Tardy, procrastinating, busy…call it what you will, I finally managed to get get this post together. You can read posts by those quicker out the blocks at the bottom of this piece and you might also be interested in the archive of tweets from the evening. The second lawblogs event took place Thursday 19th May on a more ambitious scale than the last – which despite the best efforts of the Central Line – managed to attract around three times as many audience members as the inaugural event, this time held at The Law Society. With a panel comprised of the organisers Adam Wagner (UK Human Rights Blog) and David Allen Green (Jack of Kent and columnist for the New Statesman). They were joined by Carl Gardner (Head of Legal), Joshua Rozenberg and Siobhain Butterworth (GuardianLaw) with Catrin Griffiths conducting discussions.
So what stood out for me? Bit cheesy granted, but I loved the fact that there were so many people there, all interested in the medium of blogging within the law, but coming from different backgrounds: solicitors, barristers, law students, trainees, pupils and journalists. Early parts of the discussion centred around experiences and impressions of the medium, with Adam talking of the ‘explosion’ that had taken place but Carl commenting that predictably some had dropped off, with others finding more value in microblogging on twitter instead. Siobhain had some interesting things to say around how she differs from the rest of the panel in terms of independence; she only writes online but she has to adhere to the same demands as print in terms of editorial checking. The others clearly relish being freed from the print cycle of deadlines and word counts.
The important role of the legal blogger was raised by Joshua; in a world where quality legal commentary is largely nonexistent in print newspapers, bloggers fill this void by offering sophisticated legal analysis, in a speedy manner. These posts often matching the quality you would find in a peer reviewed journal which wouldn’t be published for many months.
Adam had lots of interesting things to say about his research into the professional ethics of blogging; what is expected of lawyers communicating in this way? Somewhat surreally drawing on the Bridget Jones film to note how the dashing Mark Darcy was a sign of things to come; a combination of solicitor and barrister and also seen talking to the Press at the High Court.
For the citizen there is access to both raw legal materials and detailed analysis freely available like never before. Of course BAILII is the major driver for providing the judgments, but Sky is now transmitting all hearings live from the Supreme Court. Bloggers make this ‘data’ accessible to all by critiquing and comparing judgments, reports, reviews and essentially bringing them to life, sometimes provoking debate.
Siobhain asked what the deal was with the dearth of women in legal blogging (admittedly under duress from Catrin); I think she meant women who blog about issues across the legal spectrum. There are after all lots of women lawyers blogging about their legal practice. Standout women bloggers in law? I would note particularly freelance journalist and MPhil/PhD student at City University’s Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, Judith Townend who writes the Meeja Law blog and contributes to Inforrm amongst other blogs. Lucy Reed’s blog Pink Tape and the Marilyn Stowe blog come highly recommended for posts on family law practice . For recommendations of law blogs to follow (both sexes!), see the mini blawgroll from Siobhain or Brian Inkster’s Time Blawg Roundup.
Siobhain and David touched on the furious competition to be first to post on an issue (clearly I’ve failed on this one here). David noting that being one of the first can mean lots of new followers in twitter terms, using the publication of the Hargreaves Report to demonstrate how Emily Goodhand (Copyright for Education blog) aka @copyrightgirl pipped everyone to the post on authoritative reflection. Siobhain extolled the virtue of contemplation; suggesting that reflections should be based on hindsight rather than speed. She used the Ken Clarke BBC 5 live appearance and his comments about rape as an illustration; lots of reactionary posts came rattling out rather than considered legal opinion.
David finished by summing up the purpose of the medium to him, stating that it is a means to an end, with the primary aim to inform a debate that is emerging or should emerge. “Existing to engage and share information rather than tell people what they should think”.
For law students wondering if they should take the plunge my thoughts are simple: what better way to show your engagement with the subject you’ve decided to dedicate your future to? Scary as it might seem to give your personal critique on law that you’re only just learning it can have many benefits if you give it a go. Detailing the law in a way that anyone can understand is one of the key skills any lawyer covets; standing you in good stead for any client work. Blogging about your chosen area can show commitment and passion, and it’s also a great way to connect with others in the profession. There’s a real community of bloggers as this event showed – be a part of it!
Student/trainee/pupil blogs to follow:
Update: check out Gavin Ward’s ‘Top 5 reasons for young lawyers and barristers to get blogging’ post on Pupillage Blog
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