Queen's University

A magazine of a different type

After two decades of working on a print publication, what does a writer-editor do when her magazine goes digital?

I’m a print kind of gal. Always have been, always will be. I love to read. When I was a law student at Queen’s, my roommates, all of whom were in the sciences, would ask me: “How can you sit at your desk and read for hours?” I used to think to myself, “Well, how can you spend hours dissecting yucky things under the harsh fluorescent lights of some smelly lab?” To each his or her own.

After graduating from Queen’s, I practised law in a small firm for a number of years before my career took a different path. In 1990 I began what for me was my dream job. As the Associate Editor of LawNow magazine I filled my days reading, researching, editing, and writing. For a lover of print, it doesn’t get much better.

Law Now editor Teresa Mitchell still enjoys leafing through hard copies of the magazine.LawNow editor Teresa Mitchell still enjoys leafing through
back issues of the maagzine, when it was an ink-and-paper
publication. (Lucas Mitchell photo) 

LawNow is a public legal education publication with a national subscription base. It began in 1975 as the in-house newsletter of the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta, a not-for-profit organization ­associated with the University of Alberta.

Over the years it has evolved from its newsletter format to be a polished and professional magazine that is published six times per year.

Its contributors are dedicated volunteers – mostly lawyers, but also CAs, professors, justice system ­administrators, and others.

Each issue centres around a theme. Sometimes it’s a ­specific area of the law; other times it’s on a wider topic with a legal dimension. Columns on topics such as Aboriginal law, Human Rights law, and Law and Literature, along with special reports, round out the editorial offerings.

LawNow has a small, but enthusiastic readership, and it is widely read by ­educators, people in the justice community, and librarians. But despite that enthusiasm and the best efforts of our team at the Legal Resource Centre, the magazine has struggled financially. The 2009 recession was the last straw. Reluctantly, we made the decision to stop producing a print edition and to move to a digital-only version. In March, LawNow became an online magazine.

The move has been a challenge, but we are excited about our new digital product. Free from the constraints of our print version budget, we now produce an issue that’s full colour and features expanded content. Articles can now be longer, and there can be more of them exploring our chosen theme. I’ve been able to sheath my editorial scissors. There have been opportunities to explore new formats, new fonts, new colours, and new content. Each article and column in the magazine is produced as a PDF file that’s downloadable and printable; readers can select the content they choose and print only what they want to read. Gone are the back-and-forth of drafts and “blueline” proofs, hassles with our mailing house, trips to the post office, and worries about strange transmutations that ­occurred when the ­vibrant blue colour we thought we’d chosen morphed into a sickly lilac in the final print version.

So far, the response from our subscribers has been mostly positive. Some subscribers were sad to see the print edition cease. But many more have welcomed the change to the online product. They are excited about a non-paper product and its benefits for the environment. They like the PDF format that allows them to choose what they wish to read and print. They like the clean, bright, and colourful new format, the choice of font size, and the expanded content. We’re grateful that some of our larger subscribers are not only sticking with us, but they’re buying site licences so that all of their offices and staff can have access to LawNow.

As for me, as the Editor of LawNow, this change means I have the opportunity to learn, adapt, grow, smile, and be very grateful to be able to do what I have loved to do for more than 20 years: read, research, and write about the law. I’m still a reader: it’s just that now, I read online.

Please check out LawNow at www.lawnow.org. I’d love to hear what you think of the magazine, pro and con.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2011 Issue #3Queen's Alumni Review
2011 Issue #3
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