The CLawBies have become an institution in the Canadian blogging community, one which recognizes established and new legal blogs in our corner of the Internet. But it also recognizes that we very much are a community, and that even though we live in the second largest country in the world many of us have gotten to know each other quite well through blogs and social media. For example, I am able to introduce myself to Nicole Garton-Jones on the west coast and David T.S. Fraser from the east, and we instantly know all kinds of things about each other and have an affinity for one another.
Community building, in any community, is an arduous process. The low barrier of entry for blogging means the community is inherently fluid, but also characteristically democratic. There cannot be any formal hierarchies or official leadership for the Canadian blogging community. But there can be leaders, and those behind the CLawBies such as Steve Matthews, Jordan Furlong, and Simon Fodden, have certainly have positioned themselves as some of those.
Group psychology and organization behaviour, some of my passions I carry over from my management background, are just as relevant when applied to social media in the legal community. One of the more memorable quotes which reflects this principle was expressed by Brian Solis,
— Allison_1001 (@Allison_1001) December 19, 2011
Despite being spread out from coast to coast, those of us in Toronto have tried to organize gatherings and meetups to get to know each other better in person. We’ve met regularly, almost every month now, for quite some time. Our gatherings have ranged from 4-5 people all the way to over 30, and almost always of varied composition. In fact I think I can say that we have never had a blawger meetup with exactly the same people there twice, with people like Simon Fodden, Barry S. Sookman, and Dan Pinnington all making respective appearances.
One of the more permanent hallmarks of these gatherings has been Garry Wise, another clear leader whose involvement has been absolutely essential in rallying both novice and experienced blawgers around the table. People attend to share expert tips, war stories, or just talk about current events, while other arrive with a curiousity about whether they should start blawgging at all. Our newest addition is Sara Cohen’s Fertility Law Blog, with a single post to date, launched earlier this month as a result of a discussion between Garry and her at our last meetup.
For those of us who love social media, it’s the exchange of well thought-out substantive legal ideas that challenge us on a personal level in a respectful manner which keeps us coming back for more. The addition of new members to this dialogue can only be a good thing.
Supporting the cultural norms and celebrating positive additions to the blawging community are the themes of my 2011 nominations:
1. SQP jeunes avocats | virtual mentor for new lawyers by Lee Akazaki
I got to know Lee primarily through is previous role as Ontario Bar Association (OBA) President. He executed his duties in that office amazingly, and was a huge support to younger members of the bar. He has continued his mentorship with a new blog focusing on mentoring. And he’s doing it in both official languages. Although the site was just launched in mid-November, I again reference the criteria listed on the CLawBies website:
newer, unlisted blogs may be eligible if they demonstrate all the critical elements of a great blog: decent post frequency, audience engagement, topic originality, and blog-to-blog references or citations.
Lee’s posts are coming through at least weekly (sometimes daily), and is expressly intended to be interactive,
This Blog has to be interactive
This is more than a website. There is a real live senior lawyer behind this wall, who in turn has a large network of lawyers to draw on for expertise. The function of this blog is to be interactive, to provide new lawyers with help and value for your time in reading. Please consider leaving a comment to any blog post you have read. Provided they are constructive, comments will be approved for the benefit of all readers. If you have a question or situation which you wish to share with the readership, send it to me and it will be considered for a future article. If you have a question you wish to ask on a confidential basis, contact me directly. Click on the ‘about lee / contact’ tab above and get in touch with me.
This is a great idea, and one which I feel the need to support through an endorsement with a CLawBie. See also Chris Jaglowtiz’s nomination of this site.
2. Social Media for Law Firms by Samantha Collier
The vast majority of lawyers I encounter are interested in social media primarily as a business development tool. My passion for it primarily stems from the ability to connect with other, exchange ideas, and build relationships that eventually grow into communities. But there is nothing wrong with lawyers who enter our space out of an interest to make themselves more visible to the public, and people like Samantha can help them do it in a classy way. Professional marketing advice doesn’t cheapen the profession, it enhances it, especially when done properly.
Most of Samantha’s technical content is probably introductory for many online veterans, but as I note above there are a lot of lawyers who are consider entering the field. Her site provides a form of mentoring on how to use social media, in the same way that Lee uses social media to discuss mentoring. She was also listed in the Top 24 Social Media Influencers in Canada this year, a list with many familiar faces and names which includes some very important non-lawyers who have helped build this community (special mention for Connie Crosby, for example).
3. Blawg Review by Ed. (Anonymous)
A 2010 CLawBie winner for Friends of the North, Blawg Review is an example of what the Canadian law blogging community could do for ourselves on a more regular basis. Blawg Review is truly an astronomical project that rotates to different sites every week and compiles a roundup of law blogs around the world. I would love to see Canadian blawgers comment more in a constructive manner on other blawgs, and for us to have an ongoing conversation about legal issues and cases.
Crowdsourcing complex legal questions discussing legal philosophy in a respectful and open exchange is a best case scenario for me because it would foster the greatest forms of creativity and collaboration, something we already see happening in the tech, communications and business sectors. Unfortunately law schools and most legal practices don’t properly teach interpersonal skills or the importance of collaboration, which in my opinion is a lost opportunity for potential development. Those of us who have tried to work more closely with each other have developed some rather revolutionary projects, including LawTechCamp (Monica Goyal, Sapna Mahboobani and Mitch Kowalski) and our sessions at the Law Society of Upper Canada (Mitch Kowalski, Bob Tarantino, Garry Wise and myself). You can read more about our sessions on Garry’s CLawBies nomination page. The materials not only reached over 5,000 lawyers in our jurisdiction, but have travelled far beyond and are already being used by lawyers in other provinces and countries. If there was any question about how social media can bring the legal community together in a positive way, this program has demonstrated how it can happen.
We don’t necessarily have to have our own blogging carnival for lawyers out here in Canada. But we could learn a lot about the spirit and attitude that makes Blawg Review work to help develop our own community. And yes, even the anonymous editor of Blawg Review has attended our blawger meetups in Toronto. It already has that kind of international pull. How many “Friends of the North” can claim that? If blawgers in other Canadian cities start hosting their own meetups we would see this community move forward to another level, and I can promise that at some point in the future I’ll make make the effort to attend them all myself – in person.