Vol. 34, No. 1
The Colorado Lawyer Asked Members What They Need: A Summary of Survey Results
by Arlene Abady
Arlene Abady is Managing Editor of The Colorado Lawyer. She can be reached at (303) 824-5325; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Colorado Lawyer ("TCL") has been in publication since November 1971. It continues to provide members of the Colorado Bar Association ("CBA") with information on substantive law, practice tips, new legislation, court rules and decisions, CBA programs and activities, and more. Over the years, TCL staff and the TCL Board of Editors ("Board") have attempted to keep up with reader needs. One way to accomplish this is to periodically conduct membership surveys and focus groups. For example, in 1997, a telephone survey asked 200 active, resident CBA members to provide feedback on the journal.1
In July 2004, TCL conducted another membership survey; this time, it was distributed via e-mail and "snail mail" to active CBA members throughout the state. Denver and West Slope lawyers also participated in focus groups, where specific questions were asked about TCL content.2
The Board met in October 2004 to discuss these survey results and to determine whether and what changes were indicated. The feedback has been extremely helpful for long-range planning purposes. This article summarizes the 2004 survey results and discusses future options.
Summary of Survey Results
The 2004 survey goals were similar to those for the 1997 survey. It was primarily concerned with obtaining information from CBA members to determine whether TCL was meeting their technology and law practice management needs. Moreover, many of the questions had to do with how useful TCL content is to CBA members in their practices and how they access information and do legal research. In analyzing the data, the Board paid close attention to the feedback on substantive law content and court-related material. Many of the questions asked for written comments, and some of these comments are summarized below. Also, the two focus group discussions provided the Board with some individual perspectives on how members view TCL.
Selected demographic statistics about the participants follow: respondents fell primarily into the 31-59 age range (80%); male/female ratio was 59/41; a large percentage of respondents practice along the Front Range (65%); and a majority were sole/ small firm practitioners from zero to five members (61%). Selected responses about TCL content are presented in the following table.
Summary of Selected Survey Results*
*There was some variation between the e-mail and snail mail survey respondents. For example, the e-mailed respondents were more likely to access information and research online. The e-mailed respondents also represented a higher percentage of Front Range practitioners. However, the Board primarily looked at total percentages to determine trends, so the percentages set forth above reflect combined responses of e-mailed and mailed survey responses.
Several survey questions asked for written comments. Along with facilitator reports from the focus groups, these comments provided helpful feedback for Board consideration, especially on technology issues. The following represents a summary of selected responses to such questions posed in the surveys and focus groups.
What should be included to pique your interest and encourage better readership?
• Articles with enough detail to educate even experts
• Articles of broader scope
• Shorter articles
• More articles in my specialty (such as water, trial tactics, disability)
• Information from districts on local practices
• Legal trends
• Highlights of recent cases
• Forms and procedural templates
• Checklists, bulleted material, and charts
• Solo practice issues
• Nuts and bolts for new lawyers
• Law practice management: time and billing, advanced practice tips
• Case summaries by practice area
• How-to ethics articles
• Updates and changes in the law (by specialty area)
• Articles by judges on what mistakes attorneys make
• Current legislation throughout the year.
What can TCL do to help you with technology?
• Links to technology resources, tips, and websites
• Paperless office information
• Links to local practice information from each district, such as e-filing requirements
• Ways to navigate the CBA website and online benefits
• Links to sites in specialized legal areas, including other legal journals and newsletters
• Tips on software/hardware, personal digital assistants, cell phones
• Technology as it is used in the courtroom, such as displaying evidence to juries
• Law practice management advice, such as on human resources and insurance.
After analysis of the survey and focus group data, the Board made some general conclusions. For example, TCL readers:
1) think the journal does a good job overall;
2) want more help with law practice management and technology;
3) prefer to continue to read TCL content in print form rather than online (but like its availability online for legal research purposes);
4) find the appellate court summaries important, but primarily access full-text opinions online;
5) find substantive law articles in their fields of practice the most useful;
6) like articles to be on a variety of topics;
7) want more checklists, sidebars, charts, forms; and
8) like articles to have different levels of complexity, but prefer shorter articles.
The Board and TCL staff are working to incorporate some of these reader preferences. For example, some of the specialty law columns now include sidebars and charts. In addition, content allocations are being reviewed and adjusted to generate a mix of articles that have more variety, are shorter, and are formatted to include more forms and checklists. There will be a new emphasis on technology and law practice management material, and more attention will be given to Web-based resources. [Readers should note that by summer 2005, all TCL articles published since 1971 will be accessible and fully searchable to members through the CBA’s new Casemaker database.]3
The 2004 surveys and focus groups were conducted as part of an ongoing effort to keep abreast of members’ practice needs. TCL’s mission is to "provide an informational and educational resource to improve the practice of law." The editorial Board and staff encourage readers to keep lines of communication open and let them know what does and does not work (for Board contact information, see page 7 of each issue).4 By working together, TCL hopes to stay on the cutting edge and maintain its mission as a prime legal resource.
1. A summary of those survey results can be found at Abady, "The Colorado Lawyer Readership Survey: A Summary of Results," 27 The Colorado Lawyer 19 (March 1998).
2. E-mail surveys were sent to all active CBA members for whom the CBA has e-mail addresses. Approximately 5 percent responded (more than 500 members). The same survey was mailed to 1,000 members for whom the CBA had no e-mail addresses, with an approximately 10 percent response rate (nearly 160 members). The percentage of responses from both is considered statistically valid for sampling purposes. Focus group participants included members of the CBA Solo/Small Firm Section (facilitated by Reba Nance, CBA Director of Law Practice Management), and Breckenridge-area practitioners (facilitated by Chuck Turner, CBA Executive Director).
3. For more information on Casemaker, see page 10 of this issue.
4. To reach TCL staff, go to http://www.cobar.org/tcl and click on "contact TCL staff."
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