It’s bad enough America has so many lawyers.
What’s worse is that there’s new evidence to suggest that most of them are absolutely mediocre.
The glut of lawyers, if not the glut of the need for them, threatens to represent a gale-force headwind against an economic recovery. That’s because lawyers have been increasingly indispensable – necessary but not sufficient for economic survival by many businesses – during the growing government overreach of the last quarter century.
Candidate-turned-President Trump promises a War on Regulation. Much of that will require legal skill from a legal industry workforce, which as new data suggests, may not be as capable of the task as you’d think or hope.
Recent data over the last ten years has been showing applications to the most competitive law schools in America have dropped nearly 20 percent since the recession. That’s a big drop, and now we’re talking a downtrend of nearly ten years! These schools (measured using the U.S. News annual rankings) also report having reduced their entering classes by about five percent. So fewer lawyers from the top schools, right? And maybe, fewer brilliant lawyers if you assume a brain drain from law school to other fields? But the data suggest it’s become much easier for students to get into top schools.
In other words, today’s law students and recent new lawyers aren’t anywhere nearly as good as their peers from 10 or 20 years ago.
The theory seems confirmed by broader data. If you ask, what about the rest of the law schools pumping out new graduates into the workforce, we see other data showing a post recession nationwide applicant drop of between 40-45 percent. One prominent Northeastern law school reports a 60 percent decline. These are huge drops!
But now the windshield is going to hit the bug.
Law schools addicted to tuition revenue mint new lawyers at a consistent rate, ignoring the flashing red lights of declining student demand and plenty of anecdotal evidence about overall consumer demand being flat to down over the last decade. The profession’s leading industry organization, the American Bar Association, reports for 2016 approximately 1.315 million “resident active attorneys” nationwide. That number has consistently been growing at over 1.3-1.5% annually (or about 20,000 more lawyers each year), and it is currently an all time high!
So less demand, more supply, and more supply from far fewer applicants! The combination of long term trend lines showing growth in new lawyers on one hand and a sharp drop in applications on the other supports — no, it requires — the inference that law schools have produced many lawyers of lesser quality over the last 10 years, and that these trends should only be expected to continue.
So now, when real legal talent — judgment, patience, actual intelligence — is needed to unravel the regulatory mess of the Clinton, Obama and Bush Administrations, and roll back the metastasizing of the bureaucratic state, America may be left with a corps of overly-entitled but not necessarily very bright lawyers from Snowflake Law School!
And that’s not accounting for the heavily Marxist-statist influences in most of academia! How many lawyers are out there, now, with both the skill sets and the ideological temperament to engage the mission?
The risks are enormous. Our economy has become dependent on lawyers, and now our economic recovery may end up depending on lawyers who are neither talented nor temperamentally suited for the crisis management much of American business now needs. It would be tragic if American businesses and the Trump Administration, seeking to overcome and undo the errors or deformed values of a generation, are undermined by mediocrities, Marxists or both.