I’m more than a little sheepish about the egg on my face this week. But I’ll own it, completely.
A now-deleted blog I posted Wednesday said some data submitted for Crain’s list of largest statewide law firms, in the April 9 issue, was intentionally inflated. It wasn’t. That was wrong of me to say, and Crain’s policy is always to take responsibility for any errors we make. I had hoped to make that clear before, but I didn’t and I apologize.
I wrote the blog because errors in our surveying process for the list led to errors in a Reporter’s Notebook column, on Page 11 of the same issue.
Here’s what happened.
Every year, our research staff sends surveys to law firms asking for the information we use in our published list. Our goal is to measure law firms by the number of full-time attorneys, and so we ask the firms to separate out the number of “of counsel” attorneys in their statewide totals.
In past years, we didn’t ask firms to do the same for their worldwide employment, so this year we added specific language to make it clear not to include “of counsel” attorneys. Unfortunately, we compared those new, “of counsel”-free worldwide numbers with numbers from the previous year, which sometimes included “of counsel” attorneys.
That made it look as if some law firms had fewer attorneys than a year ago, when, in fact, they didn’t.
I first became aware of the difference in our surveying when some of the law firms called to say that their employment hadn’t decreased. In my haste to rectify the matter, I made assumptions that I shouldn’t have. That’s indefensible, and I am sorry.
The comparison error did not affect the rankings on the list. But those supposed declines were used as a launching point for my story, which said that Michigan’s top 25 law firms saw a net decline of about 4.5 percent of total attorney headcount. The story tied that decline to an increase in the amount of legal work companies are doing in-house, rather than contracting out to law firms.
As it turns out, though, the decline was really only about 1 percent, which is more or less flat.
So, although the amount of legal work companies are doing internally appears to be rising, it apparently isn’t having a noticeable effect on law firm employment.
We try hard at Crain’s to get it right, and we’re sorry that didn’t happen this time. We’re working hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.