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Writing Guidelines

About the Wisconsin Lawyer

The Wisconsin Lawyer® magazine delivers information and knowledge that helps State Bar of Wisconsin members excel in their law practice and deliver legal services to their clients. It analyzes legal trends and developments affecting the practice of law in Wisconsin and provides a forum for sharing ideas. As the official publication of the State Bar of Wisconsin, the magazine carries official notices of changes in supreme court rules and summaries of Wisconsin case law and lawyer discipline matters.

Formerly titled Wisconsin Bar Bulletin, the Wisconsin Lawyer is published 11 times a year. As the State Bar of Wisconsin's official publication, it reaches all Wisconsin-licensed lawyers and judges as a membership benefit. With a circulation of more than 24,000, the magazine also reaches legal professionals, law libraries, law schools, bar associations, and other legal professionals throughout the United States.

Writing Opportunities

Each issue includes feature articles and a variety of shorter columns, including viewpoints, risk management, practice tips, technology, career advice, and legal writing.

How-to, practical types of articles with general appeal are preferred over theoretical articles. Articles discussing developments in Wisconsin law are preferred over articles focusing on federal law. A Wisconsin Lawyer article is not the vehicle for self-promotion, including any commercial service, product, or organization.

  • Feature Articles – Refer to Wisconsin Lawyer writing guidelines below. (2,500 words)
  • Other Columns – Contact managing editor Karlé Lester to discuss a topic for an Ethics, Managing Risk, Practice Tips, Technology, Career, Legal Writing, or other column. After acceptance, the editor will determine publication date. (1,500 words)
  • Opinion-Editorial – Subjects for the Viewpoint column are interesting, relevant, and timely. They inform, educate, and, at times, entertain readers about developments in the legal profession and the practice of law. Articles endorsing political candidates or that the editors deem to be self-promotion are not accepted. (1,500 words)
  • Book Reviews – Contact Karlé Lester for a list of books available for review or to suggest a book for review. Reviews must be related to law but can be practical, scholarly, theoretical, or entertaining. Reviewers must complete a conflicts questionnaire before publication. (See additional guidelines for more information.)
  • Members Only Announcements – If you are a State Bar member and you've moved, become a partner or an associate, taken on a partner, or received a promotion or an award, submit an announcement for the In the News column. Announcements are free to State Bar members. Enhance your announcement with a photo ($30 charge). (See additional guidelines for submitting these announcements.)
  • Deadline: The first of the month preceding publication. For example, to place an announcement in the December issue, it must be received by the State Bar before Nov. 1. Email or send your announcement to: org membersonly wisbar wisbar MembersOnly org, Wisconsin Lawyer, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.
  • Letters – The Wisconsin Lawyer Letters to the Editor column provides a forum for members to express ideas, concerns, and opinions on law-related subjects. Letters may be edited for content, length, and clarity. Letters responding to previously published letters and to others' views should address the issues, and not be a personal attack. Letters endorsing political candidates are not accepted, and letters deemed to be defamatory or in poor taste will not be published.
  • Deadline: Letters must be received by the first of the preceding month. For example, to place a letter in the December issue, it must be received by Nov. 1. Limit letters to 500 words; include the author's name. Email letters to org wislawmag wisbar wisbar wislawmag org or mail to Letters to the Editor, Wisconsin Lawyer, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158.

Submitting a Request for Publication

The first step in the publication process is to email or call managing editor Karlé Lester at (608) 250-6127 to discuss the topic to avoid duplicating an article already in progress.

The second step in the process is to submit the manuscript (see Manuscript Preparation below) or a query letter, if the article is not yet written. The query letter is (one typewritten page) that briefly describes the topic, presents why it is of broad interest to the Wisconsin Lawyer audience, and highlights the author's experience with the issue.

Submit manuscripts and letters to managing editor Karlé Lester on the 5th and 20th of each month. Submissions received after noon on those dates will be held for the following scheduled review.

Manuscript/Query Letter Review

The Communications Committee, which serves as the magazine's editorial advisory board reviews manuscripts and query letters for timeliness and usefulness to readers. Manuscripts also are reviewed analysis, accuracy, and writing style. While the board may accept a topic introduced in a query letter, it does not commit to publish an article until it reviews the manuscript.

