Journalists’ Journal – Kim Kleman, New Editor-in-Chief of The American Lawyer

by Tom Mariam on May 15, 2014

Kleman Kim 2014Kimberly Kleman recently became the Editor-in-Chief of The American Lawyer, arguably the most influential publication in the legal industry.  Ms. Kleman had previously been the Editor-in-Chief at the very popular Consumer Reports magazine.  In this interview with Journalists’ Journal, she introduces herself both professionally and personally to the community she will be covering and working closely with.

Why did you decide to leave Consumer Reports for The American Lawyer?

I came to The American Lawyer because I find law to be an intriguing profession (especially now, amid so much change). The American Lawyer is an iconic brand. I have the opportunity to significantly expand our digital footprint as well as oversee a great print magazine, and to work with colleagues who are smart, passionate and committed. It was an offer too good to refuse!  

How different will it be editing a magazine that is business-oriented from one that is obviously consumer-focused?

At Consumer Reports, we used our exclusive testing, surveys, and reporting to tell readers how to best navigate the marketplace. At The American Lawyer, we use our exclusive surveys and reporting, among other things, to tell readers how to best navigate the business of law. Very different topics, of course, but more similarities than you might imagine—including the fact that both brands have very smart and dedicated readers who are willing to pay for content. How rare is that these days?

What are your plans for The American Lawyer?  Can we expect changes?

The mission of The American Lawyer is to cover the business of law. It’s my job to do that in a way that is newsworthy, compelling, fair—and even fun. Many partners have told me they want to see more trend stories and more comparative stories, to see how their firms measure up. We have the data and contacts to do that. I very much like meaty stories, including investigative pieces and rich profiles and other features. So I hope to do more of them. I also want to explore more fully the culture of law and Big Law firms. That covers everything from the vibe of one firm versus another to the latest and greatest pro bono projects you’re working on. It’s the kind of coverage that I hope will expand our reach.

How will the continual shift to digital content impact The American Lawyer?

The American Lawyer is actually a suite of media products: A website, daily news feed, tablet app and more, plus of course a print magazine. Our digital operation will continue to grow, meaning that our subscribers will get more must-read news of the day (plus all content from our print magazine) on whatever device they choose to use. The print magazine will offer what a magazine does best: the big take on a subject, analysis, longer reads, and the like.

What are the biggest challenges you see facing law firms – especially big law firms?

One big challenge is how you grow your business when market share in this country is essentially flat. This, I would think, means creating new relationships and wooing clients from someone else. The combination of free-agency lateral hires plus a growing non-equity partner class is a development we’ll also be watching to see how it’s affecting the structure and morale of firms. How to expand internationally in a smart way is something many firms are grappling with. And I think diversity continues to be a challenge among Big Law firms.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in New Jersey, where from age 12 I knew I wanted to be a journalist. I went to college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then started my reporting and editing career in Florida. My family moved to Pleasantville, N.Y., where we still live, when I landed my job at Consumer Reports. My husband is an engineer, my older son, having graduated college almost two years ago, works at a software company in Boston, and my younger son is a junior at USC. I love to garden and fix things. Two of my best friends are a nonprofit tax attorney and an IP attorney. My favorite week of the year is the one I spend in Appalachia with some 50 volunteers from my town fixing ramshackle homes in Appalachia.

How can we help you do your job?

Our articles are definitely richer and better when we have access to the lawyers in your firms. So to the extent that you can facilitate that, the happier we are. Also, I ask that you be on the lookout for interesting/quirky/funny/innovative things about your firm. That can include everything from a decision to train associates wholly differently, to a wild new paint color for all offices.   


Tom Mariam is the Director of Business Development & Marketing, Americas at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP.

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