A kudo and a criticism for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart’s 2005 Top of Mind survey

Interviews in the summer of 2005 with 97 “senior decision-makers who help choose outside counsel” were “done in conformance with generally accepted research principles set forth in CASRO and ESOMAR, [and] has a sampling error of +/- 10%.” (From Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham’s Top of Mind 2005 survey) I commend the effort to legitimize results by applying a scrupulous methodology.

What undermines the methodological rigor is the high number of non-lawyers, or officers not in the law department, whose responses were included. The brochure says that the study interviewed “senior in-house counsel in FORTUNE 500 and 1000 companies,” which it did, but not only that group.

The people interviewed included at least 32 – one third of the sample – whose titles suggest that they are not in the law department, let alone lawyers. That third includes 20 CEOs, COOs, and Presidents; another 4 are VPs of Operations; 5 head functions such as HR, CFO; and 3 are “Executive Vice Presidents.”

The major use of outside counsel comes from companies with law departments, and most law departments control the retention of outside counsel. A survey on outside counsel issues, therefore, should mostly solicit responses from senior members of law departments.

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