As risk-averse people, lawyers have traditionally shied away from writing and the public sphere. This could be to do with the duties of confidentiality they owe to their clients. Not so today – an increasing number of “journolawyers” (you’re welcome) are entering the public space, and for the better.
Lawyers on my Masters program from civil-law backgrounds (that is, those countries whose law derived from Roman law, such as France, Spain, much of Latin American etc.) often complain that English or American law is not accessible to the public. How can the public access the law, they ask, when it is contained in cases that require careful analysis to extract any helpful rule? They have a point.
Civil law is based on codes. These codes can be readily found on the internet (for example, see the Costa Rican civil code here) and people can read and find the law that they are bound by (and must adhere to) easily. The common law is different. The common law is unwieldy, being contained in a number of not-easily-locatable sources, and, frankly, can be argued about and reconstructed depending on each lawyer’s viewpoint.
All the more important, then, to have Journolawyers as translators. Being a Journolawyer is a huge advantage to a common law lawyer (such as those in England and the USA), where the law is always changing. To be on top of their game, the best lawyers need to stay on top of their elusive area of law. One example that springs to mind is Colin Yeo, an immigration barrister in the UK, who authors the Free Movement immigration law blog. What once started out as a grassroots blog, is now a very popular commercial enterprise, with Colin’s knowledge and expertise being hugely valuable to the profession.
To reiterate, it is really important that Journolawyers keep writing. First, it makes the law more understandable to people who need to abide by it, and who can use it to protect their rights. Second, it helps correct mistakes by non-lawyer writers (or other lawyers, for that matter), which (intentionally or not) can create a misleading picture of the law. Adam Wagner, for example, has set the record straight on The Sun Newspapers’ somewhat inaccurate human rights reporting.
Thirdly, it’s really important that lawyers put some visibility on themselves and on the law. One of our duties, as lawyers, is to “uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice“. PR, or communications, is increasingly powerful and important in our modern, digital landscape. It’s important, therefore, that lawyers don’t confine themselves to exclusively legal domains. In order to uphold the rule of law (meaning that no one, especially not government figures, is above the law), lawyers (especially common law lawyers) must expand their role to awareness raising of the law to the public at large.
I very much encourage you then, to take a look at these excellent legal blogs (UK-based for the moment, sorry!):
**Updated with readers’ suggestions**
- Free Movement
- Criminal Law & Justice Weekly
- Oxford Human Rights Hub
- UK Human Rights Blog
- Corporate and Commercial Law Blog (Kingsley Napley)
- The Secret Barrister
- Pink Tape – A Blog from the Family Bar
- The Transparency Project – Helping to Make Family Law Clearer
- Civil Litigation Brief
- Law and Religion UK
- Nearly Legal – Housing Law News and Comment
- Doughty Street Chambers’ Community Care Blog
- The Justice Gap
Please also check out this list of top human rights Tweeters that RightsInfo helpfully compiled.
And feel free to comment with your suggestions of great legal blogs to follow!
My author profile for RightsInfo is here.