Friday, July 13, 2007

But first, let's get rid of all of the lawyers...

From my colleague Marc Galanter, drawing on research by the American Bar Foundation, Frank Cross, and Charles Epp.

Galanter is one of the pre-eminent authorities on litigation and lawyers (and, not to be missed, on lawyer humor); his meticulous scholarship has put the lie to many of the distortions, misrepresentations and exaggerations of those seeking to limit access to the civil justice system. His commitment to reality-based empirical scholarship is one of the hallmarks of UW Law School's "law-in-action" tradition. Facts based on research tend to be an irritant to those propounding arrant nonsense, particularly arrant nonsense serving the interests of the powerful few in the society. (Editorial comment and slight editing by AJW.)

Some Wisconsin lawyer trivia:

Wisconsin, with about 2.0% of the U.S. population, has about 1.2% of the country's lawyers.

The ratio of population to lawyers in the U.S. in 2000 was 264/1. In Wisconsin it was 401/1.

Among the 51 jurisdictions (50 states and D.C.), Wisconsin's population-to-lawyer ratio was 38th in 2000.

Wisconsin's lawyer population is slightly older (median 50 vs. 47) and significantly less female (22% vs. 27%) than the nation as a whole. This suggests that it has not been growing at as high a rate as the nation as a whole.

In short, Wisconsin seems to have about one third fewer lawyers per capita than the rest of the country, and [that proportion is not growing].

Is this a lawyer deficit? Research has shown a correlation between economic growth and lawyer population. Causality may run in either or both directions. But it is clear that lawyer population does not have an inhibiting effect on economic growth.

The lawyer population also seem to be associated with such non-market goods as civil liberties and political democracy.

No comments: