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Switching the lights back on

Switching the lights back on


Open the doors wide, remove the dustsheets, and switch the lights on: Solicitors Journal has got a new home and we are back in business.

Open the doors wide, remove the dustsheets, and switch the lights on: Solicitors Journal has got a new home and we are back in business.

Left for dead in October 2017, the 160-year-old journal was picked up this summer by an independent law publisher who, with yours truly and a few others from earlier days, is setting about bringing it back to life.

The call came in the middle of August, at the peak of the heat wave. Michael Bond, owner and editor of The International In-House Counsel Journal, a magazine and events business for in-house lawyers, was about to buy the Journal. Would I be interested in joining again? One needs to think about these things. But not for long. Within a matter of days Michael and I got together and started work on a plan to revive the journal.

Much as the decision to discontinue the journal was met with disbelief by the old editorial team and by our wider circle of loyal subscribers and followers, there were valuable lessons in it. For all its brutality, maybe this was what the Journal needed; shaken into reinventing itself into a legal magazine fit for the 21st century; a leap many of us had been trying to make for a while. Without Michael’s move, SJ could, of course, have ended up in the big magazine graveyard for good.

What is clear now is that we’re coming at the Journal with a greater focus about what is likely to work, what we’re aiming to achieve, and how we can deliver it. It won’t be easy but the huge number of messages of support we have received since the news became public that SJ was coming back is a tremendous encouragement that we can make this work and to keep at it.

So where do we start? Our relaunch issue is scheduled for the end of January. New SJ will be a monthly magazine, with a mixture of quick news and news analysis for good measure, but focusing on providing comments, insight and ‘long read’ articles. Some of this we had already started with John van der Luit, then deputy editor, and features editor Hannah Gannagé-Stewart. And a fair amount of the content will be familiar too – along with our former regular contributors, most of whom have readily hopped back on board the good ship SJ. This will include, for instance, regular mood columns and practice notes on core areas, alongside in-depth articles on management, compliance and technology. Our new monthly cycle, however, means we’ll have more time to reflect and research a bit deeper than we used to. 

The website – as you can see if you are reading this – is a now back up and running again, albeit with some glitches which we’re working to fix as quickly as possible. We will turn our attention to it fully in the new year.

Our relaunch comes at a time where ‘slow news’ is gaining momentum. It’s a development I personally welcome. The terminology doesn’t entirely apply to what we are embarking on at SJ but it certainly covers some of our new endeavours. What we want to do, however, is not so much news – fast or slow – but to go under the skin of what goes on in the sector: everyday stories that are not necessarily news but that resonate with every solicitor trying to run a successful law firm, where sound business practice is essential and a commitment to client service is paramount. Solicitors who take a constructive approach to professional standards and ethics, with an open mind about technology and innovation, and a desire to play their part, somewhere, in ensuring access to justice.

We won't be able to do this without you, so, as always, do get in touch if you would like to share a story, voice your concerns, talk about your experience, or if you have an idea for an article - and help make New Solicitors Journal your journal.

Jean-Yves Gilg