The story details how the 100 largest law firms in the country have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, a health crisis and economic downturn that has brought chaos to the legal industry. Meghan Tribe built a database from scratch to track a wide range of pay cuts, layoffs and furloughs. Jasmine Han used the information to create a pair of interactive, searchable and shareable graphics (updated twice weekly) that continue to gauge how those moves are changing. You can see the graphics here. Together, they a thorough vetting of vital information about how the industry’s top players are navigating the
Together, the story and graphics give readers a thorough vetting of vital information about how the industry’s top players are navigating the pandemic. The graphics allow readers to freely explore the data and generate their own insights by incorporating data points such as profits per lawyer. The project goes beyond the individual news of what each firm is doing to provide in-depth and visualized information about how the industry is weathering the pandemic.
We used Google Sheets to keep track of different measures law firms took. Then we used R to process the data from googlesheet and include data points from other sources. Flourish, a free platform, was used to generate the interactive graphics.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Managing the ongoing data collection in googlesheet was a challenge. The first aspect is human errors. When reporters input information in googlesheet, they tend to add notes or texts, which makes the data hard to analyze. We added strict rules for the data fields and added fields for details and notes, so that those information can be referenced later. The second aspect is to keep track of the dynamic updates. Some law firms rolled back some of the measures they initially announced. We wanted to keep track of the latest status quo but don’t want to lose historical records. To that end, we created a separate googlesheet for rollbacks, and we kept a snapshot of the two googlesheets every week. The effort was proven useful for the follow-up stories.
What can others learn from this project?
All the tools and technologies we used were free and available to anyone. Journalists from newsroom with constraints in resources can also create their own database and generate beautiful data visualization and storytelling.