The Legal Frontiers blog came together for one reason: a group of McGill University law students wanted a forum in which they could discuss issues associated with international law.
“Last year, three of us got together and had a discussion, and we felt that there was a need to expand the way that students were engaging in regards to international law,” says Nafay Choudhury, a third-year law student at McGill and one of the founders of Legal Frontiers who also serves as the blog’s contributor-in-chief.
“The faculty of law at McGill has several legal journals, but it doesn’t have any journals that specifically focus on international law. And we felt that there was a need for such a journal, but we also felt that another form of communication might be a better fit for such a topic. The blogosphere allows students to interact and communicate directly.”
Choudhury and the other co-creators of the blog, Daniel King and Andrew Cleland, held several discussions with each other and their professors in order to work out the details of the blog, including its design and what topics it would primarily focus on.
“One of the wonderful things about international law is that it touches on many other areas associated with law as a whole,” says King, a second-year student.
“Our idea was to get people with a diverse array of perspectives together, and do something really interdisciplinary. We decided that we wanted our blog to be as broad as possible.”
The blog was given an internal soft launch last October, and was only accessible to the handful of writers who were a part of it from the beginning.
The first post, Choudhury’s examination of Afghanistan’s troubled legal system, set the stage for what Legal Frontiers would offer. Reading almost like a mini-essay, complete with footnotes and links to related sources, it was clear from the start that Legal Frontiers was different from your average blog.
“For the first semester [of the 2009-10 academic year], the blog was only open to a select few,” say Choudhury. “Before we went public, we wanted to set a standard, we didn’t want to rush the process, and we wanted to make sure that the web site was fully operational. In January, we had our official public launch, and the blog was opened to other students and faculty.”
In its first month, Legal Frontiers saw four articles published. In November, it jumped to 17, and after the official launch in January, a total of 53 articles from 17 different contributors were published.
King says the response to the blog has been very positive.
“We built this blog from the ground up, and we’re really happy to see the response that it’s gotten,” he says.
“We actually thought that it would take longer to build up our readership, but on average, we’re getting about 200 hits per day. For a first-time blog, this is tremendous. We’ve also been cited in the blogs of law professors a number of times.”
Choudhury agrees the blog has exceeded initial expectations.
“To a certain extent, the blog has taken on a life of its own,” he says. “It’s been hosted on other, larger international blogs, and we’re also starting to see professors citing the articles in their classes. This is what we had hoped for: a forum for students to create academic pieces that would fuel further debate and discussion.”
In addition to the positive response the blog has received from the legal community, it has been recognized by the university. It was recently awarded the 2009-10 McGill Law Students Association Award for Clubs for its “outstanding contributions to the faculty community through the organization of events and activities this year.”
“We were all very pleased to be recognized with that award,” says Choudhury.
“One of the VPs of the LSA commented that they were extremely impressed that we had started this club from nothing and, in the course of a few months, we had become an active network that spread across every continent. And our statistics prove that our blog is really that far-reaching. It’s something that we can be proud of, individually and collectively.”
At the end of the day, King believes that the evolution of the blog itself is its own reward.
“Of course, it’s nice to be recognized,” says King. “But I think that, ultimately, the reward is that we’re able to produce an organization that does valuable work, and will continue to do so for a long time.”
Other notable legal blogs maintained by law students
Law is Cool (lawiscool.com): The largest and most expansive student-run legal blog in Canada. New posts are added on an almost-daily basis, covering nearly every conceivable legal topic. It has been nominated by the CLawBies (Canadian Law Blog Awards) several times, winning the Legal Culture award twice, including the most recent one in 2009. It also provides dozens of links to other legal blogs.
Ipilogue (iposgoode.ca/ipilogue): A blog that is run and edited by students at Osgoode Hall. It mainly focuses on issues associated with intellectual property law and is updated on a regular basis.
Simon Says (simonborys.wordpress.com): Simon Borys, a law student at Queen’s University, is the sole contributor to this blog that focuses on issues relating to policing and criminal law. It is updated regularly, and the posts are also available on Law is Cool, of which Borys is a regular contributor.