Market Research

With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes


The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was exceedingly proud of his own observational and deductive skills. Once, while with friends at a restaurant, he boasted that he could usually tell someone's occupation from just a brief observation of that person. When challenged to demonstrate this skill, Doyle stopped the first man walking by his table and attempted to identify his occupation.
After a brief scanning of the person's attire and physical characteristics, Doyle said, "You play in an orchestra." When the man acknowledged that he did, Doyle's friends, in amazement, asked how he came to that conclusion.
"His protruding lips, his baggy cheeks and large chest indicated this man engaged in excessive intake and expulsion of air, leading me to conclude he played a musical instrument. By the way, young man, which instrument do you play?"
"The drums", was his response.

With this anecdote George Kress of Colorado State University opens the definition of marketing research in his textbook on the subject. It is a good place to start because it can apply to two aspects of lawyers and market research simultaneously, depending whether we replace Doyle with a market researcher or an attorney.

In the first application, from the attorney's perspective, replace Doyle with the stereotypical market researcher. Traditionally, the legal profession has eschewed market research, seeing it as inapplicable, unprofessional or, as in the anecdote, ineffective.

In the second application, we replace Doyle with a mythical lawyer and see the anecdote from the perspective of the market researcher. From this view the legal profession avoids market research because they already have all the answers.

The essence of market and client research for law firms is accurately seeing what needs to be seen and understood from the perspective of the prospective client. More beneficial than the 'facts' themselves is the meaning of those facts in the hearts and minds of the important people who hold them, clients and prospective clients.

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