Law School to launch new, glossy magazine

Scientific American and the Harvard Business Review have readers who are not scientists and businessmen.

And the founders of Legal Affairs, a glossy new magazine connected to the Yale Law School, hope their publication will follow in the footsteps of these magazines by attracting a readership of both lawyers and nonlawyers.

Arriving on newsstands across the country tomorrow, Legal Affairs is the first general-interest magazine to examine issues of law in the context of politics, culture and society. The magazine is based in an office above the Yankee Doodle and, though editorially independent, is affiliated with the Yale Law School. It will be published six times a year.

“For some time there has been a widening gulf between the legal academy and the practicing bar and also between the academy and the larger world of lawyers and nonlawyers,” said Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman, who attended a launch party for the magazine in New York City this weekend.

Kronman is the chairman of the corporate board of Legal Affairs.

The first issue contains cartoons, satire and explanatory pieces, with contributions from Kenneth Starr and writers from The New Republic and The International Herald Tribune.

“Legal Affairs offers a literate connection between law and life with a mix of voices, perspectives and experiences that you don’t normally find in a magazine,” Legal Affairs Editor and President Lincoln Caplan said.

One of those perspectives materialized after Caplan listened to Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” and started to think popular music had a lot to say about the law. Christopher Hawthorne’s article in the first issue, “Bum Rap,” discusses this connection.

“He writes about rap as the conscience of the criminal justice system,” Caplan said. “It demands that the law be as fair as it says it will be.”

Kronman said he anticipates that the magazine will appeal both to nonlawyers and to lawyers seeking a more accessible forum for legal discourse.

“The legal profession is one of words,” Kronman said. “The quality of tools that lawyers have depends on the quality of words they have at their disposal. This quality has deteriorated in the last two decades.”

Kronman echoed the thoughts of law professor Boris Bittker, whose ideas for a journal helped inspire the people behind Legal Affairs. Caplan said he thought a magazine would be a more accessible form of publication than a journal, which he thinks relies on prior knowledge of a subject.

Kronman asked Caplan, now a Knight senior journalist at the Law School and a lecturer in the English Department of Yale College, to develop and launch the magazine. Caplan came to Legal Affairs from U.S. News and World Report.

Caplan said the magazine responds to what he thinks is the public’s growing curiosity about law.

“There is a tremendous appetite for information,” Caplan said. “You can see this in the rise of the legal thriller, of night television legal dramas and talk shows. There is room for a magazine that is a category buster.”

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