And the CLawBie goes to Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog

When he began his law blog – an individual’s regular, online commentary of thoughts and opinions – in 2008, David Doorey says he was just looking for a way to engage his students in a thoughtful consideration of employment law. “I never set out to be a social commentator,” says Doorey, a professor in the School of Human Resource Management in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. 

Right: David Doorey

He certainly didn’t expect to win a CLawBie – a Canadian Law Blog Award recognizing blogs published by members of the Canadian legal industry but Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog recently won the award for the best blog by a Canadian law professor. He has also quickly gathered a broad, online following across North America, the UK and abroad, including lawyers, judges, scholars, human resource (HR) professionals and the media.

The blog began as a tool for Doorey to draw the attention of his students to current Canadian media stories dealing with labour law or industrial relations and to encourage them to start considering real-world examples of the concepts he would be discussing in his classes. “Even though I now have quite a following, I haven’t changed my method, which is to remember who my audience is, and that is my students. That keeps me grounded,” he says.

Doorey asks his students to regularly monitor his blog as part of their course work. Meanwhile, he gets up each morning, scans the Canadian media, finds a pertinent subject, considers the issues and jots his thoughts down in the blog. “I’m light, but I’m critical,“ he says, “and I usually end with a question.” Then, in the course of his lectures, he alludes to the issues he has raised in the blog and invites his students to join in the debate. Doorey underscores that he’s not interested in giving his students defined answers. His goal is to encourage a discussion, to get students thinking on their own and also outside of the classroom.

Recent issues Doorey has invited his audience to explore include the questions of whether: a Canadian bank was guilty of age discrimination in the case of its replacement of a 42-year-old executive with someone younger; a Japanese automaker adheres to its no-layoff policy in its Canadian operations; a coffee retailer discriminates indirectly in its job application forms; a beauty salon was guilty of discrimination for firing an employee because she was pregnant; cursing at one’s employer can constitute wilful misconduct; a stripper is an employee or an independent contractor; and Canadian executives are overpaid. The list is as varied as the news.

Doorey was wondering where all his blog visitors were coming from, so he began monitoring the blog’s Internet traffic and discovered that, aside from his students, others are finding him on a Canadian law blog directory, some found him referenced in other blogs and news articles, and, still others, including people and organizations, have subscribed to his blog through RSS feeds. As more visitors participate, he receives more exposure. It appears to have expanded exponentially, he claims.

Doorey is quick to note that he’s not, by any means, a techie; he’s simply curious to find new ways to engage his students in the learning process. Besides, he says, maintaining the blog is very simple and doesn’t take up a lot of his time. He credits the team at York’s Faculty Support Centre for getting his blog up and running and for helping him to incorporate wikis – collaborative Web sites that can be modified by anyone – into his courses. He continues to explore other ways to use technology to involve his students and recently created a personal avatar in Second Life that runs a virtual business. It allows him to enact workplace scenarios that he uses to teach employment law principles to his students, both the ones in his physical classroom and – because the class is available as a distance education course – the ones on the Internet who participate remotely.

This is the second year in a row that Doorey’s blog has been honoured. Last year, his blog won both the Best New Law Blog in Canada and the Best Law Professor Blog categories, tying with Osgoode Hall Law School’s The Court for the latter. This year he shared the award with the University of Alberta Law School blog. The Court was a runner-up.

Submitted by David Wallace, communications coordinator, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies