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A Michigan attorney, former legal publisher and bar leader has been selected by the American Bar Association to head the ABA Journal, billed as the world’s most widely circulated legal periodical. Appointed by the ABA Journal‘s Board of Editors was Danial J. Kim, who most recently served as interim executive director of the State Bar of Michigan. While staffers react well to Kim’s appointment, some lingering concerns remain over the bar insider’s ability to maintain the publication’s traditional editorial independence. The American Bar Association has named Michigan attorney and bar leader Danial J. Kim editor and publisher of its flagship publication, the ABA Journal. A former editor and publisher of Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly, Kim has spent the past four years as deputy director and, since March, as interim executive director of the State Bar of Michigan in Lansing. Expected to be announced in the Journal‘s November issue, Kim begins work at the ABA on Nov. 1. While Kim’s appointment was generally well received by staffers, there are signs that the honeymoon period extended to most new publishers of important trade publications like the Journal will be more closely scrutinized than usual. Based in Chicago, the ABA Journal continues to be considered the world’s most widely circulated legal publication and boasts 381,998 paid and unpaid subscribers. But, despite his background in broadcast news and legal publishing, there are concerns over whether Kim, as a bar association insider, will maintain the Journal‘s reputation for enjoying a large degree of editorial independence. Indeed, freedom from outside influences was consistently urged by Gary Hengstler, who resigned after 11 years as head of the Journal in June to launch a National Center for Courts and the Media at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev. Conversely, there has been an internal membership concern that the Journal has not adequately involved the ABA membership. Kim said Friday he plans to work on both ends of the issue. “The ABA Journal will continue to be a strong independent voice for the profession,” Kim said, adding, “I also believe there is plenty of opportunity for the Journal to take advantage of the … resources of the ABA.” For instance, there is an untapped talent pool of professionals that can either be contributing to the Journal or used as sources of information, he explained. “I’d like to see a good solid relationship develop” between the ABA Journal and the ABA organization as a whole, he concluded. Terry Carter, the ABA Journal‘s senior writer in Washington, D.C., was a finalist by the Journal‘s Board of Editors for the E&P position, but said he has no hard feelings about not getting the job. “I had a good job going into this,” said Carter, who added he has heard nothing but positives about Kim and will be comfortable having him as a boss. ABA Journal staff learned of the appointment when ABA Executive Director Robert A. Stein circulated an internal memorandum Sept. 1. The announcement read in part: “Dan brings experience as a successful editor and publisher in the legal community, as an innovative and effective bar association manager, and as a practicing attorney.” Journal Managing Editor Debra Cassens said the staff is “happy” with the appointment and that Kim seems to have the management and journalism background required for the job. “It sounds like he has the right mix of experience,” Cassens said. “The rumor mill is saying he’s a great person to work with.” A Wolverine through and through, Kim has a 1984 bachelor degree from the University of Michigan. He ventured into broadcast news from 1984 to 1986 at the Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV-TV as an associate producer and writer before returning to his alma matter for law school. After earning his law degree in 1990, he practiced commercial litigation at Detroit’s Clark, Klein & Beaumont, now Clark Hill. In 1992, Kim took a position as editor and publisher at Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly and stayed there until 1996 when he joined the State Bar of Michigan. During his time at the Michigan bar, he helped design and develop the nationally recognized e-Journal, a daily electronic publication complete with case digests and professional news that is sent to some 14,000 Michigan attorneys. The e-Journal was something that attracted the Board of Editors to Kim. Memphis, Tenn., lawyer William H. Haltom, who headed the search committee, said the Board of Editors was “intrigued” by Kim’s development of the electronic publication. “He will build on the work Gary Hengstler did over the last 11 years,” Haltom said, adding that he believes Kim can walk that line between editorial independence and heading the magazine of the association. Kim is in the process of relocating from suburban Lansing, Mich., to Chicago with his wife Mary and their two young children.

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