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One-third splits are predictable when you ask a group of GCs any question about the future

The Intellectual Property Owners Association (in a report issued in May 2009) asked its members about the number of applications for new U.S. patents they foresaw in 2009. Are you surprised that 29 percent thought they would increase, 41 percent thought they would decline, and 30 percent thought the number of filings would remain unchanged? This finding is in the ABA J., Vol. 95, Sept. 2009 at 15, and it caused me to remember a similar distribution of answers when lawyers are asked to predict the future.

The three-hump pattern showed up in the survey on Legal OnRamp last year where Aric Press and I asked about predictions five years out. On several questions, roughly one-third of the respondents saw an increase – whatever the question, one-third say a decrease, and one-third saw status quo.

Unsurprisingly, when survey respondents have only shallow knowledge, the future is a toss-up. For those kinds of questions, a balance between up, down, and sideways is quite plausible. Try it on the stock market.

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