Too Many Lawyers: The Legal Profession Needs A Cull

Well, I’ve had a brief sojourn out into the wide world of weirdness that I seem to exist in these days, and in that time I realized that I’ve let several developments in the hellish landscape of ABA approved law schools go unmentioned, but definitely not unnoticed. So, for this Monday, I thought maybe we should discuss the latest developments in the raging dumpster fire that is the current legal education market, given the number of absolute fucking morons that have invaded my email inbox and Twitter timeline asking me shit about law school and attending law school in general.

As if they can’t just read the blog for any period of time to understand that my advice is always going to be “Don’t fucking go to law school, you goddamn moron.”

But hey, if these people were especially bright they wouldn’t be considering law school in the first damn place, would they? No, they’d be considering a more honest and lucrative profession, like dealing drugs or some shit, not looking at a way to actively make themselves poor while players in the very educational field they’re looking to gain admission to are dropping off left and fucking right around them.

This, in my opinion, is a good fucking thing, because we need to start doing herd management on lawyers, selectively removing the weak and least able from our ranks so the pastures out there can sustain the rest of us.

Yeah, that’s right. The legal profession needs a goddamn cull.

Look, the landscape for legal education and the practice of law is not a verdant meadow filled with fuzzy little bunnies and a babbling brook. It currently resembles a World War I battlefield, pockmarked with shell holes and littered with the rotting corpses, a representation of the dreams of recently minted J.D.’s that are trying desperately to pass the fucking bar exam. Somewhere, amidst the chlorine gas of the bar exam and the dystopian nightmare of the post-law school world, are rats feeding on those corpses, demanding student loan payments begin immediately following a brief forbearance period. The legal market just isn’t attracting the best and brightest these days, and for good fucking reason:

We have too many goddamn lawyers, and we have too little goddamn respect for the profession.

Yes, those two are fucking related.

Yes, those do affect the legal profession in a big fucking way.

No, you’re not going to talk me out of this fucking belief.

How the Fuck Are There Too Many Lawyers?

Alright, so a while back I wrote in a post about how there were approximately 1,315,000 licensed and practicing attorneys in the United States. There are roughly 321,400,000 people in general in the United States. That comes out to about 1 lawyer for every 244 people in the United States. That means that when you’re in a crowded theater, you’re guaranteed to be sitting in a room with at least 1-3 lawyers, depending on the size of the venue. If someone trips down the stairs at a 30,000 stadium from a little too much beer, 122 lawyers could come rushing out the woodwork to hand out business cards.

If you were to gather every fucking lawyer in the country in one place, and resist the urge to drop a bomb on that location, you would have created the 9th most populated city in the United States, a little smaller than San Diego and bigger than Dallas, entirely out of goddamn lawyers. Setting aside the fact the city would be a horror to rival the elder gods of Lovecraft in madness, that’s just fucking insane. There are enough lawyers in this country to maintain a viable economy if you retrained them to do regular work instead of blankly staring at a goddamn screen and arguing about everything.

To contrast this shit, there are about 809,000 active and licensed medical doctors in the United States. That’s about one doctor for every 400 citizens in the United States, and I guarantee you people need doctors more than they need folks that argue a J.D. actually makes them a doctor of sorts if you want to be technical about it. But we have almost HALF as many practicing medical doctors in the United States than we do lawyers, meaning that if you injure yourself you’re almost twice as likely to find a lawyer to sue someone than you are to find a doctor to treat your wounds.

Oh, it gets even better. There are only, as of 2014, about 425,000 plumbers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s about 1 plumber for ever 756 people out there, and I guarantee you that there are more stupid assholes flushing stuff other than shit down toilets than there are stupid assholes who need to rush their asses to lawyers to deal with the eventual liability claim from flushing their friend’s curtains down the toilet. Seriously, think about that, the profession that literally makes sure you can take a dump in your house and not in the yard like some poor Cooley graduate is severely underpopulated and less accessible than the legal profession.

