Ask and Ye Shall Receive

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When lawyers in the corporate finance department of Toronto’s Goodman and Carr realized there was little good information about the Canadian private equity market, they took matters into their own hands.

With the assistance of an outside market research firm, Goodman and Carr commissioned a survey of the Canadian venture capital marketplace to gain the information it could not find.

Not only did the survey turn up a wealth of new information, it also became a nifty firm marketing tool. “People really did welcome the information,” says Michael Herman of Goodman and Carr. “It became a report that everyone in the Canadian private equity market knew about.”

The 2000 survey caught the eye of leading management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., which asked to partner with Goodman and Carr on future surveys. The move further boosted the marquee value of the survey–and the law firm. “Certainly it boosts our stature. It’s given us a certain recognition in the marketplace,” Herman says. Goodman and Carr isn’t the first firm to realize the potential of polling. Firms that have sponsored original surveys say it’s a great way to raise the firm profile, gain mentions in the media and even attract new business.

The first rule of thumb, however, is that the information being collected has to be worthwhile, says Washington, D.C., lawyer Jay Epstien. He chairs the real estate group at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, which commissioned its first survey of real estate trends in April 2004.

The firm already had a ready made database of top level real estate, finance and investment executives to survey, which it had culled from its list of invitees and attendees to its long established real estate conferences. Most of the actual survey work was done in house, Epstien says, though it did turn to an outside public relations agency for some guidance.

The media picked up on the survey, giving the findings widespread attention. It was used in conjunction with one of the firm’s real estate conferences and brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars of business, Epstien says.

Herman cannot directly connect any business to his firm’s survey, but he says it has opened a lot of doors. “You can use the survey to put yourself out there in the marketplace and build the relationships. But you still have to build the relationships,” he says.

Make It About More Than Money

Clara Boza, chief marketing officer for Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, cautions firms not to do surveys purely for rainmaking purposes. Surveys can cost as much as $150,000, she says, and are rarely worth the cost if marketing is the sole motivation.

Since 2004, K&LNG has commissioned a survey of best practices of senior in house counsel. The survey grew out of a monthly question and answer session with in house counsel that it used to publish in a magazine.

The firm wanted to find a more concrete way to demonstrate its commitment to its clients, says Boza, who is based in Washington, D.C., “but it would be disingenuous for me to say that I didn’t hope that it had a salutary effect.”

The law firm hired an outside market research firm to do most of the work, with firm lawyers providing input on questions and possible sources to interview.

Boza says the firm has gotten a lot of positive feedback from clients because it has helped in house counsel run their legal departments more efficiently and effectively.

“The point is to do the right thing by our clients,” she says. “If we are doing the right thing, over time we will have happy clients, and they will continue to give us business and refer others to us.”

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