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Happy 100th, Illinois Bar Journal
The ISBA's flagship publication debuted before World War I and continues into the digital age. Here's a look at the IBJ and the ISBA publications program from the earliest days to the present.
"Be Brief." That was the sole demand this publication made on any contributors when it was born 100 years ago. The demand to be concise has remained, but the ensuing century has filled the Journal with tens of thousands of pages of substantive content, practical guidance, and reports on activities of the bar.
Decades ago, the Journal described itself as the expression of "the life of the lawyer." As with any journal, the significance of the bound volumes cannot be measured in number of pages. The personality of the Journal has been informed by editors, authors, staff, ISBA officers and committee members and, in various degrees, by anyone who has been a member of the ISBA - including you and me.
In this centennial volume, the IBJ Editorial Board invites you to reflect on the history chronicled by this Journal. In the coming months, each issue will imbed a vignette or two looking back at social and substantive news presented in this publication. This article attempts to lay the foundation for your reflection by briskly running through 100 years in a few pages.
If you look at the Journal as it progresses through the decades, some patterns can be seen and, in retrospect, certain points appear to be of greater note. By framing our review into 20-year periods and focusing on one or two aspects of style or structure, the Journal unveils some of its personality. These snapshots give one story of the Journal, but they fail to do justice to all the stories in the Journal. Indeed, in its most poignant moments, the Journal reveals part of the professional life of individual contributors - from section council members and featured authors to those in district reports and photos of annual meetings. They are too numerous to count.
1912-1931 - The Quarterly Bulletin
Volume #1, Issue #1, was published on October 1, 1912. This fledgling publication bore little resemblance to the issue you are reading today. Loose leafed, with double columns on newspaper parchment, it was a mere four pages long.
From its inception, the ISBA has been a voluntary bar. When formed in 1877, the ISBA had 88 members. By 1912, 1,847 of the 8,666 attorneys licensed to practice in the state of Illinois were members of the ISBA. The needs of this growing membership warranted a publication.
Nonetheless, the foundation was just being laid. For the first 20 volumes, the schedule for print was limited to four issues a year. Hence, this publication was initially called the Quarterly Bulletin.
In a "Foreword," the editors aptly laid out goals still sought by ISBA publications today. The Bulletin aimed to bring ISBA members "into closer touch with each other" and to provide a medium to exchange information "for the betterment of the practice and profession…" The editors proclaimed that the publication belonged to the members, relying on practitioners for submissions and direction.
The guideline for submissions was simple: "Be Brief." "Communications for publication" were not to exceed 500 words. As such, during the years as a Bulletin contributions from members tended to resemble correspondence, even when they were not actual letters.
The focus of the Bulletin was on strengthening the collective bond of those practicing law. Immediately following the "Foreword," the editors signaled the theme that would dominate the first two decades. In a three-paragraph article entitled "Organization" the editors lamented that, compared to other professions, lawyers lacked effective affiliation. (A subtext for the Bulletin was the need to combat the unauthorized practice of law). The editors noted that "organization" of lawyers was not limited to the ISBA, but included both national and local bars.
The Bulletin frequently relayed news on other bar associations - both large and small. Well-established organizations, such as the Chicago Bar Association and the Illinois State's Attorneys Association, received frequent attention, and a standing committee of delegates to the American Bar Association regularly reported national trends. Nonetheless, the Bulletin's story is best told by looking at its coverage of emerging local associations.
In that first edition, the editors listed over 40 counties, from McHenry down to Alexander, that lacked local bar associations. This weakness was a core concern of the Bulletin. In a subtle call for more local association the issue listed the number of licensed attorneys by county - ranging from Monroe at six to Sangamon at 167 to the behemoth of Cook at 5,394.
The Bulletin promoted the association of practitioners in their localities in several ways. Many issues contained a collection of blurbs under what was originally titled "News of the Local Bar Associations." Often the Bulletin would publish comments or details on local initiatives and, in the byline, identify the contributing practitioners through their locality. For example, the January 1914 edition published one page pieces "Are You a Mud Turtle" by George Tilton of the Danville Bar and "Reform in Practice" by E.P. Williams of the Galesburg Bar.
