Since it’s pretty much routine anymore for the State Bar of Arizona to survey its lawyers every three years to put together its Economics of Law Practice Report, I don’t dwell on it anymore. I also don’t participate in the survey, which inquires: “How much money do attorneys in Arizona make? What is the average billing rate? Are attorneys in Arizona satisfied with their choice of profession?
“We need your help to find the answers,” the Bar asks. “These are just a few of the questions that will be answered in the State Bar’s 2013 Economics of Law Practice Survey Report. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a sole practitioner, a big firm partner, public defender or in-house counsel; please help us by taking 20 minutes to complete this questionnaire.” See “Welcome to the 2013 Economics of Law Practice Survey.”
It’s offensive the Bar deigns to impose on an Arizona lawyer’s time by asking them to complete a 20-minute survey and then has the brass to sell the survey data it collects to those very same data points.
Besides, the whole thing is so much spin anyway — not to mention you need a modicum of allowance for the informal rule holding that the integrity of output is dependent on the integrity of input.
But since state bars are pretty much copy-cats of one another, particularly when it comes to getting lathered up over new revenue streams, it’s no surprise that Cheesehead lawyers in Wisconsin are being similarly surveyed and then asked to purchase the fruits of their labors, “Economics of Law Practice in Wisconsin 2013 Survey Report.”
When last I mentioned the Arizona Bar’s law practice economics survey in 2010, “State bar says ‘take our survey so we can sell you the results,” Wisconsin may not have been marketing and selling its economic survey. But then times change and the bureaucratic maw always needs feeding.
And so the Wisconsin Bar has of late been aggressively hustling its own law practice economics report. They’ve been emailing members and have even featured the videotaped ministrations of a marketing maven and encouraged the use of their survey so lawyers can assess their markets. (Hat tip to Wisconsin buddy, The Legal Watchdog).
But at least in Wisconsin, the state bar gives its lawyers a wee break by charging $99 for their report versus $125, which is what Arizona Bar members are asked to pay for their complete results. In both jurisdictions, though, the public pays well north of $200 for a copy.
Frankly, I think the only reason a lawyer might be interested in the results is to learn the net income attorneys in their jurisdiction purportedly claim to be earning. And while the first liar rule is always in effect, the Costanza rule also applies, “It’s not a lie … if you believe it.”
Anti-trust doesn’t apply.
The data is also the only lawful means to uncover what other lawyers are charging without running afoul of posted minimum fee schedules. That stratagem was banned almost 40 years ago by Goldfarb v. Virginia State Bar, 421 U.S. 773 (1975). And more importantly, lawyer fee surveys are also relied upon in support of counsel applications to a court for fee awards.
Thanks to guidelines from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission albeit concerning health-care fee surveys, state bars conducting economics of law practice surveys nonetheless depend on that guidance to ‘safely’ gather member fee survey data.
This allows competitors to provide information on prices and to review the resulting survey data without violating antitrust prohibitions. To qualify, “the data collection must be managed by a third party, not a competitor; the information provided must be at least three months old; the information must be aggregated based on information from at least five participants; and no individual participant can be identified. Conducting information exchanges in this manner would not be likely to raise an inference that prices or fees were set collusively.” And coincidentally this explanation happens to come courtesy of Wisconsin Lawyer: “Shhhh! The Antitrust Risks of Discussing Legal Fees.”
Photo Credits: Blogging fatigue, by Jonas Löwgren at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution; Cheesehead Pat, by Patrick Haney Patrick Hat Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License; Hippopotame (Zoo de Berlin), Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution; Cheesehead, Wikimedia Commons, public domain; twenty-dollar bills.by public domain by its author, Merzperson at the wikipedia project; I Cut the Cheese by Erik Ogan at Wikimedia Commons.