In my last two posts I explored the rate of new lawyer production in terms of the inverse number of attorneys per capita that could be sustained by graduation rates (expressed in terms of one lawyer for every X-amount of people) using the assumption that a new lawyer would want to practice for 40 years. Let's call this number the Sustained Inverse Lawyers Per Capita, or SILPC.
I was curious about the historical trend, so I conducted a study and was surprised to discover that the law schools have been overproducing lawyers for almost 40 years! In other words, the rate of production in terms of SLPC has averaged one lawyer for every 171.9 people since 1973. I knew that lawyer overproduction had been a problem for decades, but I had never imagined that it was this bad! I had previously assumed that the SILPC had decreased steadily over time, but apparently this is not the case.
I calculated this data using U.S. Census Data for the U.S. population and ABA statistics for the number of JDs awarded each year since 1963.
Assuming that, on average, a lawyer would want to practice for 40 years, SILPC = Population / (JDs Awarded * 40)
|Year||JDs Awarded||US Population||Inverse Lawyers Per Capita (SILPC)|
From 1963 to 1970 the SILPC decreased steadily until a huge jump occurred between 1971 and 1973. The worst year was 1983 when the rate bottomed out at 161.0. Perhaps the market was able to comfortably absorb this amount of lawyer overproduction in the Sixties and Seventies. Presumably, new attorneys have suffered difficulty finding career-building entry-level jobs and earning a living practicing law since the late Seventies or early Eighties, but the Internet was not available to chronicle it. It is also possible that lawyers were more easily able to obtain upwardly mobile white collar jobs in those decades at a time before hordes of people went to college. In other words, the Law School Scam took root 40 years ago.
If I can obtain the data, I would like to plot the number of attorneys who maintained licenses every year since 1963. A plot of the data shows that JD production has outpaced U.S. population growth by a tremendous margin since 1963:
This last chart expresses U.S. population growth and the growth in the amount of JDs awarded as a percentage since 1963. So, a data point of 50% population growth would mean that the population had increased by 50% since 1963. A data point of 300% JDs awarded means that the number of JDs awarded that year was four times the number awarded in 1963. (A number of 0% would mean that the number is the same as it was in 1963, and a number of 100% would mean that it was double the amount in 1963.)
March 11, 2011. I want to clarify that the 40 year average lawyer-to-population ratio that new JD production can sustain (which I eventually calculated to be 1 lawyer for every 171.9 people) is NOT the same thing as the actual lawyer-to-population ratio. The number I calculated for a given year of new JD production would only reflect the actual lawyer-to-population ratio if the U.S. population remained the same for the following 40 years. This is because while the U.S. population continues to increase, the number of JDs produced in a given prior year is static and cannot increase proportionally with population growth.
Consequently, Using ABA and BLS stats, the actual lawyer-to-population ratio is about 1 lawyer for every 215 people (only counting JDs minted over the past 40 years).