It’s been an unusual week this one. I have spent most of it in seminars and conferences, finishing with the #lawblogs seminar/tweet-up/workshop last night.
#Lawblogs was the second legal blogger event hosted by the Law Society, compered by Catrin Griffiths of The Lawyer and organised (and lubricated) by 1 Crown Office Row. Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights Blog was one of a distinguished panel of the bloggerati – others were Siobhain Butterworth of The Guardian, Joshua Rozenberg, Carl Gardner and DavidAllen Green. Charon QC was scheduled to attend but withdrew at the last minute leading to the “revelation” that he does not actually exist at all. Apparently Charon QC’s words (in his podcasts) are spoken by an actor.
Anyway, apart from that bombshell it was a very good session and a wide ranging discussion of many aspects of blogging. I was particularly taken with the first issue – should there be an ethical code for bloggers? Adam Wagner expressed the view that legal bloggers should be under a duty to rectify errors in the reporting of law in the mainstream media. Barristers are prevented by their Code of Conduct from commenting on cases in which they are involved, unlike solicitors who have more scope. Is this a problem for barrister bloggers? If so, perhaps the LSA might come to the rescue?
S.1.1(g) of the LSA provides that one of the new regulatory objectives is to increase public understanding of the citizen’s legal rights and duties.
That duty is imposed upon the Legal Services Board (LSB) and by s.3 (2)
The Board must, so far as is reasonably practicable, act in a way
— (a) which is compatible with the regulatory objectives
The LSB, of course, is not a frontline regulator. However, Part 4 s. 28(2) of the Act imposes a similar duty upon frontline regulators to observe the regulatory objectives. This must mean that the BSB (as well as the other frontline regulators) has to abide by s.1.1 (g) .
s.176 imposes the following duty on regulated persons;
A person who is a regulated person in relation to an approved regulator has a duty to comply with the regulatory arrangements of the approved regulator as they apply to that person.
It is unlikely that the regulatory arrangements of the approved regulator (such as the BSB) would not (indeed could not) conflict with s.1(1), so it can be argued that there is a duty upon legal bloggers (if they are authorised persons within the meaning of the LSA) enshrined in the LSA. Whether this will lead the BSB to amend its rules is another matter, but surely it ought to allow barristers to comment on cases in which they are involved if the client consents, as is the case with solicitors?
Joshua Rozenberg commented that it was easier for a lawyer to cover a legal story than a legal journalist and everyone seemed agreed that there is very much a future for legal blogging, particularly when the boundaries between print and online media are shrinking all the time. Judging by the turnout last night, UK legal blogging has a very healthy future.