Solicitors Journal goes under after 160 years

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Sep 19, 2017
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Thousands of loyal readers and legal commentators will metaphorically doff their hats as the hearse bearing the coffin of Britain’s oldest legal affairs news publication passes slowly by.

The publisher of the Solicitors Journal (SJ), which first landed on lawyers’ desks in 1857, has pulled the plug on the weekly magazine, explaining in predictable management-speak that it has “been affected in recent years by the structural challenges within the paid-for media content and advertising marketplaces and the economic challenges within the legal sector”.

In other words, the legal publishing arena has become too crowded both in print and online. Newcomers such as The Lawyer, Legal Week and Legal Business have carved away the wealthy City law firm readership, and are fighting among themselves for survival.

That left the SJ battling another old-stager, although a positive youngster in comparison: the Law Society Gazette, which the Law Society of England and Wales has published since 1903. The gazette has dominated much of the smaller law firm market field for some time, which had been the core of the SJ’s readership.

“We greatly appreciate the hard work of the current and past Solicitors Journal teams who have maintained editorial independence, integrity and excellence over some 160 years,” said Mark Solon, chairman of the magazine’s publisher, Wilmington Legal. “I can assure everyone that this decision has not been taken likely, and without exploring all possible avenues.”

The legal trade press remains a crowded field. Centaur Media announced in February that The Lawyer would shift from printing every week to every month, with most of its resources devoted to its partially paywalled site. Its main competitor, Legal Week, dropped its print version several years ago to concentrate on a fully paywalled website.

Legal Business soldiers on with a monthly print version and a website, which is partially paywalled. The New Law Journal continues in print as well as running a paywalled website.

The Law Society Gazette, from the comfort of financial backing from the Law Society if required, is the only publication to derive its income totally from advertising. Its publisher insists on print copies going to all practising solicitors and its website remains free to all.

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