TEN YEARS OF BLOGGING : A DECADE OF CIVIL LITIGATION BRIEF: A QUICK LOOK BACK AND AN EVEN QUICKER LOOK FORWARD
The 24th June 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the blog. I did worry, when I started, whether there would be enough material to . However, over the past 10 years I have never been short of things to write about. The most difficult thing is often deciding what not to write. This is a good time to have a quick look back and an even quicker look forward.
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 (now a District Judge) 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” a monthly column I wrote for the Solicitors Journal for 17 years. 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 naïve I was – there were 492 posts on this blog last year. 2020 (the “Covid” year had 770 posts).
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.
It has now got to the stage where people often send me cases of interest, sometimes these are not reported anywhere else.
The three “series”: “Cost bites”, “Proving Things” and “Back to Basics” continue to feature. (I nearly stopped the Proving Things series after the first hundred posts. It was chatting to someone on the Leeds Legal Walk a few years back that persuaded me not to. “Its my favourite part of the blog”. It has stayed, however mainly – it has to be said – it contains examples of people not proving things.)
LAW AND THE INTERNET
I had no idea that google was a central part of legal research. There are two million legal related searches in the UK each day. The number of people who arrive on the blog following a search show that a fraction of them reach here. At the end of the first year the blog had 818 subscribers.
However I was surprised, and happy, in the early days of the blog when it had 40 followers and was getting 50 visitors a day. I am also surprised to be introduced now as “blogger” (rather than practising barrister or author). It was the blog that featured most heavily when I was introduced at the Law Society Civil Litigation Conference, and, at the Association of Cost Lawyers annual meeting back in 2013.
The blog now has 31,928 subscribers. It gets (on a weekday) on average 2,500 – 3,000 visitors in addition to the subscribers who receive the posts by email or internet.
I, quite deliberately, don’t publish anything over the weekend, on the basis that it is not good for well being for people to be getting posts about procedural mistakes. I try to avoid publishing late at night (now I have mastered the feature that allows me to set the time for publication).
THE COVID YEARS
It turned out that a blog was a useful means of exchanging information in those difficult early days of Covid. Local judges were remarkably speedy in taking steps to help practitioners and court users. The Rule Committee was a bit slow off the mark. That led me to write, on 31st March 2020, “The Rule committee: Acting with the speed of a tortoise with a wooden leg (and that may be unfair on three-legged tortoises”. It does seem a bit “pointed” in retrospect, however those were desperate times.
The busiest day ever on this blog was March 25 2020. On the 26th March 2020His Honour Judge Allan Gore QC, writing in the Devon and Cornwall response to coronavirus, wrote “I am also concerned that such Guidance or Protocols as others have given in other clusters have not been shared and have only come to my attention via platforms like Gordon Exall’s Civil Litigation Brief.”
THE NOT SO LONELY LITIGATORS CLUB
The initial isolation of litigators meant I started the “Not so Lonely Litigators Club” to enable people to share their experience. The first thirty posts were about the day to day experience of litigators. (It also gave me the opportunity for me to post a photo of me holding one of the contributors when they were a baby).
After the first thirty members I did a shorter series about lawyers who were also musicians (figuring that it is my blog and I can write what I like). It gave me a chance to feature my band’s drummer and a lot more interesting musical lawyers.
WHERE DOES THE BLOG GO FROM HERE?
Well there is no shortage of material. The Rules they keep a changing and every day brings one (often more) cases on procedure, sanctions, costs, evidence and damages. There is probably another decade to go – at least.