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Is there a way to preserve the format of the legend in an .lyr file in ArcMap?

The legend is simple - bold layer name atop the symbol with no label or description. When I save it as a .lyr file, it instead imports with the header and label and does not keep the layer name at the top.

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No. As the Esri documentation says, a .LYR file:

stores symbology, symbology classifications, labeling properties, scale dependency and definition.

Other than the symbology and classifications, it does not store any information about how the layer is represented in the legend.

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You can save the item's legend formatting as a Style, so you can quickly apply it again/to other items.

Right click legend > Properties > Items > Style > Save

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