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Where Did All These Lawyers Come From?

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 04, 2018 1:05 PM

It may be boring work, but somebody has to count all the people.

Researchers use the numbers to address important issues such as infrastructure, mortality rates, and many other human concerns. As populations increase across most of the world, the easy question is where do all these people come from?

But when the American lawyer population increases 15 percent, the harder question is why? Or as Seinfeld would ask, who are these people?

15 Precent Increase

According to the American Bar Association, the number of active attorneys in the United States has increased 15.2 percent over the last decade. The total number rose from 1,162,124 in 2007 to 1,338,678 in 2017.

But even the bar association questioned the data. The ABA Journal pointed out that the numbers from some jurisdictions were skewed.

"For example, in the 2018 survey, Oklahoma appeared to have 13.2 percent fewer attorneys than in 2017," the magazine reported. "But that was because of a shift in how the Oklahoma Bar Association classified senior attorneys."

Oklahoma attorneys can practice after age 70, but they don't count as "resident active attorneys." Apparently that is the early-mortality rate for lawyers in the state.

In the Alternative

Seriously, sometimes you have to go behind the statistics to figure out what is really going on. In the Virgin Islands, for example, the lawyer population dove 38 percent. That's what one hurricane will do for a population study.

It's not in the ABA report, but there has to be another side to the story. With fewer students going to law school the past decade, where did all the extra lawyers come from?

Perhaps the population grew because more attorneys came out of retirement to pay for a higher cost of living? Maybe more judges went back to law practice because their robes were not attractive anymore?

It's a puzzle because the "usual" explanation for population increase doesn't really work for the lawyer count over the past decade. There are some things people just don't do.

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