Not only are the sheer volume of surveys and breadth of surveying firms remarkable, but the topics studied range widely. Some explore broad concerns, such as worldwide legal risks, while some address narrow niches, such as telemedicine. A coding of survey topics assigned them as those relating primarily to (1) a practice area, such as employment discrimination or tax; (2) current events, such as Brexit or the GDPR; (3) the legal profession, such as outside counsel management or innovation by law firms, and (4) industry, such as manufacturing or technology suggests provides one perspective.
The plot below presents the breakdown from almost 350 surveys uncovered to date. The column chart shows how many surveys fall into each of the four meta-topics.
For example, 150 were classified as focused on an area of law, which we labelled as “Practice” surveys. To convey the relative proportions of each of these four meta-topics, the column widths are scaled by the number of surveys.
Someone could conceivably categorize the surveys by the scope of their research (narrow, broader, average, wide, and large, for example). Coding on that basis, it would soon become clear, introduces too many subjective judgments for the end result to have much meaning. How would one rank “Indianapolis and Social Entrepreneurship: An Examination and Recommendations for the Future” [Taft Stettinius Entrep 2018] as compared to “GDPR Readiness Report” [Technology Law GDPR 2017]? Perhaps a measure in line with total dollars involved in the survey topic or the number of employees involved? Even if the meta-topics are taken to be correctly (and meaningfully) assigned, within a meta-topic the same challenges would exist. The methodological obstacles to reaching consensus on a categorization of scope loom very large.