I am a member of the Indiana State Bar Association and part of the organizing committee for the Annual Solo & Small Firm Conference. I got involved with this effort several years ago when I attended the annual conference in preparation for my Law Firms course. It is a remarkable group of professionals who have taught me a lot about the many soft and hard skills necessary to build a successful and satisfying law practice. Therefore, when the group asked me to conduct a member survey of financial and billing practices, I was happy to reciprocate.
But here is the hitch: we did not have much of a budget. Remarkably, thanks to a wonderful web utility called SurveyMonkey.com, lack of funding is becoming less of an obstacle for survey research. Here is a copy of my 35 question survey to ISBA members, which was approved by Indiana University's IRB committee (as a side note, my total time allocation to get IRB approval was eight hours--far from a horror story). Responses to the survey were generated via an email from the ISBA Executive Director that solicited member participation. That email contained a link to the Study Information Sheet (an IRB requirement), which was hosted on the ISBA website. A link to the actual survey was placed at the bottom of the Study Information Sheet.
For a whopping $360 (for a full-year premium service subscription) payable to SurveyMonkey.com, I got the following:
- A wonderful survey tool with easy-to-use drop down menus;
- A secure, encrypted Internet connection for each survey respondent (without this option, the price drops to $240);
- The ability to view preliminary results in real time;
- A large digital file of results that could be readily imported into Excel, SSPS, Stata, or another statistical program;
- 1,280 respondents.
Frankly, it is too early to tell whether our solicitation method produced a biased sample. (And if so, we may be able to fix that through a weighting methodology based on what we know of the whole ISBA population.) But the preliminary results are certainly encouraging. The new economics of survey research made this possible. FYI, if I used the Indiana University Survey Center to conduct this poll, the total cost would have been in excess of $8,000.