Criteria the Editorial Advisory Board uses in evaluating articles

Reviewers consider the following criteria when reviewing manuscripts:

  • Will the information help Wisconsin lawyers in the practice of law?
  • Is the topic timely? Will it be of broad interest to State Bar of Wisconsin members? Or, is it more appropriate for a special-interest publication, such as a section newsletter?
  • Is the subject matter new, not already covered in Wisconsin Lawyer within the last 12 months?
  • Does the author present ideas in a balanced manner, rather than presenting one side of the issue? If not, is an opposing viewpoint appropriate?
  • Is the article easy to understand? Does it avoid legalese? Does the author assume a level of understanding that may not be shared by the majority of readers?
  • Does the article offer more than what you can find reading the statutes? Does it include helpful analysis? Pertinent citations of authority?
  • Is the article self-promoting, including commercial services, products, or organizations?

Managing editor Karlé Lester will contact the author about a manuscript or query letter's acceptance. Allow three to four weeks for the review. If the editorial advisory board requests significant revision to a manuscript, the revised manuscript likely will be resubmitted for review.

Manuscript Preparation

Submit manuscripts electronically in Microsoft Word for Editorial Board review.

  • Writing Style – Manuscripts should be written in a clear, straightforward, expository style. Avoid legalese. Articles should be written in a narrative, not outline, form. Be concise. Be objective. Present both sides of an issue if there are two sides, or contact a coauthor to present an opposing view. Avoid lengthy editorializing. Whenever appropriate, illustrate points with hypotheticals. Avoid gender-biased language.
  • Length – Feature articles should not exceed 2,500 words, excluding endnotes and author's biography. Take only enough space to adequately cover the subject.
  • Appropriate Attribution/Copyright Clearance – If material is quoted from another publication, quote exactly. Material taken from another publication must be credited to the original author, whether quoted or abstracted. Contributors are responsible for obtaining copyright clearance. Authors also warrant that the article is his or her original work and does not infringe on the rights of any person or organization. In addition, authors must inform the editor if the proposed article has been published or is being considered for publication elsewhere. Wisconsin Lawyer does not review articles submitted to other publications but will, on occasion, consider reprinting an article of exceptional content.
  • Endnotes – Because Wisconsin Lawyer is not a scientific/scholarly journal, lengthy citations are not required. Thus use endnotes sparingly and limit them to citations only. The editors likely will cut all other endnotes. If it needs to be said, it should be included in the article's text. See Endnote Policy.
  • Titles – The author should suggest a concise title for the submitted manuscript. The title may be reworded by the editors. Type the name(s) of the author(s) after the title.
  • Introduction and Conclusion – All manuscripts should include both an introduction and a conclusion. Tell readers about the article's content early on. A conclusion should summarize the article's main thesis and any final thoughts or concerns the author has about the subject matter.
  • Subheads – Use subheads in the text when appropriate to divide the article into smaller, more digestible parts. Place subheads flush left. Lowercase all words except the first word of the subhead and proper nouns.
  • Author Biography/Photo – Include a brief biography (in narrative form) at the end of the manuscript. Submit professional photos electronically after the manuscript is accepted for publication. See Submitting Professional Photo
  • Graphics – Tables, charts, graphs, and illustrations must be pertinent to the understanding of the article. They should be included in the text for placement purposes, and also attached separately as a 300 dpi, 3" x 5" JPEG. When citing graphics in the text, refer to them as figures and number them consecutively. The chart, graph, or table should include an exhibit designation and title (for example: Figure 1: Sample Fee Agreement).

