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  • Lanning Macfarland, Law Bulletin's savior, dies at 94

    The third of five generations at the family-owned company, he was a pioneer in digital publishing.

    Chicago Daily Law Bulletin publisher Lanning Macfarland Jr.

    Lanning Macfarland Jr.


    Lanning Macfarland Jr., a former publisher of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin who saved and then diversified the parent company owned by his family since 1879, died Oct. 30 at his Vero Beach, Fla., home. He was 94.

    Starting at age 28 in 1953, Macfarland led what his firm touts as the nation’s oldest daily courts newspaper—one that didn’t publish for two weeks because of the Great Fire in 1871—and the oldest family-owned business in Chicago. The Bulletin began in 1854 as the Daily Report of Suits, Judgments, Chattel Mortgages, Etc.

    79彩票注册网址With an MBA from Northwestern University, Macfarland had worked for a Texas flooring company and at a financial printer when he joined the struggling family business, now known as Law Bulletin Media. He cut costs and courted lawyers face-to-face, aiming to distinguish the Bulletin from competitors.

    “We gradually ran the others out of business by creating relationships, by producing a better newspaper and by selling the legal profession on the fact that they needed our newspaper,” the Evanston native and World War II Army veteran .

    As early as 1984, Macfarland turned to digital publishing, creating an electronic case management system allowing lawyers to track court procedures remotely. The firm also acquired other publications, among them Sullivan’s Law Directory, Jury Verdict Reporter and the magazine Chicago Lawyer.

    “We just started to buy companies we felt had synergy,” said Lanning “Sandy” Macfarland III, who with his brother Brewster bought Law Bulletin Media from their father in 2005. He declined to disclose revenue.

    79彩票注册网址“Lanning could stretch a penny with the best of them, but he knew when and how to spend, as well,” said Donna Gill, former managing editor of Chicago Lawyer. “He knew how to play his cards close to the chest. When an outsider would approach him with a business deal, he would tell them he had to take it up with his board. Little did they know that Lanning was the board.”

    79彩票注册网址The firm expanded into Ohio, where it publishes three legal journals. A , including Midwest Real Estate News, was recently sold to a former employee, Jeff Johnson.

    One of Macfarland’s boldest moves came in 1988, when he hired Chicago newspaper veteran Bernie Judge to infuse the trade journal with “Front Page” spirit. (Judge died in June at 79.) Macfarland also lobbied to preserve the publication of legal notices, a lucrative legal requirement that cash-strapped governments have been fighting for years.

    79彩票注册网址“Yes, he did have a financial interest in that, but he also was committed to local communities knowing what was going on around them,” said Sandy Macfarland, CEO of Law Bulletin Media. “He helped save ‘public notice’ many times over.”

    Former reporter Jerry Crimmins said the Macfarlands fostered “a healthy atmosphere of good will” for employees, including lore that the senior Macfarland pitched in to deliver editions during a snowstorm.

    Gill added, “In editorial, both for the daily and for Chicago Lawyer, Lanning was a mentor and a father figure, as well as the ship's captain. I was there 15 years and never saw him treat anyone, from the kids delivering the papers to the highest executive, with anything other than courtesy or respect.”
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