THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH: CIVIL LITIGATION BRIEFS’ 7th (OR 29th?) BIRTHDAY: FACTS, FIGURES AND HOW IT ALL BEGAN
This week sees the seventh anniversary of Civil Litigation Brief as a blog. That, it appears, is relatively young as a blog, the housing law blog Nearly Legal recently celebrated its 14th anniversary and is well into its truculent teenage years. I don’t cover every anniversary but this felt like a good time to look back.
(The desk where the blog comes from, with some subtle product placement included.)
FACTS AND FIGURES
In that seven year period this blog has (up to 21/06/2020)
6, 645,838 views
WHEN IS IT READ?
19% of views of this blog are on a Tuesday. The most popular time is 9.00 am which has 9% of all views (must be the first thing people do when they get into work…).
WHO READS IT?
I don’t have that kind of information. I am assuming people do actually read it. The blog has 20,580 subscribers.
MOST POPULAR POSTS
What is surprising is that some posts remain popular and well read for many years, hitting the “best seller” list some years after they first appear on the blog.
The most read post in 2015 was something I had written in 2013 Trial Bundles, Timing, Contents and do you know Sedley’s Laws? (This has been near the top of the list ever since it was written, it was second most read in 2019).
In 2016 it was a post written in January 2014 Drafting witness statements that comply with the rules: a checklist too important to ignore.
The most read post in 2017 and 2018 was something written in 2015 The lying witness the approach of the Civil Courts.
In 2020 (to date) it is More Rule Changes in April: changes to the statement of truth: you have been warned…
WHY WRITE A BLOG ABOUT CIVIL PROCEDURE?
When I started this site I had no clear idea what a “blog” was. It just seemed a good way of carrying on the job I had done at the Solicitors Journal.
Repeating what was said on the 1st anniversary.
CIVIL PROCEDURE IN JUNE 2013
When the blog started civil procedure was a slightly obscure subject. Litigators had to know about limitation, service of the claim form and be mindful of peremptory orders. However on the whole all other aspects of litigation would come out in the wash. When I started the blog I knew that some changes were afoot, this was evident from the third ever post, on extensions of time. But I had no idea that issues of procedure were going to dominate litigation in the way that they now do. I could not have envisaged the “Mitchell mayhem” which developed into “Mitchell madness”.
HOW THE BLOG STARTED
One of my colleagues, Andrew Wilson had, for some time been urging me to go on a thing called “twitter”. I knew little about twitter (other than people were getting sued for things they said on it) and even less about blogs. However Andrew is very insistent and persuaded me to start (he does mention this now and again) .
I assumed that blogging was some kind of strange activity. However when Kerry Underwood stepped in to help at a Chamber’s conference I was organising we met up for a “power breakfast”. Blogging was not mentioned, but I thought “Kerry has a blog and he is relatively normal”. Eventually I was worn down and I decided, in addition to twitter, to “re-instate” the title I had used for a monthly column I wrote for the Solicitors Journal that had started in 1991 (hence the 29 year anniversary) That column had dealt with the old “automatic striking out” debacle and the introduction of the Woolf Reforms. I imagined I could do (more or less) monthly updates of the impact of Jackson. How naive I was. (As the figures above show has been more than a post a day for the past year).
HOW THE BLOG DEVELOPED
I did not know that there was a whole community of well established legal bloggers and I got early support and encouragement from Chris Dale and Jon Williams in particular, not to mentioned the “relatively normal” Mr Underwood.
Issues of sanctions and procedure quickly began to feature quite heavily in reports and anecdotal evidence. One of the beauties of blogging is that these can be reported, and commented upon, instantaneously. They have become a central feature of the blog.
SEARCH TERMS THAT LEAD TO THE BLOG
On Twitter I sometimes review the search terms that lead people to this blog, many of them are surprising, some are worrying. Apart from the obvious “civil litigation brief” and “gordon exall blog” the most common search terms in 2019 included “application for relief from sanctions” and “contents of trial bundle for court”. There were 20,257 different search terms that led to this blog in 2019.
One of the top search terms for 2020, so far, has been “draft template of claimant’s witness statement”, which doesn’t bode well…
THE EARLY YEARS…
I set out below what I wrote in June 2014. At that time we were awaiting the judgment in Denton and there had been an absolutely tumultuous time in civil procedure as a result of the decision in Mitchell. As a result the first year of the blog was dominated by many of the decisions that I initially characterised as “Mitchell Mayhem” and developed into plain “Mitchell Madness”. I was hopeful that I could get to write about other things.
THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS: A REPEAT FROM 2014
“There are two common questions.
Where does the information come from?
From the internet mainly. However people are very kind in sending me material or pointing cases out. I like this a lot. I encourage it. Please tell me and send me anything of interest either as a link or case material. Sometimes I have covered it already, but don’t be embarrassed. I’d rather be told 10 times than miss it once.
Also if you have written an article or post and want a link in the regular links section send me an e-mail or tweet. Some people do this already. It helps me a lot.
How much time does it take?
Or “have you given up the practice of law?” as some people ask. Far from it. I tend not to blog/write during the day, regarding this as “work time”. On average an hour or two in the evening. (Most of my Instructing Solicitors read the blog and, of course, all my normal working hours are devoted to their papers). Many readers have noticed that the posts come out late at night.
WHERE DOES THE BLOG GO FROM HERE?
Much may depend on the Court of Appeal decisions that we are waiting for. My guess is that procedure will never again take the back seat it once had.
- With the exception of the posts detailing the arguments in the Court of Appeal sanctions cases I write all the material on the blog, and that will continue.
- I am hopeful that matters will cool down so we can look at matters other than sanctions. That is improving the quality of information and procedure, rather than highlighting problem areas.
- However there is no doubt at all that the posts with the highest readership are, effectively, “if you don’t know this you will be sued”. I suspect that this theme will continue for some time to come.”