13 Tips for Writing an Article from the Wisconsin Lawyer Editorial Board

  1. Keep it simple. Don't aim for a law review article – that format is for one expert talking to another. Assume that your audience probably has some, but not extensive, knowledge of the topic and wants to be further informed.
  2. Use examples. If you are citing a case, give enough of the facts so that your point will be illustrated. If you are postulating, give a hypothetical that shows how your theory applies.
  3. Watch your structure; good grammar counts. Short sentences are better than long, complicated ones. Good organization makes it easier to understand your point.
  4. Keep your audience in mind. You are writing for other lawyers, not for a client publication.
  5. Write for a broader legal audience. Highly specialized articles have their place, but it is probably not in a magazine distributed to all members of the State Bar of Wisconsin.
  6. Be newsworthy. Developing legal topics make for good articles. The use of DNA in criminal cases and death with dignity issues are not only interesting to the general public, but the legal issues involved are worthy of discussion among members of the bar.
  7. Tell a good story. Human interest pieces have a place in Wisconsin Lawyer.
  8. Cite authority. An author's opinion of the law, even if the author is very experienced, is not the same thing as appropriate authority. Also, our readers appreciate references to source of more information on the article topic.
  9. Don’t write in the first person. Unless you are a judge writing about your experiences on the bench, keep your style objective and don’t make yourself the focus of the article.
  10. Different subjects may require different style and structure. Technical subjects may require a different format than an article on practicing law in the 1800s.
  11. Be fair and balanced. If you are advocating a position, address valid arguments on the other side. The Wisconsin Lawyer has an editorial responsibility to provide balance. If your article is one-sided, we may suggest a sidebar or a companion article to balance the point of view.
  12. Use charts, illustrations, and tables. Just as organizational techniques may make your point clearer, visual aides work. A picture (or graph) may indeed be worth a 1,000 words. A table is often an efficient way of summarizing many detailed legal points.
  13. Start with an inquiry letter. Write to Wisconsin Lawyer to determine our interest in the topic before you expend significant efforts in producing the draft article. A good inquiry letter explains the goal and scope of the article, why the topic would be of interest to Wisconsin lawyers, and a bit about your qualifications to author an article on this topic. You may get feedback on the query that will improve the article.

Submitting Final Manuscript

Email the final article as a Microsoft Word file to managing editor Karlé Lester.

The editor will confirm receipt and assign a publication date. Prior to publication, articles are edited to conform to Wisconsin Lawyer style. Authors will have an opportunity to review the edited manuscript before publication. To meet the press date, authors must turn these reviews around quickly.

Accepted manuscripts become the property of the State Bar. Professionally taken four-color and black-and-white photos are optional – but encouraged – and should be submitted electronically.

Submitting Professional Photo

Submit professional photos electronically. Photos will be archived at the State Bar for future use. (Photo tip: A solid background, such as a blank wall, reproduces better than a busy background, such as a bookcase.) Please submit 3" x 5" electronic JPEG photos with 300 dpi resolution. Do not provide photos taken directly from the Web because they do not reproduce adequately in a print publication. (Hard copy photos are acceptable, but will not be returned.)

Author Recognition/CLE Credit

The Communications Committee selects one article each year to receive the Hon. Charles Dunn Author Award in recognition of writing excellence in Wisconsin Lawyer. A recognition plaque is presented to the author(s) during the State Bar's Annual Meeting.

Wisconsin Lawyer authors can request up to 10 complimentary issues in which their article appears, depending on availability. Additional issues are $1 per copy. Article reprints will be quoted on request.

Continuing legal education (CLE) credit may be available for substantive Wisconsin Lawyer articles by Supreme Court Rule. The Board of Bar Examiners (BBE) may approve credit for up to 15 hours of actual article preparation time. (However, these credits may be claimed only for the CLE reporting period during which the article was published. A lawyer may not claim more than 15 CLE credit hours for publications during a reporting period.)

To request CLE credit approval for an article, submit a completed CLE Form 4 and a copy of the published article to the Board of Bar Examiners, 110 E. Main St., Suite 715, Madison, WI 53703- 3328. For further information on CLE credit, contact the BBE at (608) 266-9760, gov bbe wicourts wicourts bbe gov, or visit the BBE website.

The State Bar of Wisconsin holds the collective copyright on articles published in Wisconsin Lawyer. Authors are asked to sign a nonexclusive license allowing the State Bar to publish the article in Wisconsin Lawyer and to distribute the work by other electronic means.

Permission is required before an article can be copied or reproduced in another publication. The State Bar generally grants reprint permission to nonprofit organizations and those requesting reprint permission for noncommercial, educational use. Reprints will credit the Wisconsin Lawyer in the general form "Reprinted with permission of the (month/date) Wisconsin Lawyer, official publication of the State Bar of Wisconsin, and the author."

Wisconsin Lawyer articles periodically are selected for inclusion on the Westlaw database, under an agreement with the State Bar of Wisconsin. Westlaw will contact authors for permission.

Editorial Staff

org jhastings wisbar Joyce R. Hastings, Director of Publications/Editor, (608) 250-6126
Karlé Lester, Managing Editor, (608) 250-6127
org pkraemer wisbar Peter Kraemer, Publications Coordinator, (608) 250-6139