Poking at purported data on high satisfaction among general counsel regarding their careers

In his column for the ACC Docket, Dec. 2011 at 4, Jonathan Oviatt cites “one of the most important findings in the CLO Survey is that 92 percent of CLOs remain satisfied with their careers.” The glow emanating from that cheerful factoid may be completely deserved. Or, it might deserve inspection.

Any statistician would point out that CLOs who were sufficiently dissatisfied to leave their position weren’t counted. A survivor bias of sorts is at work. On further inspection, someone would like to know whether there was a choice of “very satisfied” or “completely satisfied.” If so, the luke-warm “satisfied” provides thin gruel. If the question was “yes or no, are you satisfied,” 92 percent seems low!

As a third comment, to put much credence on the reported finding you would want to know how many general counsel responded, the demographics of the population, and the survey’s methodology. Then too, if the identical question were asked of a group of other professionals, such as partners in architectural firms or managing partners in accounting firms, would the finding be that in the 90th percentile are satisfied? In other words, maybe most people with good jobs are content with their career. One wonders, too, whether career contentment equals current-position contentment. Lastly, if nearly one out of ten of the top lawyers were not satisfied, doesn’t that suggest a higher level of dissatisfaction might be likely lower down?

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