Monday, June 21, 2010

Correction: The number is closer to one lawyer for every 174 people.

I had previously calculated the number of 165 people per attorney erroneously based on a new lawyer production rate of 46,124 new attorneys per year, which is the sum of all law students in the U.S. divided by three.  However, my calculation failed to account for the fact that not all law students will matriculate.  The calculation of 165 was also based on an earlier U.S. population number of 304,060,000.
304,060,000 / (46,124 * 40) = 164.8

Using the number of 44,000 new lawyers per year (as Nando pointed out) combined with the U.S. Census Bureau's population clock and a downward adjustment of 3 million (to estimate the population in June of 2009) , I arrived at a slightly less-depressing number of 174.2. The number of new graduates for 2009 was based on the NALP's number of 40,833 respondents constituting 92.8% of the 2009 class (40,833 / 0.928 = 44,001).

This number is a back-of-the-envelop calculation and depends heavily on the population estimate and exactly when it is counted.  Using the number of 309,557,000 at the U.S. population clock and then estimating a population growth of 3 million people over the past year, we arrive at the figure of 306,557,000 for June 2009.

306,557,000 / (44,000 * 40) = 174.2.

If the population were 300 million then the number would be 170.5. If the population were 310 million then the number would be 176.1.

So, assuming that the number of 44,000 JDs awarded in 2009 is reliable, I think we can safely say that right now the law schools are producing new lawyers at a rate to sustain having one lawyer for every 174 people. Assuming that over time the number of new lawyers produced increases proportionally with population growth then eventually our nation will have one lawyer for every 174 people. However, as is clear from the increase in the lawyer to population ratio that occurred between 2004 and 2009, the increase in the number of new JDs minted each year is outpacing population growth.

------- EDITOR'S NOTE ------- 

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). 


Anonymous said...


I have enjoyed reading your blog, and just launched a blog of my own about the law school scam. Take a look, if you are so inclined.

Nando said...

Yes, we need such a volume of attorneys as people are more willing than ever before to seek out - and pay for - legal help.

Oh wait...actually, clients and corporations are seeking legal representation on the cheap. Never mind.

The Yuppie Attorney said...

It makes sense. Some of the best professions have very very restrictive school or class sizes.
Pharmacy school class 200 people max
Med School class 90 people max
Physical therapy class 75 max
acctg 150 max
You get the drift. There is no reason for law school classes to be 300 people.

Anonymous said...

of course there is a reason to graduate 300 students: how else could BigLaw get anyone to pour over documents in a basement for $10/hr or to pay all the Law School administion, staff and professors? Dah....

Anonymous said...

Hello, I linked in to this blog from the Third Tier Reality Site. I realize this is off topic, but I was distressed to see all the anti-immigrant stuff on the blog. Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion, but I find the recent anti-immigrant sentiment troubling.

Immigrants are key to American prosperity. You specifically mention H-1B visas in the box on the top left. But without those visas, how would the top talent be able to come work in the U.S.? Would you rather the top talent work here and contribute to our economy, or work somewhere else and contribute to that country's economy? I realize I won't change your mind, but I'm hoping to provoke some thought.

Incidentally, I'm considering entering law school in Fall '11. I'm reading the scam-blogs to get some opinions from people who DON'T think law school is a good idea. So thanks for that!

Good luck.

Frank the Underemployed Professional said...

Anonymous, I'm glad you find the part of my blog that deals with legal issues to be worthwhile.

I had originally intended for my blog to cover all sorts of issues related to our nation's decline, but I have since discovered that law school-related matters interest me the most.

I have considered starting a second blog to deal with Global Labor Arbitrage, leaving education issues for this blog, and I might still do that. However, I'm not sure I have the time to keep up with two blogs. For now I see this as being a law school scambusting blog that includes discussion of other issues. In my view, all of our nation's problems, including the problem of lawyer overproduction, are interconnected. (Why do people go to graduate school and law school? Because they rightfully perceive that they cannot find jobs with lowly bachelors degrees and many people lost their bachelor-degree-requiring jobs. Thus, our nation's economic problems are very much related to lawyer overproduction.)

Obviously, I disagree with you that immigrants are the key to American prosperity. I am open to the possibility of allowing the very top talent, the Albert Einsteins of the world, perhaps the top 5% of all H-1B and L-1 visa holders, to stay and become citizens, but the other 95% are not that amazing and are working jobs that Americans should be doing and that Americans could train to do.

I have written volumes about mass immigration at various discussion forums, but I don't want to transform this into an immigration-only blog. If I put up a separate Global Labor Arbitrage blog then immigration would certainly be one of the core subjects. Consequently, I would probably use the Fluster Cucked name for the Global Labor Arbitrage blog and pick a new one for the law school scambusting blog.

Anyway, thank you for patronizing this blog. I hope that you will give very serious consideration to everything that everyone is blogging about before you go to law school. Also, please check out the blog I put up for collecting resources about the legal job market: There you will find links to published essays and news articles about the legal job market.

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