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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 11, November 2008

    Survey Methodology 

    Constructing an unbiased sample. When reviewing survey results, it’s wise to remember one simple rule: A biased sample will produce biased results. It is the goal of every legitimate survey researcher to construct unbiased samples. While completely excluding all bias is almost impossible, several measures can be taken to reduce sampling error.

    A sample should accurately reflect the target population. In this case, the target population was all attorneys in Wisconsin who were identified in the State Bar of Wisconsin membership database as having active status. Due to time and budget constraints, it was necessary to choose a smaller, representative sample that would reflect the larger population of attorneys. To ensure appropriate geographical representation, the sample was stratified, or subgrouped, into six regions based on county. The total sample numbered 6,160 attorneys.

    Looking at the responses. A total of 1,024 usable questionnaires were returned for a 17 percent response rate, including 618 from private practitioners, 257 from government or public service attorneys, and 102 from corporate and in-house counsel. The response rate is what would be expected from a busy, professional audience when no monetary incentive is included and no follow-up mailing of the questionnaire is done. It is important to realize that 17 percent, in this case, reflects the input of more than 1,024 Wisconsin attorneys.

    The questionnaire was designed so that all attorneys were to answer questions in one section, and then private practitioners, government attorneys, and corporate and in-house counsel were to answer questions in separate sections. The results for each section are based only on those who were instructed to answer that particular section. The analysis focused on differences related to practice setting, location, size, and respondent demographics.

    Looking at the respondents. Here is a brief profile of the survey’s 1,024 respondents:

    • Mean age – 48 (mean of State Bar members overall is 46)
    • Median age – 50 (median of all members is 46)
    • Mean and median number of years in practice – 21
    • Gender:
      • Women – 29 percent (31 percent of members overall)
      • Men – 71 percent (69 percent of members overall)
    • County where principal office is located:
      • Milwaukee – 10 percent (26 percent of all Bar members) 
      • Dane – 15 percent (16 percent of all Bar members)
      • Other – 74 percent
    • Size of community where principal office is located:
      • Fewer than 5,000 people – 10 percent
      • 5,000 to 24,999 – 16 percent
      • 25,000 to 39,999 – 8 percent
      • 40,000 to 99,999 – 29 percent
      • 100,000 or more – 37 percent
    • Firm or organization size by number of attorneys:
      • One – 24 percent
      • Two to five – 34 percent
      • Six to 15 – 22 percent
      • More than 15 – 20 percent



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