'Washington Law & Politics' magazine to fold

The Minnesota owners pull the plug on a witty magazine that has become a fixture of local coverage and analysis.
The Minnesota owners pull the plug on a witty magazine that has become a fixture of local coverage and analysis.

Washington Law & Politics, the feisty, informative quarterly magazine for lawyers in the state, will be folding. The last issue will be the Spring edition. Staff were informed yesterday. I'm sad to see it go, not only because I have been writing the political column there for the last few years, but because it lived up to its cheeky motto: "Only our name is boring."

The news comes on the heels of word that its parent publication, Minnesota Law & Politics, has folded. The parent company, Key Professional Media of Minneapolis, kept the magazine going in part because of the success of its "Super Lawyers" and "Rising Stars" franchises, magazine features that rate attorneys and flourish from the competitive enthusiasm for self-promotion many lawyers and law firms possess. "Super Lawyers" and "Rising Stars" have been sold to Thomson Reuters which says they will continue to be published in all 50 states and Washington, DC.

Washington Law & Politics, a spin-off of the Minnesota concept, launched here in 1997. Co-founder Steve Kaplan said at the time that Seattle seemed a natural market for a formula for legal and political coverage that had proved so successful in Minneapolis. Regional business, bride and city magazines have proliferated, but the Law & Politics concept seemed to add some meat to the idea of what a regional magazine could be, taking cues from titles like Texas Monthly and New York in having more attitude than, say Arizona Highways. Unfortunately, the most successful part of the formula was the least interesting journalistically: endless lists of the best law firms. Nevertheless, that paid for original content that was often substantive and fun.

The magazine was notable for its cleverly art-directed concept covers, the best since Terry Heckler art directed the old Seattle Magazine back in the 1960s. For a recent cover, newly minted DC insiders Gary Locke and Ron Sims posed trying to find their way around "the other Washington."

The magazine also featured a freelance corps of experienced writers and original thinkers, including apostate conservative columnist Philip Gold and seasoned contributors like Ross Anderson, Shelby Scates, Michael Hood, J. Kingston Pierce, Bob Geballe and many others. Coverage and analysis was often fun and unexpected. A popular annual feature was the magazine's "Turkeys of the Year" about the lows of local law. A memorable and fascinating feature was Shelby Scates' profile and interview in 2000 with the late Albert Canwell, Washington's answer to Joseph McCarthy who proved that even in his twilight years to be an unrepentant red-baiter. The piece shed fresh light on a shameful chapter in state politics.

This has been a tough year for the media all over, but the loss of Washington Law & Politics is all the more poignant because Washington state needs more coverage of these subjects, not less, and it is rare to see it done with as much wit and elan as L&P brought to it.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.