So what’s the takeaway on this? We have too many fucking lawyers, and percentage wise you have too many lawyers fighting over the same fucking cases. This has resulted in the legal profession going from “high paying” to “you may make a living if you have enough hustle and you’re willing to sacrifice your first born child to Judge Posner.” What tends to happen when there’s a career that sounds like it makes a lot of money, but in reality leaves you scrounging for free food at a bar association luncheon? Well, you get…less than bright…people rushing to join it, while all the really intelligent and competent people quietly excuse themselves to go get STEM degrees and move our to Silicon Valley or some shit.

And, of course, law school are more than happy to make room for the bottom of the educational barrel, taking in all comers with a pulse and the ability to bring in those sweet student loan dollars. So you think there would be more law schools popping up, right? Wrong, because even schools like Whittier, which were scraping the bottom of that barrel so fucking hard they were admitting algae-encrusted varnished shavings, can’t make a dime when the folks being admitted can’t fucking pass the bar exam and…you know…find jobs. Or do pass the bar exam and still find themselves amazingly unable to…you know…find jobs.

How The Fuck Does This Affect Reputation?

Because we’re a self-regulating profession that prides ourselves on our independence and ability to remain outside of the control of the government, it is essential that admission to and oversight of the practice of law be limited to only those that are capable and diligent in their work. However, over the past several years of law schools accepting transfers from clown colleges has resulted in less “esteemed members of the profession” and more “oh shit, is this person going to wear a wig and sell client secrets for cash?” This creates a bit of a fucking issue, don’t you think?

Plus, let’s not forget that all these “never should have been lawyers in the first damn place” people all have bills and student loans to pay off, just like the rest of us. If they can’t make the money practicing law, they’re going to try to meet the massive financial burden some other way, and that other way may not be too damn nice.  Like…being an actual prostitute rather than being a metaphorical one. Every time anyone with a bar license commits a crime, though, the first words are “Lawyer who [insert fucking problem].” And that shit comes down on everyone. People love reading about lawyers who fuck up.

And yes, the legal profession has always had bad actors, but as you reach lower and lower in the barrel in admitting people to law schools and then the practice of law as a whole, the risk of pulling up a pile of shit with only one or two sparkling gems increases until, eventually, you might as well call yourself a shit miner and just accept your stinky fucking fate.

Is there a fix?

I dunno, man. I like to think that the best way to fix the problem is to start cracking down not only on lawyers a little bit harder, because we do tend to try and go easy on ourselves, but also on the law schools that are churning out kids-who-play-with-stinky-playdoh and saying they’re ready to take the bar. However, the law schools seem to be dying a death based on natural selection, as the ABA is finally fucking taking notice of the low passage rates and the ridiculous admission processes, and others are finding the cash cow’s milk is drying up and, like Whittier, beginning to shut the fuck down as they stop being profit machines.

As for lawyers, in general less lawyers means more clients to go around and the ability to raise the rates a little bit to actually make ends meet rather than hustling cases like a goddamn carnival barker. Yeah, that may suck for clients, but trust me: there are some shitty lawyers out there already charging you way too much, while there are good lawyers charging way too little and hoping to make up the difference on volume. If you make it harder for bad fucking lawyers to keep their damn licenses, you’ll end up paying for the good ones. It’s the difference between paying top dollar for a moldy steak and paying top dollar for prime rib.

Maybe the solution, though, is to actively discourage people from going to law school in the long run. God knows I do. Only those with an absolute passion for the practice of law, and the self-awareness to recognize that they will not be the exception to the new rule that most lawyers are fucking broke, should be even sitting for the goddamn LSAT in the first place. Lawyers in the profession but not really making it may want to consider more profitable careers and letting their license lapse. Plumbers make good money, and we’re already pretty damn good at shoveling shit.

All in all, though, the fact remains that in some way or form the legal profession needs a fucking cull.