Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alberta Municipal Bylaws

Released today on the CALL listserv, Mary Hemmings, Assistant Director at the University of Calgary Law Library shared the Alberta Bylaws Digitization Project. A new collection providing access to historical Municipal Bylaws, available for both searching and browsing (by year).

The project, she adds, 'began on a modest scale in 2004 and is now picking up momentum'. The collection is highlighted as 'new' on the website.

I've had nice things to say about Alberta's Our Future Our Past website in the past, and still love the work they're producing. Archival capturing of bylaws allows for better research, documentation for municipal history, and comparisons of local government over time. Not always the makings of headline news, but important to the concept of legacy, and for future generations.

You can visit and find a number of similar top-quality collections. It's a great model, and one that other provinces would do well to follow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Dave's Debut at

Our list of collaborators expanded at Slaw today; and interestingly all go by the same name: Dave! Joing us at the Canadian legal blogging co-op are David Bilinsky, David Canton, and David Fraser.

Clipped from the welcome post...

David Bilinsky is the Practice Management Advisor and staff lawyer for the Law Society of British Columbia. His impressive CV includes such items as being Chair of the Editorial Board for Law Practice Magazine, published by the ABA; founding the Pacific Legal Technology Conference; and being a former ABA Techshow Chair. David also blogs at

David Fraser is the founder of the Canadian Privacy Law Blog, and notably one of Canada’s first blogging lawyers. He is a member of the faculty of Dalhousie Law School, where he teaches Internet and Media Law, Law and Technology, and Law and Policy for Electronic Commerce. We also are looking forward to seeing Mr. Fraser start blogging on topics outside of Privacy Law, to which we’re told to expect some controversy. Right David? ;)

David Canton, is a renowned Canadian technology blogger providing his commentary at David practices with Harrison Pensa in London Ontario, where he is a business lawyer and trade-mark agent with a focus on technology issues and technology companies. David also writes a column for the London Free Press, and has authored a book Legal Landmines in E-Commerce.

I'm very excited to have these guys join our team over at Slaw. Each brings a wealth of history and knowledge, and an influx of new blood can't hurt either. Welcome aboard gentlemen! :)


Monday, July 28, 2008

Free Magazines at

We're starting the monetization experiment over at LegalPubs, offering free magazines and white papers in the right-hand sidebar.

This has been done via an affiliate partnership with, with whom I've had many years of past success, marketing these same offers via BPubs free magazines. The subscriptions (usually one year in length) are legitimately free, with the user exchanging their demographic profile for the subscription. The magazines, in turn, are able to charge more for advertising because they have a documented profile of their user base.

Please drop by if you get a chance!

Friday, July 25, 2008

New VALL Website is Now Up!

I'm happy to announce that the new VALL website , built on the Drupal platform, is finally up!

Reiterated from my welcome post,

A big thanks to the VALL website team - our long time webmaster Andy Froese, our new webmaster Rob Golbeck, and the exceptionally hard work of Susannah Tredwell! (who painstakingly created accounts for everyone in the VALL membership)

This is probably the last big piece of my VALL Presidency, and something I really wanted to get accomplished. To say I'm proud would be an understatement. I am very proud of the work we did, and thankful for having such a fantastic team!!


New Photo

Marking a moment here. I've finally ditched my four year old photo: here on the VLLB, on the linkblog, on my Steve Matthews profile page over at Stem, and the Law Firm Web Strategy blog.

And for the fun of it, here's they are side-by-side:

Steve (circa 2004) is 30 lbs heavier around the middle (yay!), and unfortunately also on the top (meh..) The bags under my eyes? consistent in both. ;)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Plain Legal Language - A New Book & Interview with Cheryl Stephens

Nothing should make one feel better than to promote a colleague who's written a new book. And along those lines, I offer my post today partly to congratulate, and partly to help promote, the launch of Cheryl Stephens' new e-book Plain Language Legal Writing; available for purchase at

Cheryl Stephens, who some of you may know from Building Rapport, the plain language blog, is a leader in the field of plain language communication, and provides training and workshops to clients all over North America.

The following short interview discusses both Cheryl's approach to plain legal language, and a bit more about the book launch.


SM: Thanks Cheryl, I guess the best place to start is to find out exactly plain language is?

CS: Plain language is writing, or any language, that is clear and understandable, so that it’s easy for people to get — and use — information that is important to a person's life.

SM: What kind of information?