Sometimes the connection between the strength of the local bar and the profitability of the individual practitioner was not drawn subtly. One recurring type of article was a listing of the fees recommended by local bar associations. For example, in April 1913 the Bulletin printed a list of minimum fees established by the Whiteside County Bar Association. "Advice on any legal matter, [was] not less" than $3, "Drawing Will" cost a client $5 and a "Praecipe for suit" was $10. For family law practitioners, "Drawing Bill and obtaining Divorce on behalf of wife, on default" was $25 and, if on behalf of the husband, $50. (Disclaimer: revised ethical rules prohibit the current editorial board from recommending these rates).
The most dramatic development in the fostering of local organizations took place early in the history of the Bulletin. In July 1914, the Bulletin announced the formation of the "Illinois Federation of Local Bar Associations." The Federation was organized into seven districts, which would meet regularly. District meetings were frequently covered, often through photographs, for several decades.
Throughout its existence the Bulletin continued to inform its readers of the activities of both local and national bar associations, but as time passed the growing strength of the ISBA had become apparent. The January 1931 edition best illustrates this growth.
As had become custom, this issue ended with consecutive announcements related to ISBA membership. Readers were given a list of more than 100 new members, the names of recently deceased members, an announcement on tools available for public speaking engagements titled "A New Service for Our Members," and an article entitled "What Happens to Your Five Dollars." Of those annual dues, $1.10 went to publications.
1931-1949 - "I am the Illinois Bar Journal"
Twenty years after its initial edition, the publication boldly announced a change of name. In October 1931, the Quarterly Bulletin became the Illinois Bar Journal. The editors announced this transformation in a "Foreword." Distinct in style from the "Foreword" given two decades earlier, the editors took the first person to proclaim, "I am the Illinois Bar Journal."
The "Foreword" laid out an ambitious agenda. Proclaiming itself the "dean of such publications," the Journal's stated goal was "to express the life of the Illinois lawyer." These life lessons would include "some news of the courts or pure shop talk."
Notably, the editors declared an intention to serve the members of the ISBA before commenting on the desire to assist "affiliated bar associations." Reminiscent of the proclamation made at the founding of the Bulletin, the Journal reiterated that it belonged to the members of the ISBA and that its growth would depend on their contribution.
Along with the new name came a physical change. In contrast to the newspaper-like Bulletin, the Journal was visually and structurally a professional periodical. Issues were either 32 or 48 pages long, bound and printed on pamphlet size 5½ x 8½ paper. Photographs and illustrated advertisements began to appear. (See pages 28 and 29.) The Journal now had a cover and a table of contents and, as if to emphasize the change from a newspaper like form, the first issue was mostly in single column format.
In 1933, the transformation became complete. Starting that year, the Journal was "Published Monthly Except in July and August." The new volume year, and the beginning of sequential paging, became set with the first issue of Volume 22 in September. Two decades later, a time that saw the emergence of air-conditioned courthouses and the imminent demise of limited summer docketing, the number of issues per volume increased. Volume 40, which began September 1951, had 12 issues. Volume 78, which had an issue for every month of 1990, moved the start of the volume year to January.
Although the transformation into a Journal marked dramatic changes, the style and structure still differed greatly from today's publication. The nature of the Journal during that era, and the differences from today's publication, are much easier seen than described.
For this, let us turn to the table of contents. Take, as a somewhat random example of the early years, the March 1933 issue.
In the two decades after the name change, recurring reports and columns were the lifeblood of the Journal. The vast majority were brief. Some decidedly addressed the social life of the law. Despite the intriguing title, "Gossip" was a list of such sundry announcements as weddings and local service awards. (Rumor has it that when this title disappeared it was replaced by "They Tell Me That.") "Pro Bono Publico," a vestige of the Bulletin, announced recent public speeches made by ISBA members.
One recurring column, not present in this issue, was "Life's Records Closed." This was the product of the ISBA Necrologist, an office created in the association's early days, who regularly reported to the Journal.
Other reports and columns addressed a mixture of social functions and substantive matters. In the March 1933 issue, the president bemoaned the cost to taxpayers for jury trials of $200 a day and the secretary outlined an ISBA-sponsored contest to draft legislation on mortgage foreclosure procedures. Other organizations were reported on in "County and Probate Judges Association" and "Local Bar Activities." With the exception of the last of these reports, none lasted more than two pages.
