Standardized topics of law-firm research surveys

The topics covered by law-firm research surveys vary widely. To convey that diversity, we standardized the subject of each of the 166 surveys at hand so that similar topics can be aggregated and counted. The plot below shows the standardized topics down the left axis. Twenty-two of them capture the range of survey topics. The number of surveys starts with a single one for three topics (“VentureCapital”, “Infrastructure” and “ESOPs”) and reaches a maximum at 37 (“Industry”). 1

The findings would be distorted, however, if one law firm sponsored a multi-year series of surveys on the same topic, which could not be detected if the bars simply showed the number of surveys. So, the plot breaks each bar into a colored segment per law firm that surveyed on that topic. For example, only one firm surveyed on “BusinessConditions,” the top bar, because it is solid blue with no segments. By contrast, five firms sponsored one or more surveys on mergers and acquisitions (“MandA”), as shown by the five different segments in the second bar down from the top.


Some of the standardized topics need definition. “LegalIndustry” refers loosely to surveys that inquired into how law departments are managing themselves and their outside counsel. “Industry” has the most surveys devoted to it. If a survey looked at the shipping industry, it was standardized as “Industry.” If another survey looked at the transportation industry, it was also standardized to “Industry,” and so forth. The “TradeGeo” bar represents the handful of surveys that looked at international trade regarding a certain country or geographic region.

If we were to group the standardized topics into meta-topics, we might merge “CorpGov,” “Shareholders,” and “Compliance” into something like “Corporation Law.” We might combine “Privacy” and “Cybersecurity” or we might combine “Arbitration” and “Disputes” into “Dispute Resolution.” On the other hand, readers may want to read the titles of the reports and draw their own conclusions about topics.


  1. Some standardized topics combine two words, such as “DomesticRels,” so that the software treats them as a single word.

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