Every Blog Has Its Day
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Lawyers and law students alike are increasingly finding their online voices in legal blogs. There's space for everyone to get involved - so it doesn't have to be a blog eat blog world.
If ET does exist (and he's got broadband), he probably has a pretty good idea of what it means to be a human on Earth, thanks to the remarkable number of enthusiastic internet users who write freely about their lives, opinions and occupations online. Web logs, or blogs, have grown from a back room community of sniggering "escribitionists" to a popular and useful everyday source of information.
The dynamic nature of the legal profession and its outspoken members supports a unique community of legal blogs or, if you will, blawgs. Charon QC, prolific blawgger and upstanding member of the blawgging community, says, "It is important to look at blawgs because practitioners are prepared to give a good insight into what the law is actually like. I encourage all students to get blawgging."
While reading blawgs offers students an unprecedented insight into the life of a practitioner, writing them gives students licence to vent worries and have an anonymous pop at the problems they face. We've spent days reading numerous blawgs - some fantastic, others simply dreadful - in order to tell you about the most notable ones. So place your tongue firmly in your cheek and read on.
The third person narrative supplied by Legal Lass reveals the mistakes of a BVC student in the hope that readers will learn from them. While she claims to represent the average life of a Bar student, Legal Lass does hint that it can be a little drab. At least she's honest about embellishments, though: her blawg is "very often exaggerated to make more interesting reading". Just like the blog's strapline then, which has several screaming spelling mistakes in the space of one sentence (since publication, these errors have been rectified!).
Law Minx describes her occupation as "chasing pupillage… along with 1,650 other people". We dare not tell her that the number is closer to 2,000. Oops. Law Minx is as adept at detailing the intricacies of her private life as she is at representing the plight of yet another BVC student. The column makes for interesting reading, though, as she manages to weave in details about the legal profession and more capital letters than you can shake a keyboard at. But she probably would not be too happy to have made our list of blawgs. On 26 April 2007, Law Minx wrote, "I HATE that word - this is the first and last time I am EVER going to use it!" Six days later she couldn't resist declaring: "I HATE the word 'blawgging' - something for my compendium of never-to-be repeated words and phrases." And then again three months later, she wrote, "I simply cannot BRING myself to use the term"… and then proceeded to do just that.
Legally Blonde in London
The female blawg triptych would not be complete without Legally Blonde in London, a celebration of law, law school and, well, pink. Susie Law School was inspired to become a lawyer after watching LA Law age seven and, you've guessed it, Reece Witherspoon in Legally Blonde. She's currently completing her LPC and has a spare year to kill before walking into her training contract at "Big Law Firm". The blawg reveals the usual ups, downs, twists and turns with satisfactorily clear insight. One such example is the way Susie writes about the usefulness (or not) of the LPC. "Will any of the skills learned actually translate themselves to being useful in practice?" she wonders, and even worries that she's not good enough. Relax, dear Susie: you've already got a training contract!
The Diaries of UK Law Students
This blawg sounds like a pitch to the controller of BBC Three for a funky new sitcom following the lives of a group of law students. The gimmicky theory behind Diaries of UK Law Students is sound, but in practice it's odd having one blawg with many voices. There are some standout contributors though, including administrator Gavin Whenman who not only has his finger on the political pulse but writes admirably well. Memorable excerpts from this blawg include titters such as: "But the Daily Mail told me asylum seekers were bad people, why does [my international refugee law] tutor disagree?"
Ramblings of a Paranoid Pupil
Paranoid Pupil's eye-catching blawg started in October 2007 with the post: "First class degree from Oxford - check. Distinction in the CPE - check. 'Very competent' in Bar finals - check. Senior scholarship from the Inn - check. Walking into chambers on the first day of my pupillage I feel confident and just a little smug…" But the fledging barrister's first day taught him more about Murphy's law than any other. After strolling haughtily into chambers, he wasted no time pouring his coffee into his lap and sitting calmly while it seeped through the crotch of his brand new fancy pants. The entertaining blawg has at its centre a plummy, bumbling character on a quest for the elusive smile of his pupil supervisor. He is one of four pupils at his set so we hope he gets a nod come tenancy time.
