When the Law Society Gazette marked its centenary in 2003, my predecessor wrote that there was little in the 21st-century magazine that the solicitor of 1903 would recognise - and much that would have horrified him.
The Edwardian gentlemen of Chancery Lane
And of course it would definitely have been a 'him'. The Edwardian gentlemen of Chancery Lane adhered to a rigid decorum that banned solicitors of the day from their own magazine, they weren't allowed to express an opinion in it.
Law Society members were sent a terse information sheet each month. It explicitly precluded anything so vulgar as 'expressions of opinion or anything of a controversial character'.
News, views, commentary, analysis, features – all the constituents of a modern newspaper or current affairs magazine – were decades away. The first Gazette was a dessicated read, to be sure, as a trip to the Law Society's magnificent library confirms.
Only after two world wars had demolished such ossified notions of propriety did the Gazette really begin to evolve. In the 1950s the magazine carried its first illustrations, and began accepting letters and articles from members.
In 1972 the Gazette moved from monthly to weekly publication. An editorial from January of that year portentously remarked: 'This move reflects the fact that change is taking place more quickly today than at any other period of history. Information about something as fundamental as the law should be disseminated as quickly as possible.'
Today, the weekly paper copy continues to be posted free to any practising solicitor who chooses to receive it. Our current circulation is about 90,000, which means we are one of the biggest business-to-business print magazines in the UK.
Moving with the times
In 2012 the Gazette launched an interactive website and a Daily Update free to all-comers. The Daily Update effectively operates as a 'wire service' akin to a news agency, containing all the latest sector intelligence. That is great for our journalists, as their articles get heavy traffic and exposure, and can keep solicitors up to date with unfolding events.
The Gazette is also a critical medium for projecting the voices of the profession to other key stakeholders, including politicians, opinion-formers and the public.
Print is alive and kicking
In 2017, we commissioned the biggest readership research we've ever undertaken, surveying solicitors working in all disciplines and across all sectors.
That research yielded vital insights. Most importantly, it showed that a large majority of solicitors still greatly value their weekly print copy. While traffic to lawgazette.co.uk continues to rise, just as many solicitors read the Gazette in print, and consider the paper copy to be a core element of the Law Society's member offer.
The weekly Gazette magazine is showing its age after several years so we are overdue a makeover.
On Monday 14 May readers will notice that the magazine has been redesigned and refreshed:
- We're moving to a slightly smaller size, on a par with the Economist, to allow for the addition of more pages and clearer reader navigation
- We've introduced bigger and more attractive imagery
- While keeping all your favourites, we're introducing new content - including dedicated Lifestyle and Junior Lawyers sections, and more Legal Voices
And as for history moving more quickly in 1972 than ever before, one wonders what the author of that sentence would make of the pace of change in the law today.
Views expressed in our blogs are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Law Society.
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