. . or is the law a dying profession?
It may surprise some to know that the United States attorney population has remained remarkably stable in recent years, despite the fact that we ask ‘how many lawyers are there?’ in the expectation that it is a fast-growing profession. It still stands at a healthy 1.33 million lawyers, which is just a few more than the 1.3 million from 2015.
The numbers, reported by Statista, shows there is an oversupply of lawyers relative to the number of jobs for lawyers, caused partly by the over-supply of law graduates. Statista reports that the number of law graduates shrunk by around a quarter between 2013 and 2017.
That is approximately one for every 300 people, or approximately 0.36% of the total US population.
In 2019, almost 34,000 students graduated from law school in the United States, marginally down from 34,221 graduates in 2018.
American Bar Association figures from 10 years or more earlier show a rise in number of U.S. lawyers, a 15 percent increase since 2008. But the global financial crisis, technology and increased legal competition has helped slow the increase.
Another factor impacting the number of lawyers in the US is the increasing advance of technology, principally artificial intelligence software and ‘robot’ workers who can handle much of the repetitive work in law offices, but increasingly too the more sophisticated work more usually carried out by lawyers.
The advance of AI and other legal technology trends is only going to accelerate.
About half of the law firms have or plan to replace some of their human legal resources with technology, many having already made their way well down that path.
A Male-Dominated Profession
The law also continues to be a largely male-dominated domain, despite increasing efforts by law firms to increase their gender ‘mix’ and general diversity.
Fewer than a quarter of all partners in US law firms are women and less than 20 per cent of managing partners are women. The increasing move towards appointing women to leading roles in law firms has continued, as we have reported in LawFuel here and here, but there is clearly still plenty of work to do to ensure greater female representation in the US law profession.
More Lawyers . . More Opportunity
Some argue that the law is a dying profession, to be taken over by technology. That is hardly the case and the booming profits recorded by major law firms continue to show that it is a highly profitable profession for many.
However, despite the number of lawyers in the US slowing somewhat, there are one and a third million of them and mostly they make good money (not always, but mostly) and what they now need to face is that they are a changing profession.
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