A survey this blog addressed recently (See my post of Oct. 30, 2006 on an insurance industry study.) gave law department lawyers ten attributes to evaluate. Rather than ask them to “check all that apply” (See my post of Dec. 20, 2005 that castigates this methodology.) but not going so far as to ask them to allocate 100 points among the attributes (See my post of Aug. 14, 2005 that praises this methodology.), the survey chose a third method. It asked respondents to pick the top three from the ten. To ask respondents to pick their top two, three or four of a list vastly improves on the check-all-that-apply technique even if it falls short of – but is easier than – the allocation method.
What bewildered me was that only 88 percent of the respondents ranked in their top three attributes outside counsel’s expertise. Amazing, isn’t it, that 12 percent of the respondents did not see expertise of the law firms they chose as ranking higher than fourth on their personal listing! Perhaps some people answered the survey as if they were taking for granted the capability of law firms, so they focused on what other factors differentiate them. Perhaps “expertise” is too exalted a term for some, a rarely achieved or needed level of extraordinary competence that is not often an attribute that departments need in a firm.