Innovators: editor

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The American Lawyer , says Editor in Chief Aric Press, has the same journalistic ambitions and standards as Fortune, BusinessWeek and The New Yorker. What it doesn't have, however, is much time to wow its readers.

"Our principal competition is competing for the reader's time, and in my world that's particularly acute because most of my readers bill by the hour," said Press, who also serves as editorial director of ALM's national magazine group. "If I'm asking for them to give me 45 minutes a month, I've got to be sure to give them something of value as well as to be entertaining and attractive."

To do that, Press, who joined ALM from Newsweek in 1998, seeks to offer fresh and ever-expanding quantifiable data about law firms that readers won't find elsewhere. In 2002, for instance, The American Lawyer began an annual survey of the resources, personnel and salaries in libraries at the nation's top 200 law firms.

Press also said he wants the magazine to step back from current events so its pages can offer perspective on the industry in addition to news. For instance, he opted to no longer report on every firm combination. Rather, staffers report on the most successful or, as Press put it, the "most screwed up."

"If this place works well, it should be a collaborative adventure," Press said. "Reporters should be telling us, who are chained to our desk, what's going on. Reporters are the front line, and editors need to support them. The editor in chief needs to talk and listen to what the readers are saying about the product and about stories and trends. We're all essentially in a game of being perpetually educated."

-Mary Ellen Podmolik

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