Jan Wolfe brings added analysis to legal news

Discover how he leverages the Reuters network to tell the whole story

A conversation with Jan Wolfe

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 Jan, a legal affairs reporter with Reuters.

What does your “typical” day look like?

I have something of a hybrid role in that I write for Westlaw for our legal readers, and I also write for the wire service for the more general public. Like my colleagues, I spend a lot of time just trying to monitor big cases and making sure we’re planning ahead for big court hearings. You can estimate when big decisions might come out based on the typical timeline.

I try to cover cases that change the law and are therefore important to legal readers, and also cases that have big implications for, say, publicly traded companies or for politicians as well.

What does being a part of the Reuters newsroom bring?

Well, it might be a cliché, but we just have so much depth in terms of reporting talent. I don’t know of any news organization that has so many people around the world. We’re drawing on people who have complementary expertise.

In cases where it helps to both understand the law and business, we do that well. By teaming up, we are able to deliver some of the best coverage out there.

We’ve long had a commitment to covering legal news, and so we have a good roster of people who cover legal news and have a lot of experience doing it. Many of them have law school degrees and became journalists.

I think we have always placed a premium on trying to write about legal news in a way that’s accessible and helpful for not just lawyers, but to the public and investors. The breadth of Reuters allows us to do that really well.

How do political coverage and business reporting help legal news?

When we look at something like a docket or we come across a new complaint, because we’re such a big organization with a lot of depth, we are able to draw on our reporters to ask them, “Does this seem like a big deal to you?” 

When we are trying to figure out just how important a dispute is to a company or executive, it just helps to run that by somebody with a lot of experience who can tell you, “Well, you know, I don’t think it’s a strong case because I know the company well, and I don’t think we should take all these allegations at face value, and here’s some analysis we can offer.”

And that’s not something that every news organization has.

How do you incorporate insight and analysis into your writing?

One thing we do really well is analysis, and I think that with a legal audience, that’s probably the most important thing. I think, personally, for investor clients, analysis might not be as important as getting it out quickly and accurately. With a legal audience, it’s not the same. They still need the news quickly, but they want a little more depth because they need to advise clients, and a superficial understanding is not going to cut it.

So, I think with legal news, analysis is really important. Sometimes we’re able to do two stories where we have the spot news story about “here was the court decision,” and then we follow it up with the second story about “here’s what it means.”

Or, if there’s a newly filed lawsuit that’s getting a lot of attention, we might have the 300-word spot story on just what the case says, and then we’ll do a follow up about “here’s some weaknesses in it,” or “here’s why it might get dismissed.”

What else should readers know?

I think the trust principles are a differentiator for us. We have, in general—not just in the legal world, but in the public—a good reputation at a time when the news media is not as trusted as it could be. I think that’s because we are a bit more cautious in terms of sourcing.

The trust principles having to do with fairness are followed, and I think those principles have earned us some goodwill.

When you’re getting a Reuters product, you can have confidence in the accuracy and fairness of it, and that makes me proud to work here.

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