Blogging and lawyers

This week I was invited to the ceremony of the George Orwell Awards for “political” writing.

There are three awards, one each for journalism, books, and blogging.

The reason I was invited was because my legal blog Jack of Kent was shortlisted for the blogging prize.

I didn’t win – the winner was Winston Smith, a blogging social worker – but it was interesting to even have come so close.

Many would perhaps not think of legal blogging as political blogging.

However, in my view, legal blogging can be incredibly political; indeed, more political than the endless and usually derivative party political blogs.

Law in action is, of course, very small ‘p’ political.

Choices are made as to how to use – and misuse – the coercive power of the state and the courts: for example, whether to issue a libel claim form, or to bring a prosecution.

As a result of these choices there can be impact on public order or public debate, and adverse effects on the day-to-day liberty and freedoms of citizens.

Politics does not end with the high-level policy and rule making of politicians and civil servants.

Political blogging should not end with monitoring the comings and goings of the political class, who are in any case often indistinguishable from each other in substantive policy terms.

Indeed, it can be argued that some of the more interesting political blogging starts where involvement of the political class ends, that is with how policies and rules are implemented, and their effect in concrete human situations.

George Orwell rarely wrote about Westminster and Whitehall.  His most brilliant political writing was about the effects on the ground: in the Spike, or in the trench, or in Ingsoc.

So it is not really a surprise that the Orwell Prize for blogging was awarded to those who report from politics in action: Night Jack, a police officer, last year and Winston Smith this year.

But what is a surprise is how few lawyers do blog about law in action.

Blogging should not be a challenge to a lawyer; after all, we all have to write clearly to lay people about complex topics for a living.

So when people compliment me on the clarity of my writing I just think that any lawyer could do it; and then I feel lucky that I am one of a few.

It would be great to see more legal bloggers contributing to the public understanding of how law works in practice.

After all, if police officers and social workers can open up their respective and often controversial worlds so as to allow the public to understand the attendant difficulties and pressures, then surely lawyers can do so too.