A few of the recurring items directly addressed substantive law. For instance, in March 1933, the largest single article, the "Current Law Section," contained comments on recent cases prepared by the students and faculty of the University of Illinois Law School.
Unlike today's Journal, substantive articles by individual practitioners played a small role throughout the era. For March 1933, the sole piece that resembled the type of featured article that later became a mainstay of the Journal was "The Proposed Business Corporation Act." More polemical than practical, it was a mere four pages long.
Correlating with the growth of the ISBA, the interior of the Journal gradually grew more complex. In the early 30s membership was approximately 4,000. By the late 40s the ranks of the profession received an influx of post-war graduates. In 1949, the secretary reported that total membership had topped 7,000, with 447 of the 7,337 being junior members. The ISBA was burgeoning. The Journal responded by issuing additional, and more detailed, reports from the ISBA infrastructure.
Viewing any table of contents from the late 1940s next to the sample of March 1933 shows this growth. The table for May 1949 serves as an example. A side by side comparison of this table to that of March 1933 speaks for itself.
Eventually, the publication needs of the ISBA outgrew the Journal's table of contents.
1950-1969 - The flagship, newsletters, and The Bar News
The Bulletin set the roots. After the name change, the Journal grew in ascendance with the ISBA. From this core, the 50s and 60s saw the ISBA branch out - both with affiliated publications and strengthened avenues for member contribution.
As the demands on the Journal grew, the ISBA formed affiliated publications to assist in delivering substantive information and social news. Volume 43 spanned from 1954 into 1955. This was a watershed period for the ISBA. During this volume year, the ISBA moved into new headquarters and broke ground with sister publications. This period marked the first issue of the Illinois Courts Bulletin, a compendium of Illinois's state and federal appellate court case summaries still published monthly. Despite this longevity, hindsight suggests an even more significant branching out.
In the fall of 1954, the ISBA published its first section newsletter. Fittingly, the pioneer was Trusts & Estates with its editor, Addis E. Hull, and section chairman, Austin Fleming - the namesake of the ISBA's prestigious award for excellence in newsletter publication.
Before the end of the volume year the federal tax and civil practice sections followed suit. Within the pages of the Journal the advent of this new outlet went barely noticed. Now these first few steps seem profound. Today, the ISBA publishes some 40 newsletters.
The newsletters became a tool for communicating substantive content. Another publication was needed to assist in conveying the social aspects of "the life of the lawyer."
1960 marked the first issue of The Bar News. ISBA executive secretary, Amos Pinkerton, announced this branching out in the July 1960 installment of his regular Journal column "The Scratch Pad." Pinkerton commented that the emphasis of the Journal had "shifted to practical articles on substantive law and procedure" which left "very limited space for bar activities" and "current events." He heralded the mission of The Bar News:
The newspaper-type publication will fill a long-felt need for some medium through which our members can be kept informed about organized bar activities generally, but particularly the many noteworthy accomplishments of local bar associations and ISBA Committees and Sections in the public relations, post legal education and unauthorized practice fields.
Sections and local bars were to send publishable material to newly hired Virgil E. Tipton.
While the ISBA was creating affiliated publications, the Journal was developing internally. Two pages bookmark this evolution.
On page 134 of the October 1950 issue, you will find the beginning of "Mr. Illinois Lawyer Describes His Magazine." In this two-page article, managing editor Richard Grummon conducted an interview with a fictitious ISBA everyman. In the interview, the everyman relayed the results of a recent survey, covering details from photos to typeset.
The most significant comments, however, were at the beginning. The everyman wanted the Journal to be "pithy, pertinent and practical." His first comments were "I want it packed with articles and departments on Illinois law and practice" and not "just another law review magazine." The editor responded that he understood members wanted articles on "bread and butter" subjects.
Thumbing through the pages of the early 1950s you can see the Journal responding to the survey. These years marked subtle changes in style, corresponding with an evident intent to increase the presentation of "bread and butter" articles. For example, the Journal presented a series on particular fields of practice entitled "What Every Lawyer Should Know About...."
Nonetheless, the Journal's structure remained essentially the same. This leads to the second bookmark.
On the first page of Volume 45 you will find a table of contents. This edition, September 1956, marked a new structure that informs the issue you are reading today. In the preceding volume, some, but not all, issues displayed a new, partitioned structure. Departing from its predecessors, each monthly issue in Volume 45 was partitioned into three sections.
