Legal Affairs

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By Lincoln Caplan

As many start-ups do, Legal Affairs has run out of time for realizing our dream of creating a self-sustaining print magazine without breaking stride. We've been unable to attract a second round of financing to allow us to continue publishing in print after the March|April issue reaches subscribers in February. We'll maintain our website while we explore opportunities the site provides, so stay tuned for further developments.

When the magazine was incorporated about five years ago, our wildest hope was to reach 37,000 readers an issue. Instead, for each issue in the last year, we've averaged a total print and online readership of 125,000 to 150,000, with occasional surges as high as 200,000.

Articles in the magazine have been linked to, blogged about, and otherwise noted on the Internet. They've been reprinted in other magazines, newspapers, textbooks, and materials for college and graduate school courses and continuing legal education programs. In recent months, the magazine was mentioned in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings about Samuel Alito, cited in a front-page story of The Washington Post, and, in the latest "Foreword" to the Harvard Law Review, acknowledged by the author, Richard Posner, because he first developed part of his HLR argument in our pages.

Legal Affairs has done part of what it set out to, creating an ideological DMZ where conservatives seem to feel safe reading liberal ideas and vice versa—a magazine high on reason and low on spin. The Washington Post called us "America's most interesting legal magazine." The Chicago Tribune included Legal Affairs on its list of the country's "best magazines." Former staff members of the magazine have been hired away by The Boston Globe, Foreign Affairs, The New York Times Magazine, Slate, Wired, and other outlets.

We offer deep thanks to our loyal subscribers, online readers, and those who have contributed funding, counsel, and other invaluable support to the magazine. My colleagues and I are grateful to everyone who has contributed articles, illustrations, ideas, and other elements to the magazine. We also appreciate the diaspora of professionals in design, circulation, production, web hosting, public relations, and other fields who have been integral to publishing this magazine.

Legal Affairs is considered to be a thought-leader magazine, a publication catering to readers like you who are especially influential in shaping American life and said to number between two and three million. These magazines publish journalists who, as a group, are among the most ambitious in terms of their subjects and their approaches.

For generations, the business model for thought-leader magazines largely depended on a combination of paid subscriptions and paid advertising. Increased competition for readers' time and the shift of advertisers over the past ten years to TV, the Internet, and other media have reduced both sources of revenue for many thought-leader outlets. With rare exceptions, the print magazines most respected as shapers of ideas, opinions, and perspectives either are maintained by wealthy owners who regard the publications as vehicles for participating in public affairs, or are supported by ideologically defined philanthropic contributions, or are struggling to develop new business models that will allow the magazines to maintain their vitality and independence.

This is a period of challenge for thought-leader magazines, then, in terms of the business models that support them and the forms of journalism they provide. But it's also a moment of opportunity for some visionary American foundation, media organization, or individual. While Legal Affairs has run out of time to receive this kind of support without suspending the print magazine, it won't be hard to find us to support our journalism on this website. Putting aside our parochial interests, a broader-based investment could have a significant payoff in preserving valuable thought-leader magazines and in assuring the staying power of promising new ones. It could strengthen an essential kind of journalism.

Lincoln Caplan is the editor and president of Legal Affairs.

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