Despite having launched a complete redesign of InsideCounsel in early 2006, editor-in-chief Robert Vosper can trace its inspiration to the collapse of the energy firm Enron in 2001. That company’s demise, and the worldwide coverage, helped solidify and popularize the corporate general counsel’s emerging role as a C-suite player. Consequently, InsideCounsel, a 40,000-circulation magazine targeting in-house corporate lawyers, had finally outlived its former tabloid format and Corporate Legal Times name. The redesign has re-energized the staff and sparked new interest from the market to the tune of a 15 percent rise in one-year direct requests.

The Problem
The acquisition of sixteen-year-old Corporate Legal Times by Wicks Business Information (which itself was bought by Summit Business Media in July) helped kick Vosper’s long awaited redesign into high gear. "We never had the resources and I don’t think anybody had the stomach for a redesign," he says. "So when Wicks acquired us they gave us the resources to do it."

Top priorities focused on losing CLT’s tabloid format, which interfered drastically with editorial content. The magazine never was a news-driven publication, but the layout shoe-horned the content into an unwieldy format and a misleading presentation. Stories jumped all over the magazine, departments never had a consistent order issue-to-issue and there was a distinct lack of entry points. "It was very hard for the reader to navigate through the magazine because everything got switched around," says Vosper.

The Execution
Vosper felt that years of cultural and institutional barriers would block any meaningful progression on the project, so he hired Kelly McMurray, an outside designer with design firm 2communique, to execute the redesign on a budget of $30,000. "There was still some of the original crew and they were still married to the old format and design, so we felt it would be easier to bring an outsider who would be unbiased and give us a much better idea of what we needed to do," he says.

Vosper spent a good part of the summer of 2005 going over ideas with the designer. Stories were shortened and charts, sidebars and more frequent use of bullet points helped create a healthier variety of entry points into the magazine. The news section in the front of the book was lengthened, profile formats were changed from a narrative to a Q&A format, and a new department that reviews executive "toys" was added to the back of the book.

A new emphasis was placed on acquiring original illustrations and graphics, and doing custom photo shoots, which drove up the per-issue budget from $1,500 to $6,000.

The new design has refocused everyone on the mission of the magazine, according to Vosper. "When you’re on a monthly schedule it’s like being on a treadmill and I think the redesign made us get off that treadmill, and re-evaluate what we were doing from an editorial standpoint," says Vosper. "It re-energized the editorial team and the sales staff have a much easier time when they walk into the door of an advertiser."

Name: InsideCounsel
Owner: Summit Business Media
Circulation: 40,000
Frequency: Monthly
The dilemma: The magazine’s size and format poorly represented its content.
What they did: Dumped the tabloid format for a more traditional size and boosted the art budget to better showcase its editorial content.