Footnotes in survey reports

Footnotes are uncommon in law firm research surveys, but they do show up. For example, two reports have them: HoganLovells FDI 2014 has nearly 100 footnotes in its 100 pages and DLA Piper Debt 2015 has 20 in its 30 pages.

Footnotes commonly provide source information, such as note 10 of the DLA Piper snippet below [pg. 14]. The first note illustrates how to include material that the law firm considers secondary to the main text, but worth inclusion. Sometimes footnotes present counter-arguments to statements in the text. Whatever the purpose, footnotes add to the visual complexity of the page and consume some of the page’s “real estate.” On the other hand, they avoid clutter in the text proper.

Here is the DLA Piper snippet.

Some reports put a border above their footnotes. The HoganLovells example (below) puts a column-wide border above the footnotes whereas DLA Piper (above) puts a partial demarcation line. Typically the footnote’s font or size changes from the main text and usually the report numbers them consecutively from the start.

Another design choice would be to put footnote material in the margin next to the text that is footnoted. That style demands more sophisticated layout capabilities and is less familiar to readers. Regarding a third design choice, none of the survey reports found so far have used endnotes in lieu of footnotes. Endnotes are even more scholarly and they require the reader to flip back to peruse them.

Here is a second example of footnote style, from HoganLovells [pg. 12].

Stepping back, footnotes give an academic air to a report. They suggest that the law firm has thoughtfully considered their hierarchy of ideas, promoting some and demoting others. They exude carefulness and intellectual sophistication, but they complicate the demands on readers and might distract them.

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