Finally, the Journal set aside defined space for the type of article that is now a mainstay. This first section was titled "Features." Similar to the Journal you are accustomed to reading, this section delivered substantive articles written by practitioners in their individual capacity. Exemplary of the new structure, the September 1956 issue contained three "bread and butter" articles, each exactly 10 pages long. (The last featured article in this issue, "Florida Statutes and the Illinois Nonresident Decedent's Law," was authored by the prolific Austin Fleming).
Two separate sections contained content that had long been provided by the Journal. The second section was "Departments." This section was devoted to ISBA activity and affiliations. This is where you will find columns from the heads of the ISBA, such as the "President's Page" and "The Scratch Pad."
Departmental accounts on "Applications for Membership" and "In Memoriam" covered the arc of membership. Arms of the ISBA, such as sections and committees, reported in "Probate and Trust Questions, "Notes on the Unauthorized Practice of Law" and "Booster Club." Some recurring pieces were substantive, such as the ongoing law school affiliated "Recent Decisions." Other pieces were decidedly social, such as "Camerama" (which developed in the 1970s into "Photo Stories").
The last and smallest section was "Announcements." Here readers were alerted of specific opportunities, such as seminars and new handbooks. This section usually contained a "Calendar of Bar Activities" and helped pay the bills with a "Lawyers Market Place." (In June 1960, the ISBA announced a new dues schedule ranging from $2 for Junior members up to $40 for 10-year members).
As the 60s came to an end, the Journal published its first multi-volume index. Indirectly, the index acknowledged the transformative survey of 1950 - the starting date of the 15-year index was 1952. By the time the ISBA developed the index, the strength of affiliated publications and the partitioned structure of the Journal were well-established. President Al Kirkland announced the forthcoming index in his "President's Page" of December 1968 titled: "ISBA Leads All State Bar Associations in the Number and Variety of Legal Publications."
1970s and 1980s - The ISBA turns 100
For most of us, the first half-century of the Journal is nothing more than recorded history - and invites us to reflect. As we approach more recent decades, the Journal begins to record the professional lives of many of our colleagues - and invites us to reminisce. I encourage you to look for names you know in the bound indexes or just thumb through random pages the next time you are in a courthouse library. Vignettes imbedded in this year's volume will give you but a small taste of this experience.
As the Journal starts to fill its pages with contributions from our contemporaries, an historical account becomes more difficult to frame. Proximity clouds vision. Living concerns about style and structure, and more general questions about what the Journal should aspire to be, influence any account. Nonetheless, from any perspective a few points in the recent history of the Journal appear prominent.
The first of these can be seen from a distance. Volume 61 stands taller on the bookshelf. Here, page size grew from that of a pamphlet to 8½" by 10". In his September 1972 column, "Headlines and Footnotes," executive director John H. Dickerson asserted that this new edition marked more than a change in the Journal's physical stature. The "new set of clothes" was an attempt "to simplify its style, which had become out-of-date, and to make it more inviting and attractive."
Undoubtedly, this taller Journal had a loftier reach. Arguably, this new version tended to resemble a law review. Before the end of 1972, the Journal published articles from retired justice Abe Fortas, sitting governor Richard Ogilvie and professor F. Hodge O'Neal then of Duke University. (Some of the reaction to the new format can be read in the "Letters to the Editor" column titled "Black Panther Case; Comments On Journal's New Format" in the November 1972 issue).
During this period, the Journal had occasion to reflect on another milestone. In 1977, the ISBA reached its Centennial. The Journal celebrated this achievement with reflective pieces including a seven article series entitled "A History of the Illinois State Bar Association." This series is recommended for anyone interested in a more detailed history of the ISBA.
Like Volume 61, Volume 77 stands out on the bookshelf - being thicker than the rest. This volume marked the end of the 1980s and, in order to facilitate the move of the beginning of the volume year from September to January, it extended to 16 issues. Arguably, by this time the pendulum of content had started to turn away from the academic back toward the practical. In contrast to the cited articles from 1972, the featured submissions in December 1989 started with "Straight Talk on Annuity Cost Evidence," co-authored by Phillip Corboy and Todd A. Smith, and ended with "Using Blood Tests in DUI and Reckless Homicide Prosecutions" by Judge Daniel Locallo.
