Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NY Times: The Lawyer Surplus, State by State

New York Times, The Lawyer Surplus, State by State:

We’ve written before about the tough job market for recent law-school graduates. The climate is hard partly because of the weak economy, but also partly because the nation’s law schools are churning out many more lawyers than the economy needs even in the long run.

Now a few researchers have tried to quantify exactly how big that surplus is.

The numbers were crunched by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. (also known as EMSI), a consulting company that focuses on employment data and economic analysis. The company’s calculations were based on the number of people who passed the bar exam in each state in 2009, versus an estimate of annual job openings for lawyers in those states. Estimates for the number of openings is based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.

According to this model, every state but Wisconsin and Nebraska (plus Washington, D.C.) is producing many more lawyers than it needs. ...  In fact, across the country, there were twice as many people who passed the bar in 2009 (53,508) as there were openings (26,239)



2010-15 Annual

Lawyer Jobs

2009 Bar Passers


Supply Lawyers

1. NY




2. CA




3. NJ




4. IL




5. MA




6. PA




7. TX




8. FL




9. MD




10. MO








42. OK




43. SD




44. ND




45. ID




46. AK




47. DE




48. VT




49. NE




50. WI




51. DC





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Tracked on Jun 28, 2011 5:47:42 AM


JSHA3: one, this analysis was provided by the NY Times; two, it was Beldar that you should be talking to, not Steve Zorn. Geez.

Posted by: Matt | Jun 29, 2011 10:12:52 AM

@Steve Zorn. If you really think a website called 'TaxProf Blog' is run by 'journalists' than maybe it's you who can't engage in critical thinking.

Posted by: JSHA3 | Jun 29, 2011 6:18:20 AM

A client of mine was a Retired law professor and he told me a few years ago that we could shut down all the law schools for five years and through normal attrition we would have the appropriate number of attorneys per capita for a growing economy. Anything more and the sheer crowded number combined with big case-itis leads to underpaid over debt burdened people who tend to make work looking for that million dollar deal.

Posted by: LifeTrek | Jun 29, 2011 5:32:21 AM

Seems to me this proves that no matter how high the oversupply of lawyers, there's still a shortage of journalists who are able to engage in logical, critical thinking.

Posted by: Beldar | Jun 28, 2011 3:34:41 PM

I teach at two NY area law schools. At CUNY, the clear public-interest focus of the school both eliminates those who are delusionally thinking of law as the path to riches and provides better public-sector job opportunities than practically anywhere else. CUNY Law grads ajust aren't in the big markets that the Times survey describes. But at Touro, a 4th-tier law school on Long Island, my graduating students this year faced an impossible job market. TGouro has cut back the size of its entering class slightly for next year, but I think a much bigger shrinkage is coming, concentrated in the 3rd- and 4th-tier schools.

Posted by: Steve Zorn | Jun 28, 2011 3:26:42 PM

The only lawyer I know from Wisconsin didn't have to take the Bar Exam, because he graduated from an UW Madison. Kind of throws off your numbers

Posted by: C | Jun 28, 2011 1:08:36 PM

I don't think anyone can really know job openings. So many smaller firms, non-firms, friends' firms, solos.

A better table would be how many lawyers in each state per 1,000 people.

Posted by: MarkInFla | Jun 28, 2011 12:47:49 PM

The NY figures are misleading because it is the primary exam jurisdiction for foreign LLMs, many of whom practice overseas, and because a significant number of attorneys who practice in DC take the NY bar.

Posted by: Jim DC | Jun 28, 2011 12:14:58 PM

So now that there's a surplus of supply, lawyer fees will go way down right?

Posted by: Paul | Jun 28, 2011 12:09:04 PM

Misleading as to Wisconsin also, because it still has "diploma privilege" for graduates of UW and Marquette.

Posted by: Bob | Jun 28, 2011 10:31:24 AM

In addition to the previous comments re: DC (my understanding is most members of the DC bar are admitted first in MD or VA and then waived in to DC), WI is also misleading b/c graduates of in-state law schools are exempt from taking the bar exam.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 28, 2011 9:55:18 AM

This article is ridiculous. Many lawyers take and pass multiple bars, particularly in metropolitan areas that lie in more than one state. Like D.C., N.Y., Charlotte, Cincinnati, Chicago, Wilmington, and Philadelphia. Many (perhaps most) law jobs are not advertised. A very substantial number of bar passers never practice law and never intended to practice law--law was the original (and is perhaps the future) MBA.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jun 28, 2011 9:18:07 AM

An even bigger issue is the underemployed or under worked lawyers in many states struggling to make a living in private practice.

Every year more surplus is being added to a surplus.

Posted by: save_the_rustbelt | Jun 28, 2011 8:28:10 AM

The NY stat is now somewhat misleading- NY BOLE now prohibits the transfer of a previous MBE score. Therefore, all bar takers must take the MBE and the NY State day concurrently. This requirement will probably limit the amount of future test takers

Posted by: Viewer | Jun 28, 2011 7:12:59 AM

A state could always set the score level for passing the bar to allow fewer attorneys to pass, that would encourage people to move to places where they were more needed (and passing requirements were lower).

Posted by: Ed | Jun 28, 2011 7:01:00 AM

The DC number is misleading because if you take a state bar and pass it with a minimum score of 133 on the MBE portion you can effectively waive right into DC. Accordingly, most new lawyers who plan on practicing in DC will take a state bar exam so they can be admitted in two jurisdictions after only taking the bar exam once.

Posted by: michael | Jun 28, 2011 6:50:57 AM

This is an interesting chart, but the fact that DC ranks at the bottom of the list is more of a function that people don't take the DC bar (since it is easily waived into, and people in DC are typically more transient than in other metro areas). As your readership knows, the DC area is literally teeming with lawyers who are barred in states across the country. I myself live and work in DC, but am barred in Nevada.

Posted by: Jed Bodger | Jun 28, 2011 5:08:13 AM

This is misleading for DC. Very few people take the DC bar because you can waive in if you are licensed elsewhere.

Posted by: sadfasd | Jun 28, 2011 3:11:40 AM