Five multi-year streaks of research surveys by law firms

As of today, I have collected more than 50 research surveys by law firms. Of the 24 firms represented in that collection, 19 of them appear to have conducted one-shot surveys. They may have conducted more than one survey, but only a single year for any topic. Outsiders have no way of figuring out why the firm chose not to follow a survey with another and thereby start identifying trends and building a brand for the survey.

On the other hand, at least four firms have continued a string of surveys on the same topic through 2017. One firm continued a long series but discontinued it five years ago.

Fulbright & Jaworski began its annual survey of litigation in 2004. The firm merged and is now Norton Rose Fulbright, but it kept up its survey effort through 2017, an astonishing 14 years.

Carlton Fields Jordan Burt began a survey focused on class action litigation in 2012 and has done six annual versions since then.

Littler Mendelson runs a survey focused on the views of executive employers. Begun in 2012, the survey streak has reached the six-year mark.

For the past three years, Haynes and Boone has conducted its twice yearly survey of borrowing base determinations. Even though that constitutes six surveys, the firm has three years under its belt for this reckoning.

Proskauer’s inaugural survey regarding employment issues appeared in 2016 and the firm returned to survey the same topic in 2017.

Another noteworthy streak appears to have ended five years ago. Davies Ward Phillips teamed with the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA) in 2005 for a study of Canadian in-house counsel, called the Barometer. I did some online research and believe the series continued eight years until 2012.

The segment plot below presents this data visually.

Pages of research-survey report devoted to marketing

Once a law firm goes through the effort to design and conduct a survey, then analyze the data and prepare a report, management certainly hopes for a return on that investment. At the top of the list would be calls from prospective clients asking about the firm’s services related to the survey’s topic. Furthermore, the firm would like potential clients to think more favorably of the firm and its contribution to knowledge (the oft-used term, “thought leadership”). Other benefits of surveys come to mind, but this post is about an aspect of marketing: how much space the survey report devotes to touting the firm.

All the reports have a portion that is “About the Firm.” I estimated how much those sections occupied using a notion of full-page equivalent (FPE). Usually, the description of the firm and its services takes a full page or two, which made it easy to count the FPE. Other firms devoted only part of a page to self-promotion, so I estimated the percentage of a full page that the section took up. I did not include forwards or quotes from partners and only considered pages if there were some text about the firm (i.e., not cover pages or back covers that have the firm’s name).

The resulting data is in the plot below, which has converted each of the 16 firm’s FPEs into a percentage of all the pages in the firm’s report.

 

With the exception of the firm at the top, most of the firms were relatively reticent with respect to their self-descriptions. After all, at least they can be expected to include some contact information. If you assume some bare minimum of firm information is justified, then the length of the report significantly determines the resulting percentage. Shorter reports tend to have a higher percentage of report pages devoted to the firm.