Alison Frankel shares her unique insight

Get to know how Alison approaches her daily column – and more

A conversation with Alison Frankel 

In this series, we're introducing you to some of the talent and experts that contribute to Thomson Reuters Legal News, which is comprised of Reuters Legal News and Westlaw Today. Thomson Reuters Legal News provides you with tailored and immersive news experiences that meet you, when, where and how you need legal news.

Let’s meet Alison, a legal columnist with Reuters.

Where do you get the ideas for your columns?

From everywhere. First of all, my favorite ideas come from lawyers who get in touch with me, whether it’s by email, or via Twitter, or by calling me up and saying “Hey, have you looked at this?” Those are my absolute favorite story ideas. But, other than that, I read everything I can about what’s happening out there in the world I cover, I talk to people as much as I can, I’m constantly reaching out to folks by email or phone, and ideas can really come from anywhere.

How do you approach your columns?

Most of my columns start with paper—not actual paper, because I don’t even keep actual paper. That’s a huge change from when I started in this business when you would have giant stacks of paper on your desk. But it starts with a filing, an opinion, a letter to the court. 

From there, I reach out to the parties that are involved. Usually, I will start with the lawyers involved in the case, and, honestly, I think that’s a real difference between the kind of legal journalism that I do—and that our journalists do—since I’m always trying to think, “What will a lawyer be interested in?”

And that’s different than what our Reuters business audience is interested in. So, when I’m reading those pieces of paper, that’s what I’m asking myself. When I’m calling up lawyers to ask about their filings or the court’s opinion, that’s what I want to hear from them: why should lawyers care about what’s going on in this case?

What would you say makes for a great column?

My favorite columns are ones where I’m telling you something that you’re not going to hear from anyone else. I look at something that seems one way on its surface and say, “Here’s what’s really going on here. There’s something a lot bigger and a lot more important that’s happening with this development.” 

I look at something that another legal journalist might well report on, then try to find the trend or the legal development that lawyers will see when they read this, and it’s going to make a difference. Even if it’s a case with a limited number of people involved, when attorneys see my column they’re going to say, “Hey, that matters to me. That matters to my practice. This is something I have to pay attention to even though I’m not involved in this specific case.”

You can get daily legal news from a lot of different places, so what I strive for my columns to be is something beyond “This happened.” Westlaw Today brings the “This happened, and here’s why it’s important and why you need to care about it.”

What feedback do you get from readers and how does that shape your column?

The feedback I get that I most appreciate is, “Wow, you write your column from the perspective of someone who needs to know why this is important to them as a practicing attorney.”

I’m constantly trying to keep that in mind—why should someone who has a busy practice with limited time pay attention to what I’m saying? You know, that voice is always in my head, and I always want to give them a reason. I always want them to feel they’re not wasting their time when they read my column every day.

How do analysis and insight play into your column?

It’s everything. You can get the news in a million places, but you can’t get the context. If I’m doing my job, I’m providing you with that insight that you’re not going to find elsewhere.

That’s based on experience, and it’s based on talking to people you know. I think one of the things that makes my job interesting—and, if I’m doing it well, makes my column different than what you’ll find everywhere else—is experienced lawyers, the lawyers who are running the biggest cases; they know me.

So, if I reach out, they’re going to get back to me in most cases, if they can. I’m going to bring in what they’re telling me about their cases—sometimes not even telling me on the record—but hopefully my work will reflect what I’m hearing from these lawyers who are really leading the biggest cases.

What else should our readers know?

We have a fantastic team of journalists covering the law and litigation. I’ve worked with a lot of legal journalists over the years, and truly some of the best people I have ever worked with are part of our Reuters team. I hope people appreciate how talented they are and how distinguished they are from some of our competitors. We have a really experienced team that’s so smart; really, really talented journalists and super-smart people that I’m lucky to have as colleagues.

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Analysis with authority. Not just what happened, but why it matters.