Undoubtedly the daddy of all pupil blawgs, BabyBarista's connections managed to bag him a regular spot on the Times's website. He is, in fact, a tenant in a mixed common and commercial law set; BabyBarista is entirely fictitious. But art does imitate life, so we'd guess that the seasoned blawgger has injected many factual circumstances into his character's life. Wherever the line is drawn, the blawg makes for hilarious reading. It features some finely crafted comedy set pieces (the one entitled "FootInMouthDisease" is particularly memorable) and expertly drawn characters, such as ScandalMonger and BlowDry. Surely a book deal beckons.
Pupillage and How To Get It
Simon Myerson is a barrister living in Leeds and practising on the northeast circuit, which he regards as the best in the country. Myerson's invaluable blawg is entitled Pupillage and How to Get It and it "does what it says on the tin". While taking time out from preparing a defence case against a potential action brought by creosote manufacturer Ronseal (the company uses the same strapline as the blawg), he is dispensing useful careers advice. As Charon QC says, "For anyone wanting to be a Bar student, it's absolutely indispensible. He knows what he's talking about."
The blawg has an accessible list of so-called major posts which concern standard issues such as "The BVC - Infallible Tool, Necessary Evil or Total Crap?". Myerson permits his personal life to bleed into the blawg (eg, a family snap entitled: "is that a CUTE photo or what?") and notes that he has swollen by two stone and several extra chins since moving north in 1987. But he is not always cuddly, as his honest advice would poke some where it hurts. "I'm really sorry to say this," he writes to those with a Desmond degree, "but if you don't have an exceptional reason for your result then a 2.2 is no good. Yes, it's unfair. Yes, Megarry VC got a third. But if you had to read 300 forms and throw 285 away and you could get rid of 190 by adopting this approach you would, wouldn't you?" His practical advice can be more constructive though. For example, in his advice for those applying for jobs in the regions, Myerson says, "We provincials are chippy. You have to flatter us." Read: don't mention the chins!
It seems Charon QC likes nothing more than wielding a Silk Cut cigarette, swilling a glass of Rioja and supplementing his blawg. Although he made himself a silk, he is a real lawyer and is now apparently a journalist and academic. After reading four tabloids and three broadsheets each day (along with the usual legal news sources), Charon is always a melting pot of information about the legal world. He even records a daily podcast of current news stories and has it on the site by 9:00am. The blawg covers many topics, and Charon spreads his wit across them all. LawCareers.Net particularly enjoys his exposés of the recruitment practices of imagined but dangerously realistic firm Muttley Dastardly LLP. Charon imagines the firm's partner telling a prospective trainee: "I'm not interested in where you come from, whether your father is a QC or a senior partner at another law firm… if, however, your parents are connected with a leading PLC or multinational, we would like to know that."
Blawggers' relative anonymity and the pluralistic nature of the Internet have cultivated an interactive blawgging community. Charon says, "It's a great way of networking. The community is definitely growing and some of us have got to know each other quite well." Geeklawyer's ubiquity, for one, makes us wonder how he actually gets any work done. His billable hours must have plummeted even further recently: his blawg has been dismantled by anarchists who claim he's part of an assassination plot.
While some blawggers attract attention (libellous or otherwise), their peers can get upset if they are ignored. When Nearly Legal heard on the broadband grapevine that LawCareers.Net was writing a feature on blawgs, he assumed (correctly) that his had been overlooked. He thus wrote a letter to LawCareers.Net to say, "Shame on you. Naturally, shame on me for being this shameless. But mostly shame on you." Described by Charon as "erudite", Nearly Legal enjoys his unique position as the only housing blawg written by a trainee. We're not ashamed to say that it's actually rather good, and that a basket of muffins would be most welcome if Nearly Legal felt the need to quantify his gratitude for our saying so.
There are many people who say blogging is the way of the future. And it's nice to see the legal profession, which is not known for its technological advancements, develop an autonomous and comprehensible online community. As Charon says: "It's a good discipline for people to get into. Not only does it focus your mind, but it's bloody good fun."