADR or simply by being more responsive to client needs.
Family Law Blog comes from Andrew Woolley and his team, at Family Law Firm. The blog covers recent case law and other interesting cases and provides their views on a wide variety of family law related issues.
Family Lore is a blog from solicitor John Bolch covering serious and not-so-serious posts on the subject. The second blog Family Law Focus for more serious material which provides family law news, including legislation articles and a full list of blogs around the world on family Law.
Free Movement on immigration law was founded by barrister Colin Yeo and is written by him and other legal experts in immigration. It provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law and is a key source for information and procedure on this topic.
Gherson, an important immigration firm, maintains a blog on wide ranging Immigration topics including Brexit issues, business immigration, extradition, human rights, EU Law, nationality and immigration issues around the world. The blog is kept well up to date with several substantive posts a week.
ICLR Blog provides news, analysis, comment and updates from ICLR’s case law and UK legislation platform and includes Weekly Notes from ICLR. The posts are categorised by legal topic so that threads can be followed through to the present position. Prepared mainly by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content at ICLR, this blog deserves to be at the top of any lawyers “must look at” sites.
Ipkat has been covering copyright, patent, trade mark, infotech and privacy/confidentiality issues from a mainly UK and European perspective since 2003. With frequent posts, this is a very significant resource.
Jack of Kent (David Allen Green) provides “a critical and liberal blog about law, policy, and other things.” He provides frequent and in-depth posts on the legal and societal issues of today. He is a barrister and a solicitor and also writes for The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Lawyer and New Scientist. He is a major source of informed comment about Brexit.
JMW, a large and outward looking law firm in Manchester, provides an interesting blog covering many topics including family and children, sport, injuries, hobbies, marriage and cohabiting, divorce, pets… whatever is topical (and sometimes controversial) with a legal angle!
Landlord Law Blog comes from Tessa Shepperson, a solicitor working in residential landlord and tenant law. She also maintains the Landlord Law site which provides a lot of free information on issues for landlords and tenants and also sells a variety of “packages” of information and documentation from the site. The blog is newsy but serious and well informed.
Life Law NI is a Northern Ireland blog which aims to provide information on all legal matters surrounding family life. The blog highlights any special features of the law related to Northern Ireland and comes from Claire Edgar and Karen Connolly at the Belfast firm of Francis Hanna & Co.
Mathys & Squire is one of Europe’s most highly regarded intellectual property firms. They provide a News and Insights section with frequent posts on major IP topics in the UK, Europe and elsewhere.
My Scottish Law Blog comes from Bruce de Wert, a Scottish solicitor at Georgesons Solicitors of Wick and Thurso in Caithness. The blog is updated frequently with postings on Scottish divorce, Scottish powers of attorney, Scottish wills and topics relating to property law and estate agency.
Nationwide Employment Lawyers provide news, comment and information on a wide range of employment topics. The posts are particularly well catalogued and cross referenced so you can find the topic you are looking for with ease.
Nearly Legal housing law news and comment is a blog by a group of barristers and solicitors including Giles Peaker, one of the longest-standing legal bloggers who is experienced in housing and landlord and tenant law. The site provides updates, case reports and comment on housing law and related matters. The archives contain case reports on pretty much every relevant High Court, Court of Appeal and House of Lords case since 2007, as well as some county court and Lands Tribunal judgments. They also have updates on statute, links to other resources and a page of housing news feeds from other sites.
Panopticon covers information law and is maintained by members of 11KBW’s Information Law Practice Group. Information law is about the right to know, the right to keep private and the boundary between those rights. It encompasses areas such as data protection, freedom of information, the protection of private information under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, breach of confidence, and the regulation of surveillance. The name apparently comes from Jeremy Bentham’s proposed new model prison, in which constant surveillance would be a tool for moral regeneration; it has become an enduring metaphor in debates about the benefits and the dangers of systematic information-gathering.
Pink Tape is a blog on family law from barrister Lucy Reed at St John’s Chambers in Bristol. The blog aims to enhance the quality of public information and debate about legal matters and about family law in particular. She is also a founder member of the Transparency Project (see below).
