Free Movement began in 2007. The strapline is that it offers updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law but it also includes a lot of editorial, policy and media comment and has a definite campaigning feel to it.
I wrote anonymously for the first few years. Word got around the immigration law sector that I was the author but I was fearful for a long time that some solicitors and clients would consider a blog to be disreputable – not the sort of thing a proper, successful barrister would do – and that it would actually be harmful to my career.
There is something a little cowardly about writing anonymously and I have gradually formally associated myself with the blog in the last couple of years, first discreetly referring to myself as the editor on the About page then most recently writing blog posts in my own name and including information and a photo of myself.
I aim to publish at least two or three blog posts per week, a number that has increased over time. Earlier this year I reformatted the blog to make short blog posts of status updates, quotes, images or videos easier to present, which helps with meeting that target when under even more work pressure than normal. I also recently moved chambers and my new colleagues currently profess enthusiasm about contributing, which I hope will relieve pressure in me in future.
At times I have had a love-hate relationship with Free Movement. It absorbs a lot of my time, generates little direct income and yet I feel that I am providing a service to others. For that reason I came very close to introducing a soft paywall that would take effect after a certain number of free page views. I haven’t entirely abandoned the idea but have no immediate plans now. Free Movement has undoubtedly done my profile in my area of law and my career a power of good, and since I more clearly associated myself with the blog and social media accounts it has increasingly generated some interesting work for me.
The blog has evolved as my technical abilities have improved. It took me a long time to realise that images were important on the internet and that a clean, modern layout would make the content more readable. The big breakthrough that established the blog as a leading resource amongst immigration lawyers was when I discovered how to extract and display immigration case law feed from BAILII, although that feature now has less prominence.
I use WordPress.org as the platform for the blog and am a huge fan of WordPress. I know no code whatsoever but it allows me to maintain a professional looking and fairly complex website. Free Movement generates a surprising amount of traffic these days with over 20,000 unique visitors per month. My limited technical prowess meant I did recently have to buy in help to migrate to a new hosting provider and sort out a few technical issues caused by the volume of traffic.
I tinker behind the scenes all the time. I look for new and better ways to present the information and to add new, useful information streams. I remove features that do not work or which have served their time.
There is no grand plan for Free Movement for the future other than that I would like it to be a genuinely multi author blog.
Colin Yeo is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers.