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Law departments, please complete your fair share of those ubiquitous surveys

Many of my posts draw on data from surveys of law departments. Not internal surveys, like those covering employee satisfaction or client satisfaction, but data gathering by vendors and consultants (See among others my posts in 2005 of March 8 – Fulbright & Jaworski, March 26 – head hunters and Abbott Langer, Altman Weil, and Hildebrandt, March 29 – NERA, April 9 – BTI, May 1 – AIPLA, May 4 – NAILM, May 14 – Practical Law Co., May 31 – The Fraser Institute, July 16 – Corporate Legal Times, Aug. 5 — Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, July 30 – CMF (Cameron McKenna), Aug. 27 – Examen, Sept. 4 – Counsel to Counsel, Sept. 25 – Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), Sept. 10 – AMA, Sept. 27 – ACC.) . What’s not publicly reported are benchmarking surveys that law departments undertake.

Aside from my fretting about systemic bias from surveys (See my post of April 9, 2005 about a survey by Serengetti and Aug. 27, 2005 about a survey with IT respondents.), I have to marvel (and cringe, since I trigger some of them) at the flood of surveys that large law departments must receive.

The National Law Journal reported (Sept. 19, 2005 at 10) on Shearman & Sterling’s “annual survey of corporate compliance at the 100 biggest companies” and mentioned a “trend among law firms to use surveys as a way to connect with clients and to create a marketing buzz.” Given the steady rain of surveys, I doubt that law departments feel any of them from law firms affords them another way to improve “connection.”

Even so, I urge law departments to participate in surveys – think of it as a form of pro bono service – because our collective nascent understanding of how to manage law departments urgently needs objective data. Empirical research and hard-headed analysis starts with data collection and the best sources are law departments.

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