Think Through the Order of Your Series Invitations

Let’s assume that you have conducted a survey previously and are about to embark on the second (or third) in the series. It’s worthwhile to ponder for a moment the order in which you email invitations for the latest iteration. Of course, at the relaunch of the survey you can fire off all your email contacts at once. Many sponsors shoot the works and use their bulk email software to write everyone and their brother, especially if they want to get the report out quickly.

Embellish the Report Sparingly with Design Elements

As with the elements of plots, the design elements in a survey report ought to balance clarity of communication with esthetic appeal. You can splash out on a peacock of colors, shapes and decorative markings but that glamour detracts from conveying the message of the data. You can adorn your report with fancy photos, quotes in side boxes, abstract lines and colors in the watermark, nifty page borders, and text blocks with multiple fonts.

Adjust Compensation Data for Local Cost of Living

Compensation surveys abound in the legal sphere, yet it is common knowledge that the take-home pay of a law firm employee in a low cost-of-living city may be less than that of an identical counterpart in a firm based in an expensive urban metropolis, where the higher pay goes less far. What it costs to pay expenses varies widely between cities, so a nominal pay gap doesn’t fairly reflect comparative costs.

Deploy the Do’s and Don’ts of Data Bar Displays

Of all charts, bar charts appear the most in reports based on law-related surveys. Pie charts are also ubiquitous, but my sense is that bars own first place. Scatter plots, by the way, are rare. So much has been written about effective data visualization that I will suggest just a handful of tenets worth following for bar charts (aka column charts). The plot below comes from Savills’ Law Firm Return-to-Office Survey Results, June 2023, and illustrates several of my points that I make in the text afterwards.

Prevent Breaches of Confidentiality by Triangulation

By the term “triangulation,” I mean the risk that the reader of a survey report pulls together data from different parts of it and thereby figures out an individual’s response. Multiple sources of plots or tables assembled can contribute to a breach of anonymity. Here is an example of triangulation from a survey of law firm COOs about their compensation. One scatter plot shows total compensation increasing from a point for the lowest paid COO on the left to a point for the highest paid on the right.