rblog

How pictures paint a thousand words

By Debra Malpass on 31 August 2017

The work we do here at the SRA allows us to explore and discover new things about the legal services market. We use many different research techniques to do this, ranging from statistical analysis of the data we hold, to large scale surveys and in-depth interviews with people and businesses. We use each of these techniques in different situations as they all allow us to find out different things. We use our findings to inform the way we regulate and what we prioritise. We also take what we learn and feed it back to solicitors and the public. This helps to show that we are transparent and make evidence-based decisions. It is important therefore that we present all our findings in a simple, engaging way.

For this, we frequently use infographics, which help us present the results of our research in a visually appealing way. You have probably seen examples of infographics on many a leaflet, report or social networking platform. At a glance, you can learn quickly about a subject without reading the whole report, and a picture can be worth a thousand words.

Making ourselves clear

Within our team, we have two data visualisation specialists. Their job is to translate our research and analysis into something accessible and clear. This is not always an easy thing to do, and there are many challenges in portraying complex issues in an engaging way. We share some of our favourites below. Hopefully these will tell you something you didn’t know about the legal market, and they might inspire you to create some of your own.

Some examples

We find that statistical infographics are helpful in summarising the key findings of a report, and they allow us to condense a lot of information into a short space. The example below is part of a one-page spread covering the legal landscape of 2016. We used the full version of this infographic in the Risk Outlook 2016.You can also take a look at the full infographic (PDF 1 page, 559KB), which includes information on the size of the market, changes to our regulations, and firm innovation.

Legal need image

A further example provides a comparison of the diversity of SRA-regulated law firms, when compared with the general working population. We used this in the Risk Outlook 2017 report.

risk-blog-people

 

Timeline Infographics help to show progress of information over time. The infographic below, for example, plots the key milestones in the process of rolling out the Solicitors Qualifying Examination.


risk-blog-timeline

 

Research methods

As we expand the research tools at our disposal, we have found that graphics can be an effective way of explaining how new techniques work. For example, we have started to use randomised controlled trials as part of our behavioural insights research, and used the chart below to explain the testing process in a previous blog.

risk-blog-test-group

 

It is important that our messages get through and are understood. Using graphics to visualise data helps us to do this. We will continue to explore new ways of presenting ideas through visual tools, and hope to have some new methods to share with you in the future.

We are not the only ones with a need to convey complex information to a key audience however - those of you in the profession will also have to explain complicated processes to clients. Maybe this post has inspired you to think about where graphics could help you by visualising the work you do, for example using the key milestones idea in a client care letter.

This will of course depend on your business model, and of course some of you might already be doing this. For those who aren’t, perhaps it's worth exploring this idea if it shows clients exactly what they should expect to happen and helps manage their expectations.

Debra Malpass