Legal Affairs gains official independence



When Legal Affairs magazine first hit newsstands in 2002, it was a Yale Law School experiment, testing the public’s response to a publication about legal issues. Three years and dozens of favorable reviews later, the magazine and the law school have decided to separate.

Legal Affairs was the first magazine for a general-interest audience to examine issues of law in the context of politics, culture and society, said Law School Knight Senior Journalist Lincoln Caplan, editor and president of the non-profit magazine. Since its inaugural issue in April 2002, Legal Affairs, although editorially independent, has been affiliated with the Law School, which contributed the majority of funding to the magazine, according to a magazine press release. The magazine’s January/February issue will be the first to appear without Yale’s name on the masthead. But the split from Yale is not surprising — the magazine’s creators always planned to eventually make it a separate entity, Legal Affairs chairman Seth Waxman said.

“Both the Law School and the magazine decided that this was the right time for the magazine to spread its wings and fly,” Waxman said.

Both parties said the decision to break the ties between the Law School and Legal Affairs, over time phasing out the flow of funding from the Law School, was a mutual one. The Law School benefited from the magazine as an extension of its public service commitment, Caplan said. But, Waxman said that there are a number of other potential projects that the Law School can now focus on by severing ties with the magazine. The separation also presents a welcome challenge for the magazine, Waxman said.

“This is time to find out whether we can be the continued success we have been without perpetual life support from the Law School,” Waxman said.

Waxman said with the separation the magazine will have to focus more energy to seek out funding.

“Our staff and board will need to find additional sources for commercial and institutional funding,” he said.

But Caplan said the new independent status of the magazine could potentially draw advertisers and other sponsors who previously may have felt their support was not necessary because the magazine was already receiving Law School funding.

Joseph Calve, publisher of Legal Affairs, said that he does not expect a change in magazine distribution or audience now that the magazine is independent.

Legal Affairs currently has a circulation of over 20,000 and was recently listed as one of the 50 best magazines in the country by The Chicago Tribune.

The idea for Legal Affairs grew out of a project started in 1994 by Yale law professor Boris Bittker, a professor emeritus of law and a preeminent legal scholar. But the magazine was not actually published for another seven years. It was Caplan who took over the project.

Yale law professor John Langbein, an original member of the magazine’s board, said even with the split, the Law School will continue to support the magazine.

“The transition phase in launching the magazine has now run its course and the magazine will now go out on its own with much goodwill and informal support from both the law faculty and our students,” he said.

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