On the JD Underground forum a poster suggested that our nation would surpass having 2 million attorneys within 20 years. So, I thought it might be fun to guesstimate when we might actually attain that number, assuming a consistent rate in the increase of JD production, that the federal government and banks will continue to loan students gobs of money for worthless degrees, and that ambitious but naive people will continue to want to enroll in law school (and burden themselves with $120,000-$185,000+ of debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.) Also, as we have done in the past, let's assume that lawyers only stay in the labor market for 40 years.
First, let's determine the rate of the increase in JD production based on data from the past 10 years. To determine the percentage increase, take the number of JD's awarded in one year (year A), subtract it from the number of JDs awarded in the next year (year B) and then divide by the previous year (year A). Then we add up the differences from those ten years and divide by ten to obtain the average increase. I calculate that the average increase is 0.01684 or 1.684%.
|Average Increase||0.01684 or 1.684%|
Without any year-over-year increase the amount of new JD production would be stuck at about 45,000 per year (the number for 2010). At that rate the total amount of JDs in the U.S. would max-out at 1.8 million in 40 years. However, since the ABA continues to accredit new law schools and is even considering accrediting foreign law schools, it seems unlikely that the amount of JD production won't increase.
So, assuming a consistent rate of increase of 1.684%, we can calculate future JD production. (Multiply the previous year's amount of JD production by 1.01684.) Then we need to gather the data in 40 year chunks and add it up.
Thus, by 2035 the number of unemployed and underemployed-involuntarily-out-of-field JDs will be staggering and could conceivably pass the 1 million mark. Will the ABA and/or the federal government ever stop this madness? I highly doubt it.
EDIT. As evidence that this seemingly nonsensical scenario may not be as far-fetched as it may seem, consider the fact that several colleges are planning to open new law schools in the future (and to presumably seek ABA accreditation). Some of the new or planned schools are: Concordia University School of Law, Louisiana College School of Law, University of North Texas College of Law, a law school at Binghamton University, Southern New England School of Law (U. Mass), and Belmont University College of Law.
As long as students can continue to easily obtain loans and law schools continue to serve as university profit centers, more two-bit colleges will want to open their own law schools. 2 million lawyers, here we come.