In October 2006 the U.S. Census Bureau officially logged in our…

In October 2006 the U.S. Census Bureau officially logged in our 300 Millionth citizen (or would-be-citizen). Nobody knows who that little baby is, but odds are that by 2032 she or he will be a lawyer. The official lawyer count is currently hovering around one million. For the severely math-challenged, that’s one “mouthpiece,” as Scarface Al Capone called his, for every 300 of us… whether we like it or not.
Some folks seem to like it a lot. Drexel University just opened a College of Law. Was Greater Philly not fully served by the five law schools — Rutgers-Camden, Temple, Villanova, Penn and Widener — already well-established in our neighborhood? According to its own web site, “The 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association, founded in 1802, is America’s first chartered metropolitan bar association and Pennsylvania’s largest local bar association.” And that’s just the Philly association. Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties all boast their very own bar organizations.
No matter… Drexel crows that it is “the first top-ranked doctoral university in the country to open a law school in more than 25 years! The response to the law school has been overwhelmingly positive and has attracted excellent applicants for admission as well as faculty members from well-regarded law schools and from practice backgrounds.”
Drexel is hardly alone in believing America can use more lawyers. In December, the Massachusetts Law School, which is not accredited by the American Bar Association, appeared before a U.S. Department of Education committee to make its case. The school, which claims to offer affordable law-training to “the common man,” contends that the ABA is an unfair monopoly. The maverick school wants the ABA stripped of its right to accredit the competition. Break the ABA strangle hold, the MLS argues, and more minority, immigrant and blue-collar people will be find law school accessible.
That can’t be good news for the guy who operates the web site “Power of Attorney []. He complains, “In a survey conducted back in 1972 by the American Bar Association, seventy percent of Americans not only didn’t have a lawyer, they didn’t know how to find one. That’s right, thirty years ago the vast majority of people didn’t have a clue on how to find a lawyer. Now it’s almost impossible not to see lawyers everywhere you turn. They’re in our face all over the place.”
He continues, “So do we or don’t we, as a nation, have too many lawyers? I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. The U.S. has seventy percent of the world’s lawyers but only five percent of the world’s population. U.S. industry spends hundreds of billions of dollars annually on litigation costs and efforts to avoid liability. We have thirty times more lawsuits than Japan, one of America’s primary trade competitors. Product innovation in America has been drastically curtailed due to overwhelming liability concerns. The health care industry, one of the trial lawyers’ favorite targets, has costs that are spiraling out of sight, leaving many Americans underinsured or uninsured.
[V]irtually every good and service has an increased cost, reflecting the cost of rampant litigation in this country.”
Whew! Kind of makes me want to mail my J.D. diploma back to Case Western Reserve. I’d do it, too, except that to get my tuition refunded I’d have to sue the school.
Hostility like this isn’t new to lawyers, by the way. Shakespeare famously wrote, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” [Henry VI] Prussia abolished the profession in 1780, followed by France after the revolution in 1789. Both, by the way, backed off when they found their legal systems couldn’t run efficiently without them. Bummer, eh?
Fact is that some knowledgeable souls sincerely believe we need more, not fewer, attorneys. Witness this blogger’s comment: “Anyway, we need a lot of lawyers. Maybe not PI lawyers, but our legal system requires a crapload of lawyers to work properly. Hell, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office (where I work) has over a thousand, and needs more.” [] This guy goes on to say we need fewer personal-injury lawyers (often affectionately labeled shysters or ambulance chasers) and a citizenry that commits fewer crimes and causes fewer accidents. Guess I can buy into that prescription, though I can’t quite see it happening.
No, I think we will keep right on shooting our guns and crashing our cars. Now that the Dems are back in charge of Congress we can count on more, not less, regulation. And then there’s all that “War on Terror” intrusion… everything from warrant-less wiretaps to x-raying our Air Jordans at the airport.
Hmm… maybe I’ll pay for my Pennsylvania bar license again in ’07 after all. I mean, even if a million lawyers are too many, surely there’s still room for one more.

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