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Still silent, after all these years

Take a look at the ad at the bottom of this post, a relic unearthed from our archives.

Who’s that dashing young chap in the picture?

Well, that would be me, circa 1990.

Back then, the home office in Boston strongly “encouraged” all the publishers at Lawyers Weekly Publications Inc. (there were only a handful of us) to create personality promo ads about ourselves and to provide an editorial statement of purpose for our newspapers.

I remember thinking the “Silent Partner” riff worked pretty well (i.e., like your law partner, only working in the background). At the time, though, I was only five years out of law school. Frankly, not too many law firms would have made me a partner.

My “perspective” from 1990, laid out in the ad, is still accurate: “Having a subscription to Lawyers Weekly is like having a research attorney on staff who scours the advance sheets and cases for 50 or 60 extra hours a week.”

A quick historical note is in order. Attorneys who were in practice back in the 1980s will remember the “advance sheets.” They were compilations of court decisions bound into a paperback in advance of the next Virginia Reports volume. Until Virginia Lawyers Weekly came along, it was the best way to stay on top of the latest cases.

More from 1990 Me: A subscription to our paper is “the most efficient, most cost effective tool an attorney in the commonwealth can have. I’ve had many, many lawyers tell me, ‘I don’t know what we did until Lawyers Weekly came along.”

That last part wasn’t just puffing – we heard that statement at bar shows and other meetings for years, until lawyers realized we were here to stay and part of the legal landscape.

I’d like to think we’d do a much better job now on a comparable promo ad – this one is awfully gray and text-heavy. But that was 1990.

I found this ad as I was going through our archives and photo files in preparation for this week’s 25th Anniversary feature – a retrospective of the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting. Check out the photo spread on the home page for a trip in the Wayback Machine.

And, as it turns out, this week’s issue – the paper of June 13, 2011 – is our 25th birthday edition. The born-on date for Virginia Lawyers Weekly was June 9, 1986 – the second Monday in June, 25 years ago.

I’ve been here for most of that 25 years. I joined the paper in May 1988 directly from law practice. I’ve been here since Day Two; my colleague, Executive Editor Deborah Elkins, has been here since Day One.

We have had many changes to our business. Virginia Lawyers Weekly has remained our flagship product, but we’ve published books, directories and other special publications as well.

Our company was on the Internet very early, with the launch of our website, www.valawyersweekly.com, in 1996. With that development, a subscription to Virginia Lawyers Weekly became twice as valuable. You got a two-fer – the weekly print product, plus 24-7 access to the website, the searchable Archives and the site’s many other benefits.

We began publishing the popular Daily Alert in 2000, giving you a morning dollop of the latest caselaw and legal headlines from our paper and other news outlets across Virginia.

We were acquired by Dolan Media Company (now The Dolan Company) in 2004, and became part of a bigger, stronger operation. We added business-to-business events to our repertoire in 2006, with our first company awards program, Leaders in the Law; we added a second program, Influential Women of Virginia, in 2009. We began our Business and Law Breakfast event series this past April.

Law practice has had many changes as well. Recall the “laptop” computer that came in a small suitcase or the cell phone that looked like a shoe in a bag. Think of the room in the office that was once full of books…you’ll likely now find that same information on the firm’s server or off in a cloud. And dealing with the guy or gal on the other side of a case – it’s likely most of your dealings today are handled over email. Short, choppy and direct. For better or worse, that’s the current interaction of choice.

Two snapshots I found in the VLW photo archives give you an idea of how much has changed.

From 1992, there is a picture of our booth at the VSB confab, announcing the debut of a grand innovation at the time, our auto-fax system (“Opinions by Fax INSTANTLY”).

Juxtapose that image with a picture from 2010: Web Editor Sarah Rodriguez, live-tweeting the proceedings at the annual meeting.

Our mission for 25 years, regardless of the means of delivery, has remained the same: To bring you the vital information that helps you practice law better, more efficiently and more profitably. Providing you that service has been a privilege. So I say “Thank you” for letting us continue to work as your silent partners.

Thank you for subscribing (and renewing).

Thank you for advertising.

Thank you for the many cases, Verdicts & Settlements and story tips you’ve sent in.

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

1990 Me had a big goal: “I want Lawyers Weekly to be the newspaper for every lawyer in the state from the attorney in the big firms in Richmond, Northern Virginia, Tidewater and Roanoke to the solo practitioner in Grundy, Emporia or Front Royal. I won’t be satisfied until we reach every practicing lawyer in the state.”

That’s still true, after all these years.

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