Two short announcements in this last issue of the 80s had ominous portends. The "Manuscript Policy," located in a small box alongside the table of contents, set the rules for submissions. The last issue of the volume contains a slight addition from what were the rules at the beginning of the year. The requirement for six copies remained, but the policy now added "(Computer disk submissions are preferred - write for guidelines.)"
Likewise, in a discrete "Editor's Note," Mark S. Mathewson announced plans for more in-house production, permitting the publication of "more timely articles at a lower cost…" The Journal was also developing an "index on a computerized cross-referenced system." He commented: "This is all part of a larger effort to take advantage of recent advances in electronic publishing technology."
A new storyline for the Journal had just begun.
1990s to the present - The digital age
As the pages of the Journal become fully colored with the work of our contemporaries, any reflective account is best told by mentioning individual contributors. Given the command to "be brief," only a few can be cited here.
On the title page of every issue you will find the names of the Journal executive staff. Taking over from Isolde A. Davidson, Mark S. Mathewson became the first lawyer managing editor in 1988, a role he continues to play, along with that of director of publications. Also listed are Assistant Managing Editor Carol Reid and the person who holds the office together, Jean Fenski. And, of course, the page lists the dedicated volunteers of the IBJ Editorial Board.
Two other titles signal directions the Journal has taken. One concerns visual presentation, the other the written word. Ticara Turley, an ISBA employee since 2001, is the first to hold the position of art director. Her imprint extends from the cover to the last page of each issue, and is weaved throughout this article.
The other new title is contributing writer. Helen Gunnarsson became the first in 2002, writing both the LawPulse new-and-trends feature and the cover story for nearly every issue. These contributions bolster the submissions from individual practitioners, which have long served as the bedrock of the Journal.
From its inception, the Journal has relied on the active participation of ISBA members for its success. Since the 1950s, most substantive articles have been penned by individual practitioners. Over the past two decades, the inviting structure and professional staff have resulted in a publication worthy of accolades.
These laudations reveal what the Journal strives to be. In 1993, the Journal received the Society of National Association Publications Gold Award for most improved scholarly journal. In 2005, the Journal won the National Association of Bar Executives Luminary Award for Excellence in Regular Publications. The judges' comments included, "Outstanding effort on all fronts. Creative, well thought out issue after issue. Far and away, heads and shoulders above all others."
Over the past two decades, a new storyline has come to life. In this story, the medium is truly the message. Advances in technology have profoundly affected the Journal and its affiliated publications. In the mid-1990s, the ISBA launched its website, and November 1998 began putting the contents of every issue online. In the past year, the staff has unveiled a fully indexed and searchable archive of all Journal issues, including all Law Pulse and Illinois Law Update items, back to that first online issue.
The effect on affiliated publications has been even more profound. Since the early 2000s ISBA members have received daily e-mails with case digests, pending legislation, and legal news in E-Clips. Updated throughout every business day, Illinois Lawyer Now posts breaking news, reports on calendared activities, and updates on ISBA matters. Members are e-mailed ISBA Lawyer Now Weekly and mailed Illinois Lawyer Now Quarterly.
Of course, adaptation has its downside. June 2009, marked the end of the near half-century run of the ISBA Bar News. In that issue, Stephen Anderson bid farewell, looking back on his 21 years of service and commenting on the "whims of cyberspace." His comments, and ISBA Bar News issues dating back to 1996, are available on-line at http://webarchives.isba.org/publications/barnews/index.html.
The tools at our disposal were unimaginable to the founders of 1912. Today, with the rapid advance of digital technology, the publishing world seems to be spinning even faster. What the future holds for the Journal is, for now, beyond our grasp, though there is no question that more and more attention will be devoted to the digital version.
But the Journal remains at heart what it has long been - a place where lawyers communicate information to ISBA members that, we trust, helps them practice law more effectively and efficiently. Whether formed by ink on paper, pixels on a screen, or some medium yet to be invented, lawyers' words are the constant. Please consider contributing yours.
Thomas J. Hunter is a clerk in the chambers of the Hon. Richard P. Goldenhersh, Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District, and a proud member of the IBJ Editorial Board.