Journalists’ Journal – Sara Randazzo, The Wall Street Journal

by Tom Mariam on September 29, 2015

Randazzo Sara 2015Sara Randazzo has established herself as one of the country’s top legal industry reporters. Sara earlier this year was given The Wall Street Journal’s legal business beat, where she writes about law firms as well as the broader legal industry, including litigation trends and the plaintiffs’ bar. She previously reported on bankruptcy at The WSJ for the newspaper, Bankruptcy Beat blog, and a specialized newsletter. The California native came to The Wall Street Journal after covering the business of law firms for The American Lawyer and the San Francisco Daily Journal.

Sara shared her thoughts and views about legal journalism and the legal industry with Tom Mariam.

Why has coverage of the legal industry and legal affairs become increasingly important for The Wall Street Journal? Are law firms and the legal industry now being viewed as business subjects in a similar way to big companies and more traditional industries?

Legal issues impact every major business, so letting our readers know what legal threats they could be facing is important. As an extension of that, covering the health of the law firms advising those businesses has also become a key area for us to cover. For The Journal, it’s less about the gossip and more about how what law firms are doing affects their clients’ bottom lines.

How does the WSJ differentiate itself from other leading news media in covering the law and the legal industry?

While our audience certainly includes lawyers, our stories are written for a wider business audience. So, if you ever see a legal trend piece and think, duh Sara, that’s old news, it’s new information to the majority of our readers.

How does writing for the Law Blog differ from writing for the newspaper itself? Which gets stronger reader reaction?

As you may suspect, the blog is more fun. We can write posts on smaller or quirkier topics that would never rise to the level of a print story.

You had covered bankruptcy for The Wall Street Journal prior to focusing on law firms and the overall industry. How much does that background help you cover the biggest legal industry story of recent years – the Dewey LeBoeuf demise?

Dewey has followed me through three positions now — from Am Law to the bankruptcy beat and now to coverage of the trial. At risk of sounding trite to those who experienced the pain of Dewey’s demise first-hand, covering the firm’s collapse has taught me a lot of what I know about both bankruptcy and the legal industry.

What lessons can the legal industry take away from the Dewey case?

As many of the Dewey obituaries have pointed out, the real takeaway seems to be that lack of transparency + pay promises you can’t keep + too much debt = big problems.

Covering the law firm business, how great a role do you think marketing plays in differentiating and developing law firms?

I tend to judge law firm websites for sport, but a firm’s marketing does little to impact my coverage (at least that I know of). Much more important to me than a slick logo is an effective communications team.

What makes a good feature or news story for you?

A story that revolves around strong personalities that’s tied to a new development or current event. And most importantly, a story that hasn’t been told before.

How can communications/marketing professionals best work with you, both for stories they want to pitch and articles that you originally generate?

Be an enabler, not a roadblock. Help me get to the sources I need without interfering too much. Pitch me smart ideas that aren’t riffing off someone else’s coverage and that have some element of newsiness.

Many of us know you from your time writing for The American Lawyer. What else can you tell us about your professional background? Did you always want to be a journalist?

I’ve been interested in journalism since I started running a classroom newsletter back in 5th grade. I got into it for the writing, which I’ve always loved. I used to be much more timid and have grown as a reporter over the years. Before coming to New York I worked for the Daily Journal, a legal trade, in both San Francisco and L.A. In college I worked for my hometown paper and at Entertainment Weekly.

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