The plot below shows data on participants per year of lengthy series conducted by five law firms. A facet plot, it gives the data in a separate pane for each firm (alphabetically from Carlton Fields to White & Case). Within each pane the left axis varies for the number of participants in the survey year. For example, DLA Piper top right ranges from below 100 participants to around 300 whereas Davies Ward to its left ranges from 500 to 1,200 participants. White & Case’s survey data is missing participants for 2013 and 2014 so the line breaks. This group covers nine in the series at the maximum and six years at the minimum.
Generally speaking, the upward slope of the lines confirms that series gain participants as they continue over the years. The exception was Davies Ward, which declined from the initial burst of enthusiasm in 2005 but then began a recovery until the firm ceased sponsoring the series after 2011.
If a few more series of at least six years duration had full information on participants, we could more confidently assert that brand recognition and appreciation for a series build over time. Certainly this initial view suggests that to be the case.
Does the longevity of a survey series affect the average number of participants in the series? This is likely to be too crude a question, because the target populations of series differ significantly. Then too, firms might modify their questions as the series goes along rather than repeating the same questions, which could affect participation. A series might bring on different co-coordinators or change how it reaches out for participants. If we could control for factors such as these, which might swamp changes in participant numbers arising simply from annual invites, content, and publicity, we could make some headway on the question, but the data for that level of analysis is not available. Also, averaging participant numbers over the years of a survey series may conceal material ups and downs.
Moreover, of greater usefulness to law firms would be knowing whether numbers of participants tend to increase over the life of a series as it becomes better known and more relied on.
We plunge ahead anyway. To start, consider the series that have been sponsored by a law firm for four years or more. We know of 21 as are presented in the plot below. The color coding from the legend at the bottom corresponds to how many surveys have been in the series (some of which are ongoing). The color coding moves from midnight blue for the four-year series to the lightest (yellow) for the longest-running survey (13 years).
As we speculated above, a regression of how many years a survey has been conducted against average participants provides no insight. Other factors than the number of years a survey series has run influence the number of participants more.
Many firms conduct surveys in an annual series. To add a nuance, we have encountered a handful of examples of two surveys per year, such as by Haynes & Boone. Most of them do so each year on the same topic but lapse after three or four years.
The plot below shows all series identified to date as a histogram of how many surveys have appeared in the series. So, for example, five series have continued for thee years (the second column from the left). The plot visualizes a total of 187 research surveys by 32 law firms. Of those firms, two have sponsored at least three series (CMS and DLA Piper). Seven other firms claim at least two series.
Stated differently, just under half of all the research surveys found to date (349) are part of a multi-year series. A handful of the series were interrupted for a year but most of them were continuous.
As can be seen from the left-most column, 16 of the series either carried on for only two years, or 2018 may be their second year and we do not know how long they will continue. On the far right looms the Methuselah of all series, the 13 year run by Dykema Gossett on merger and acquisition activity. Overall, law firms have demonstrated admirable consistency and commitment.