The ABA Journal Named 2023 Magazine of the Year

The ABA Journal received one of ASBPE’s top annual awards for business publications at the recent National Azbee Awards Banquet in Atlanta. It was named 2023 Magazine of the Year for the group of publications with 11 or fewer issues per year.

Aimed at members of the American Bar Association — a professional organization for lawyers and law students in the U.S. with more than 250,000 members — the ABA Journal covers trends, people and finances of the legal profession. The ABA Journal mirrors itself after general circulation publications rather than scholarly journals.

“Our mission is not to just write about the things that the ABA does,” editor and publisher John O’Brien said. “We’re trying to write about the most pressing issues, the most interesting people, those topics in the legal profession at large. So, if it’s not directly related to something that the ABA is doing — or some policy that the ABA is advocating — we can still do it, and we want to do it because our goal is to write something that every lawyer wants to read, whether she is a bankruptcy lawyer in Mountain View, California, or a divorce attorney in Kettering, Ohio.”

ABA Journal 2023 Magazine of the YearJudges for the Magazine of the Year category cited excellence in content — especially for the features — noting their 2022 work featured compelling writing and reporting that was both detail-oriented and got to the heart of the issues, all while maintaining a consistent, effective voice. Judges noted the publication does not shy from edgy topics, a renewed focus on inclusivity and its inclusion of letters-to-the-editor, showcasing engagement with its audience. The ABA Journal’s design was also lauded for dynamic choices in typography and imagery, breathing new life and energy into its topics. The publication makes it clear that their audience cares about the big issues and their clientele.

O’Brien said the quality of the publication starts with its staff.  

“We have a diverse staff in itself,” he said. “I feel a very important part of our success is we have people with different outlooks and different viewpoints and that helps really craft the selection of stories and the story ideas that we come up with in the first place.”

ABA Journal 2023 Magazine of the YearSeveral members of the staff are licensed attorneys, but not everybody, he said. The staff also has longtime veterans with deep knowledge. One staffer has been with the ABA Journal for 37 years, and O’Brien said she knows the industry like the back of her hand.

One criterion for the award is the publication’s value to readers. Key to ensuring the ABA Journal speaks to its audience, O’Brien said, is tracking feedback from readers and listening to their needs. The ABA Journal also has a diverse editorial advisory board as well. Story ideas are vetted in a weekly meeting for whether they would be of interest to a lawyer, legal professional, or even a layperson. 

“Is it something that any lawyer in America … is going to be interested in? How are they going to react to it? We are constantly asking those questions, soliciting feedback, trying to hear from our audiences,” O’Brien said.

At the end of the day, it’s about serving the reader, he added. “I’m proud of the fact that we provide a valuable benefit to the members of the ABA. It’s our audience.”


Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson started as a reporter in 1993 at a weekly newspaper in California’s Central Valley. Today, he is editorial director at Staffing Industry Analysts, which covers staffing and related companies through a print magazine, daily email newsletters and more.

Johnson currently serves on the ASBPE National Board of Directors.

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