CS: Well, think of anyplace you’ve seen legalese in your own life: contracts, regulations, waiver forms and releases, even the agreement you have to sign whenever you install software or sign up for something online.

SM: You’re saying those things don’t have to be written in legalese. Are we going to lose something when it comes to more complex discourse?

CS: There is no reason that legal language — language regulating legal rights and duties — has to be incomprehensible. It can be made plain enough for its intended audience.

Plain legal language is being written every day. Those who defend out-dated, poorly-written gibberish on the grounds of its complexity should be embarrased.

SM: So what's the process? What do lawyers to know to write in plain English?

CS: We have a process which takes into account the reader's interest, reading skill, and need for the information. It is an elaboration of the classical approach to writing effectively.

By the way, we now talk about plain language instead of plain English, because the ideas apply to communication in any language. Whatever the language, the aim is clarity and usefulness of the information.

In English, a number of shortcuts and guidelines have been developed to help the person who is not a writer by profession. Most of the US state laws requiring plain English set out some of these as requirements or measurements of plainness. In Canada, the laws tend to demand qualities like "clear" or "readable" and so on.

SM: Ok, so explain more about the new book -- Plain Language Legal Writing -- How is it different, and why did you write it?

CS: A lot of books have been written about legal drafting — writing contracts or drafting laws. But I am addressing a more basic need. All lawyers need to be able to write clearly and plainly for clients and the public. They write letters, opinions… That’s what my book addresses.

SM: Explain the contest. What’s that all about?

CS: It’s a contest to rewrite a section of the U.S. Copyright Act — both to rewrite it as the law would look in plain English, and to write a clear explanation for the general public.

I want to show the difference between legal drafting and legal writing. One task is to redraft the legislation in plain language, and that’s a specialized skill. Not every lawyer needs to know how to do that. But the other task, to explain the law in plain language — that’s a skill every lawyer does need.

SM: And that’s what your new book is about?

CS: Yes. I wanted to write a simple but complete guide for lawyers who want to make their writing clearer.


VLLB readers can visit to find out more about the book, and the drafting contest. A big congrats to Cheryl on the new book, and continued success to her in the future!



Friday, July 18, 2008

Jaffe Associates White Paper on Web 2.0 and PR 2.0

Jaffe Associates have produced a solid white paper on web 2.0 and PR 2.0 for the legal industry; and, putting their practice where their advice is, have posted it to legal document sharing service JD Supra. Nice!

Jaffe Associates are online at, and have recently started blogging too!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Slaw Turns 3

The Canadian legal blogging coop turns three! Congrats to everyone. It's certainly been a ride! Hasn't it? :)


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kevin O'Keefe Takes a Vacation! And Why I Won't Be

Stop the presses! Lawyer blog evangelist Kevin O'Keefe is taking a vacation! ... Hey Kevin, I thought you said that wasn't allowed? :) And that was a rhetorical question, of course. Kevin can save his comments or blogging for a couple weeks.

I do think the gang at Lexblog should have a cat's away challenge, and see who can do the best 'Fake Kevin' blog post. In the same vein as the Fake Steve Jobs - smeared with sarcasm, and with just enough truth to poke fun at the boss.

On a more serious note ...

The altering of vacations is a wake-up call for most business owners, myself included. I say altering, because the two week-er is still a tough one to schedule. That doesn't mean down time isn't possible, but it often has to be taken in shorter blocks. My current strategy has been to extended a weekend; or to take the laptop with me, and to get my 'piece of mind' back by logging in periodically each day. But a complete shut-down style vacation? I still don't have that one figured out.

I think most business owners, lawyers included, consider the lack of vacations a worthy trade-off for doing something they love. But that doesn't mean it isn't a challenge. Even if you fully accept the idea that there is no work-life balance, and that life is more about finding the right blend -- everyone, at some point, needs an extended period of down-time.

Personally, I won't be taking a vacation this summer; for a number of reasons... First, Stem is closing in on its first year of operation, and honestly, I'm still pretty energized. The novelty hasn't worn off, and for now, figure I'd better use it to my advantage. I also have my first employee starting shortly, and am hoping this person will not only help easy my workload, but integrate into operations to the point where a semi digital-free vacation will be a future possibility.

I'm not discounting the value of a vacation, but like many things in life, think it requires planning. I'm also open to suggestions... If you have a personal strategy for vacations you'd like to share, please chime in.

Quickscribe Updates for June, 2008

June updates for Quickscribe's BC Legislation Manuals:
Watch for legislative updates hours after they are released on!

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