Lawyers might continue to inhabit a world of arcane language, but these days not even they employ expressions as outmoded as 'surfing the web'. The internet is our default source of news and information, not a technological novelty. It also hosts the opinions of well over 100 million bloggers.Indeed, barristers, pupils and others in the legal community are among those who have increasingly embraced blogging and even twittering (blogging on a micro scale using SMS). But where to begin in exploring the burgeoning world of legal blogs, or 'blawgs'?
By Paul Evans|November 07, 2008 at 11:19 AM
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Barristers have taken a shine to blogging. Paul Evans reviews a selection of the best ‘blawgs’ on the net
Lawyers might continue to inhabit a world of arcane language, but these days not even they employ expressions as outmoded as ‘surfing the web’. The internet is our default source of news and information, not a technological novelty. It also hosts the opinions of well over 100 million bloggers.
Indeed, barristers, pupils and others in the legal community are among those who have increasingly embraced blogging and even twittering (blogging on a micro scale using SMS). But where to begin in exploring the burgeoning world of legal blogs, or ‘blawgs’?
For general coverage on legal news, David Osborne’s The Barrister Bard is a good starting point. Sharp, pithy and topical – he’s a lawyer who seems to understand the unwritten rules of blogging.
Rather less entertaining – though useful – is the Bar Council’s own Bar Blog. It’s an authoratitive, if too infrequently updated site, hosting professional news and comment from a team of nine blogging barristers: worth adding to your RSS feed.
At the razor’s edge of both law and technology, GeekLawyer is an intellectual property (IP) barrister in private practice, and a former physicist. He blogs on IP law as well as some fairly esoteric technological issues. The depth of his professional knowledge shines through in what is a surprisingly digestible read.
He might not be a real silk, but Charon QC is certainly among the biggest characters in the legal blogosphere. Perhaps uniquely, he wakes up to blog at 3.30am.
The blog’s author, Mike Semple Piggott, fizzes with a real affection for legal culture, and provides excellent coverage of developments in legal education. His popularity can be attributed both to his distinctive, gossipy voice and his willingness to develop a richer multimedia content. His hosting of a series of podcasts is an example of what gives a blog the added value that attracts loyally returning readers.
Some of the most successful blogging barristers have focused straight-forwardly on providing informed commentary on their areas of specialism. Four Brick Court barrister Jacqui Gilliatt runs Bloody Relations, a popular blog focusing on family law. She successfully combines an insightful and accessible take on contemporary issues with wry notes on the court system. In a similar vein, Leigh Sagar of New Square Chambers comprehensively covers fiscal issues at Life and Death and Taxes.
If any blog was titled with a keen readership in mind, Pupillage and How to Get It is it. The site, run by North East circuit QC Simon Myerson, does not disappoint. Like any good blog, its value goes beyond just author-generated content, with its comment sections providing a place for students to exchange their views and experiences.
Blawgs are no longer restricted to the jottings of savvy practitioners; whole chambers are waking up to the value of providing web-based briefings. Leicester’s New Walk Chambers runs a blog providing concise summaries of relevant legal developments – and crucially they are web-friendly and properly hyperlinked, not just blocks of text.
It would be an unhealthy favourites list that contained only pure legal blogs. Tim Kevan’s The (ex-) Barrister’s Blog provides pleasant respite after an arduous hearing or tiresome seminar. In common with former libel lawyer Alex Wade, who writes a blog for the ‘A1 Surf’ website, surfing is now his primary passion. He holds forth on the importance of catching waves, and posts some lovely pictures of Britain’s finest beaches. Also on the lighter side is BabyBarista, the fictional account of life at a mixed common law and criminal set. The creator of the amoral young lawyer, whose well-read exploits can be enjoyed at Times Online, remains a mystery.
While numerous BVC students have begun blogs – and often quickly abandoned them – there are a few regularly updated online journals that capture the optimism and desperation of seeking a pupillage. Law Girl carries a particularly strong mixture of humour and legal comment, documenting the travails of the search for that elusive pupillage.
Gavin Whenman is a graduate of Reading and Kings College London, and contributed to the collaborative blog The Diaries of UK Law Students. He believes that the value of blogging lies in providing an outlet to air thoughts on the profession. “The main reason I started blogging, aside, from the obvious egotistical motivation, was catharsis,” he explains.
“I wanted to see if anyone was having the same experience studying law as me and share my various legal grievances with the world.”
But he sounds a note of warning to students thinking of starting a blog. “If you are genuinely aiming to become a lawyer, whether a barrister or a solicitor, you should approach blogging with some caution – and be careful not to ruin your career prospects,” says Whenman.
Indeed, lawyers and students who wish to take up blogging would be well-advised to think twice before hitting the ‘post’ button. Over in the US, in-house attorney Richard Frenkel (who blogged at Patent Troll Tracker) found himself on the wrong end of a defamation suit after making online allegations about the conduct of another lawyer. It’s far from the only example of lawsuits arising from blog posts – perhaps because the immediacy of the medium often leads to content being published without the normal checks for accuracy or libel.
Blogging could have been designed for barristers: an individualist pursuit that can be undertaken in those otherwise wasted small hours, a platform to air weighty views, unedited, an opportunity to show the world how fiercely their intelligence burns.
While the professional advantage to be had from documenting your opinions and experiences might be limited, there’s little doubt that blogging can be a great release. Becoming part of an online community, while soliciting advice from those who have gone before you, can certainly be valuable. And you never know, if your writing is truly compelling, you might even land yourself a publishing deal. After Baghdad’s Salam Pax and high-class hooker Belle de Jour, it is surely only a matter of time before a blogging barrister gets their online thoughts into print.
Best of the Bar’s blogs
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