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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Projected Lawyer Surpluses Worsen: 3 New Lawyers for Every Law Job in 2022

The American Lawyer:  States' Projected Lawyer Surpluses Deteriorate for 2022, by Matt Leichter:

[G]overnment employment projections can provide more insight into the number of future lawyer positions that will be available for prospective law students. In fact, estimates on lawyer employment in 2022 by state are now available, making it possible to update the calculations for the law graduate and lawyer surpluses.

The “law graduate surplus” measures the ratio of ABA law school graduates in each state in 2013 to the estimated annual lawyer job growth rate for the 2012-22 projection period. The “lawyer surplus” makes the same calculation but subs out law school graduates with the number of bar admits in all states and under all circumstances (including those entering on motion).

The law graduate surplus is useful because it uses a discrete number of individuals, but it includes people who never become lawyers while excluding people who join the bar without going to an ABA law school (for instance, by attending a foreign law school). By contrast, the lawyer surplus directly measures people who obtain a law license, except it duplicates many who seek bar admission in multiple states—a phenomenon that is likely to increase in the future as more jurisdictions adopt the Uniform Bar Exam. However, the lawyer surplus does provide information on the large number of lawyers who motion into the District of Columbia bar without attending a local law school or taking its bar exam.

State governments provide estimates of lawyer employment in 2012 and 2022 along with the projected annual growth rate. The following table breaks them down by state (which includes the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) and region as delineated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. ...

Here is a table of the law graduate and lawyer surpluses by state and region, ranked ... by the lawyer surplus for 2013 and compared against 2011.

States with the biggest lawyer surplus:

#

STATE/BEA REGION

NO. ABA LAW SCHOOL GRADS

NO. BAR ADMITS

RATIO ABA GRADS TO ANNUAL LAWYER JOBS

RATIO BAR ADMITS TO ANNUAL LAWYER JOBS

2011

2013

2011

2013

2011

2013

2011

2013

1

North Dakota

81

75

195

267

2.03

1.88

4.88

6.68

2

Alaska

0

0

106

130

0.00

0.00

5.30

6.50

3

New Jersey

783

859

2,844

3,386

1.04

1.41

3.79

5.55

4

Wyoming

73

78

112

157

0.91

2.60

1.40

5.23

5

New York

4,703

5,007

9,855

10,251

2.92

2.55

6.12

5.23

6

New Hampshire

147

107

296

250

2.45

2.14

4.93

5.00

7

District of Columbia

2,116

2,181

3,164

3,120

1.48

3.16

2.21

4.52

8

Maryland

594

600

1,653

1,742

1.49

1.54

4.13

4.47

9

Massachusetts

2,288

2,391

2,416

2,411

3.27

4.27

3.45

4.31

10

Hawaii

101

108

208

206

1.68

2.16

3.47

4.12

States with the lowest lawyer surplus:

40

Texas

2,343

2,323

3,476

3,836

1.44

1.29

2.13

2.13

41

Arizona

490

640

689

906

1.09

1.49

1.53

2.11

42

Colorado

462

437

1,256

1,217

1.36

0.73

3.69

2.03

43

Georgia

896

1,085

1,288

1,377

1.30

1.60

1.87

2.03

44

Washington

657

654

1,148

1,353

1.43

0.98

2.50

2.02

45

Utah

285

292

606

499

1.36

1.17

2.89

2.00

46

Louisiana

797

936

744

533

2.95

3.47

2.76

1.97

47

Oklahoma

462

468

465

463

1.71

1.87

1.72

1.85

48

Delaware

252

279

122

148

4.20

3.49

2.03

1.85

49

Florida

2,998

3,190

3,646

3,476

1.53

1.65

1.86

1.80

Here are the totals for all fifty states:

US (State Data)

43,345

43,591

61,292

63,237

2.04

2.09

2.89

3.03

US (BLS Data)

43,817

46,101

62,113

64,960

2.07

2.35

2.93

3.31

As expected, the lawyer surpluses in each state and region are higher than one, implying that there are no obvious places in which lawyers can expect to find widespread job shortages, particularly Thomas Jefferson Law School's home state of California, whose lawyer surplus is approaching 3-to-1. For law graduates, though, the story is a bit different: Colorado, Nevada, Washington and, of course, Alaska, which has no law schools, had law graduate deficits, although all of these states had at least twice as many newly licensed lawyers as there were job openings. It should be noted again that Puerto Rico has the highest law graduate surplus, but its lawyer surplus is diminished by the commonwealth's relatively lower number of new bar admits, a situation that might be caused by Puerto Rico's low bar passage rate.

With these high surpluses, it would probably take much longer than Thomas Jefferson’s projected date of 2017 for the number of law graduates or newly licensed attorneys to match available job openings. Given that the number of law school applicants for the 2014-15 academic year only fell by about 5,000, to 54,500, and the rate of decline is slowing, it appears unlikely that the equilibrium will occur for a while, if ever. Nevertheless, this 2013 annual lawyer surplus estimate is still likely to be the high tide given the high number of law school graduates last year. Consequently, law schools' expectations to see their graduates enjoy long tenures at the bar are misplaced. Although it's certain that future law graduates' fortunes will improve thanks to declining enrollments, there is still no evidence that there is more demand for their work.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/11/projected-lawyer-surpluses.html

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Comments

More aftereffects of the Great Recession ... everybody went back to school to pursue a lucrative career in Law, and now's there's a glut in qualified people, made worse by automation and outsourcing. I feel bad for the young people out in the market trying to get their foot in the door!

Posted by: Suzanne | Nov 16, 2014 1:15:22 PM

Do the numbers account for people licensed to practice in multiple states? I suspect New England attorneys might be licensed in several neighboring states. In other words, if I were licensed in my home state and then became licensed in two other states, would I show up as three different attorneys?

Posted by: Mark P. Yablon | Nov 17, 2014 12:22:03 AM