Why does the bar want to know? Well, it’s to update their periodic Economics of Law Practice in Arizona Report of how lawyers are doing financially in the Grand Canyon State. The Bar then turns around and sells the survey results. On its website, it advertises that, “At the $125 member rate, this report is a fraction of the cost of similar reports.” Non-members pay $250 a copy. The thing is, I’m not sure a survey is necessarily in order, even if the Bar’s last report, now dated, is from the comparative salad days of 2007.
According to a Law.com report, in 2009, “the American Bar Association surveyed state and local bar associations to find out how the recession has affected their operations and what they were doing to help members cope. Most respondents — 72 percent — reported that they now had dues waivers and payment plans for members facing financial hardship, while 34 percent offered career counseling and 21 percent offered personal counseling.”
Then last month, came the news that the ABA will cut dues for many lawyers not at big firms.
20 minutes of your time.
Notwithstanding dues waivers, payment plans, and benevolence elsewhere, the Grand Canyon Bar obviously thinks it needs a member survey to figure things out.
The Bar’s email says it takes 20 minutes to complete their survey. A New York radio station used to say,“Give us 20 minutes and we’ll give you the world.” But in the case of the Arizona Bar, give them 20 minutes and they won’t give you the world. Instead, they’ll turn around and sell the results back to you.
That and 50 cents will get you a cup of coffee.
Free beats “A fraction of the cost.”
When the Arizona State Bar characterizes its report as such a deal, it’s likely using Altman Weil’s survey at $495 as a frame of reference, e.g., Small Law Firm Economics Survey, 2008 Edition. But realistically, the solo practitioner or small firm lawyer may not care an iota about that self-serving frame of reference. More relevant is that the data is available at no cost, especially if you’re a lawyer that cares enough to be a survey-taker.
The concept of providing a benefit, especially one at no-charge, is not unheard of. Other state bars, for example, do understand the still novel concept of having a customer-focused orientation. Those state bars provide similar reports to their members and to the public gratis, gratuitement, frei, or in other words, FREE. Free always trumps “a fraction of the cost.”
The New York State Bar, for example, provides online access to The 2004 Desktop Reference on the Economics of Law Practice in New York State. And the Michigan Bar readily provides its Summary Report while just next door to Arizona, the New Mexico Bar makes freely available its State Bar of New Mexico Economic Survey.
Yet another state bar, in Wisconsin, gladly tells you what you need to know about the practice of law in the Badger State at Wisconsin Lawyer November 2008: The Economics of Practicing Law: And not to be outdone, if you want to know how lawyers fare in Ohio, let the Ohio Bar effortlessly tell you at The Economics of Law Practice in Ohio, a Desktop Reference for 2007.
A tip of the hat.
Anytime you have excess revenues over outlays, it’s called net income or better yet the more apt word the Bar probably wants to avoid, “profits.”
So here’s a tip of the ole’ hat for obvious fiscal prudence. Like the airlines and their incremental nickel-dime fees for baggage, meals, exit seats, stand-by and seat upgrades, the bar probably subscribes to the notion that every little bit helps on the road to profitability.