The Transparency Project Blog describes itself as “Correcting, clarifying or commenting on media reports of family court cases; explaining or commenting on published Judgments of family court cases; and highlighting other transparency news.” Posts are frequent, varied and well presented. The The Transparency Project is a registered charity which aims to explain and discuss family law and family courts in England and Wales, providing useful resources to help people understand the system and the law better.
UK Human Rights Blog is associated with One Crown Office Row and aims to provide a free, comprehensive and balanced legal update service. The intention is not to campaign on any particular issue, but rather to present both sides of the argument on issues which are often highly controversial. Posts cover a huge range of legal issues, from human rights, to public, medical and environmental law. The blog has a searchable archive of case reports and comments dating back to 1998 and also delivers a weekly Rights Round-up. The cases are taken from domestic courts and the Strasbourg court involving human rights points that demonstrate the impact of the European Convention on domestic law and also explores the practical impact of these cases for practitioners.
UK Supreme Court Blog (UKSC blog) comes from Matrix Chambers and the Litigation Department of Olswang LLP, which is now part of CMS. The authors are solicitors and barristers specialising in litigation and with a particular interest in the work of the UK Supreme Court.
WardBlawg covers Scots and other laws from around the globe. It aims to provide content from the best minds in the Scottish legal profession, while also providing the most recent news relevant to Scots lawyers and businesses both those domiciled in Scotland and those established elsewhere looking to set up or develop their business in Scotland. The blog was started by Gavin Ward. The blog also deals with academic legal topics, particularly ones related to Scotland.
By Nick Holmes
Blogging is a simple, cheap, efficient, effective way to publish and update time-sensitive information, particularly in constantly-changing fields such as the law. Blogging puts in your hands publishing power even greater than that which was the preserve of only large, established publishers with fat wallets not so long ago. Content management, feed generation, subscriber management, search engine optimisation: all is built in for free. That’s reason enough for almost everyone and every organisation to consider blogging.
Blogs are not just a publishing format, but a networking tool, a means to reach out and engage with an audience; and blogging is not just about publishing, but about conversing and contributing. That’s how blogs started out – with the desire to share thoughts and “write out loud”.
Writing in the now defunct Solicitors Journal, David Allen Green offered a considered list of reasons Why some lawyers should blog, and why some should not:
“Blogging allows the lawyer a different type of creative freedom that cannot be done in any of the other forms of legal writing, and I contend there are three reasons why all lawyers should consider blogging … and one reason why they should not. … [first] it enables the lawyer – from a student to a retired judge – to develop as a lawyer … [second] it helps you connect with others – from potential clients to professional peers – on terms that show what you are good at and what interests you … [and third] it promotes the public understanding of law and the legal profession. … The one bad reason to blog is to do it just for the sake of it.”
For reasons to blog, I prefer to look back to early proponents of blogging who recognised the potential of this new literary form. Andrew Sullivan, writing in The Atlantic in November 2008 on Why I blog concluded:
“The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction. It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before.”
This “writing out loud” is what Robert Scoble and Shel Israel dubbed Naked Conversations in their 2006 book of that title, subtitled “How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers”. The core thesis concerned communicating authentically and making a connection with an audience.
From a business perspective, if you have something to contribute in your field of expertise, simply by showing who you are on your blog, you will engage with your peers and your market; and by showing what you know, you will promote yourself without the need for glossy brochures, calculated networking or other self-promotion that may not sit easily with you.
Of course, most individual lawyers don’t have the time or the inclination or the talent to blog though they may see the benefit in so doing. In the absence of any committed bloggers within a firm, the law firm news blog might seem like a reasonable compromise. But understand that you are competing with the very best law news sources nationally.
Law firm blogs need to be focused (usually on a particular practice area), to have personality (usually meaning it’s not “the firm” but individuals or small groups that should blog) and to be engaging (providing comment and analysis and perhaps stirring things up a little) or to deliver some other value that cannot be found elsewhere.
Image: cc by Amy Gahran on Flickr.