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Alternative Law Journal

Alternative Law Journals (AltLJ)
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Boulton, Liz --- "A Journal Ran My Life" [2006] AltLawJl 44; (2006) 31(4) Alternative Law Journal 185

A journal ran my life

I began working as Editorial Coordinator for the Legal Service Bulletin in January 1983. This issue of the journal is the 140th I have produced and it is my last!

The 24 years I have worked on the journal has been a period of enormous technological change in publication production processes. In 1983 I used my own dining room table to spread out the layout boards for checking. Corrections involved trimming tiny lines of type and sticking them over the mistakes. In 1983 I had to do the rounds of the typesetter, layout artist, cartoonists, and printer. In 2006 I don’t leave my office — everything is done from my computer. I’m no longer reliant on post and couriers — one click of the mouse and a pdf proof is in the inbox of the author.

The first National Meeting of Editorial Committees I attended in Sydney in 1983 was somewhat overwhelming for a naive kiwi lass. The sparkling intellects of the participants, who have now moved on to illustrious careers (judge, QC, broadcaster, dean, professor etc), made for spirited discussion. I learned the meaning of the word dendrophiliac and the minutes are sprinkled with ‘tree’ puns and make very amusing reading.

A publisher always opens a new publication with some trepidation. No matter how hard you try, errors always slip through. One such is indelibly etched on my memory — the issue with two major typos on the cover. I had found them before printing and took the corrected lines of type to the printer to paste over, but I didn’t wait to check it was done. We had to live with the typo ‘inteuectually’ in 36 point bold.

Not long after this embarrassment, a carefully handwritten letter arrived in the post from a subscriber, Gwenda Mayberry, postmarked Queensland. The letter said in part:

It was your most recent edition on medicine and the law which finally made me decide to write to you and express my disappointment in your journal. Not only was this edition late, as indeed are all the others, but it was given the wrong issue number and on the front cover the word intellectually was incorrectly spelt. I believe this was a deliberate slight at those less fortunate in our community as the topic being introduced was about sterilization of the disabled. I am in the process of writing to the Commissioner for Human Rights to see whether something can be done about this.
PS: I will also send a copy to the premier of Queensland.

I was puzzling over a reply to the disgruntled reader when my room mate revealed it was his hoax …

In 1992 the Legal Service Bulletin changed its name to Alternative Law Journal. It took years to reach agreement on a new name. We used to be annoyed that many subscribers thought the journal’s name was the Legal Services Bulletin. But after the name change, to our chagrin, many call it the Alternate Law Journal!

Maintaining subscriptions has been a challenging part of my role. The best reason I received for a cancelled subscription was:

For many years I have received and read the Legal Service Bulletin and more recently the Alternative Law Journal. As I am now the Governor of Victoria, I do not have the opportunity to read the legal journals which I have received during my professional career. For that reason I wish to discontinue my subscription. I congratulate all who have been concerned with the publication over the years. I have found it a valuable source of information and insight.
R E McGarvie

Since the AltLJ became a refereed journal in 1997 authors have been more likely to come from academia than from legal practice or community legal centres. This has resulted in a shift in emphasis from political/activist to more mainstream, and an increasing focus on human rights. However, the core issues of access to justice for the disadvantaged, the delivery of legal services, and legal education— both for the community, and for law and legal studies students — remain clearly in the journal’s focus.

Working for the ever-changing State editorial committees (all volunteers) has meant I’ve had many ‘bosses’ and work colleagues over the years. The AltLJ has thrived for 34 years and for most of that time has employed a rotating editor system. The role of Editor changed with each issue, moving around the State editorial committees and helping to provide a national focus in the journal. I thank all those editors and committee members — far too many to mention individually. It has been a privilege to work with you.

I welcome Deb Candy to the role of Editorial Coordinator and wish the journal continuing success.


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