Labor Day, 2015: What More Can We Do For You?

Among the pervasive themes of law in general, and criminal law in particular, is that too many people lack access to justice, which has become a minor movement using the cool title, A2J. Its verity is seen on different levels, some undeniable such as the failure of society to provide adequate funding for those indigents hauled into court to face criminal accusations, and some more dubious, such as those who have the ability to pay but prefer not to and feel little compulsion to spend their hard earned money on lawyers.

But it’s Labor Day! A day to reflect on the contributions of organized labor to the betterment of our society.  Of course, the bar is organized, and most of us work for a living, even if that wasn’t quite what Congress meant when establishing the bright line test of when to stop wearing white.

And yet, the days when being a lawyer assured someone of a life of relative comfort, provided one did one’s job, pushed the pencil as far and often as necessary to provide effective representation, seem to have disappeared.

There is a disconnect between the needs of society and the demands on lawyers. Maybe it’s that we haven’t shaken off the notion of privilege that comes with being a professional, even as lawyers struggle to find work, to obtain paying clients or earn sufficient income to put food on their table every day.  So why not put another burden on the lawyer’s plate, solving society’s demand that lawyers give it away for free, or at a price that will be painless to those who prefer to spend their money on shiny things?

Dan Lear

Dan Lear, after learning that his Avvo rating was raised to 6.7.

At the ABA Journal, in a feature they call “Legal Rebels,” because it creates that James Dean thing for people who are about as rebel-y as vanilla pudding, Dan Lear says that we need, not should but “need,” to “move beyond ‘access to justice’ to close the legal services gap.”

Dan looks pretty pleased with himself for coming up with this “need.” Or maybe just getting himself a post in the ABA Journal.  From a guy who’s about to inform practicing lawyers about what more they can do to serve mankind (not the cookbook version), who does not practice law because he gets a paycheck from Avvo for being its Director of Industry Relations, which I guess means he’s supposed to help a business that picks at the bones of dead lawyers not be totally despised by the ones still living.

After acknowledging the criminal side of A2J, serving the poorest and most disadvantaged, and absolving the profession of sin because we’re “trying,” he goes after the other white meat:

Many modest means or middle-income individuals seeking legal services are not seeking “justice” through the legal system. Most just want a will, an estate plan, some limited advice on their employment contract or business, or any number of other things that don’t have anything to do with “justice.” Besides what justice is and what it means varies widely from person to person and situation to situation. The pursuit of an arguably amorphous definition of justice is a waste of time and resources when all someone wants is, for example, a will.

Modest-means clients are also different than the access-to-justice clients. For one, while they may not be able to afford traditional full representation legal services but they can pay something. Further, many modest means clients are middle-income individuals, so they’re more likely better educated with better access to technology or other resources that would help them self-educate, receive unbundled legal services delivered partially or fully though technology or online, or navigate the legal system with only limited guidance from an attorney.

The key to this dilemma, Dan informs the reader based upon a generic Lao Tzu quote, is semantics:

Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And one good initial, but admittedly small, step for legal services is semantics. Specifically, instead of talking about an “access to justice” gap let’s switch the rhetoric and consider the “access to legal services” gap instead.

See?  Now that Dan has been kind enough to play with the rhetoric so as to separate the truly needy from the generally cheap, those who are forced into court at gun point from those who make choices, like starting a business, but didn’t budget for a lawyer because, well, they had no clue what is needed to start a business, we can more clearly see the problem.

And so Dan has dedicated a third of his time to drafting free wills for moderate-income people who can’t afford $250 for a simple will? Nooo. Dan ain’t doing squat. He’s telling us to do it for him. Because he works for Avvo, and Avvo is a huge supporter of novelty ideas that make it seem edgy and cool.

But let’s not confuse the justice and services problems by using the same term for both.

There are pervasive legal access issues throughout the economy—from pro se litigants, to entrepreneurs who need business help, to families without wills or simple estate plans. This access gap is a significant problem for the legal profession and it won’t be solved overnight. It might not even be solved in our lifetime. But greater precision in how we talk about access challenges is an easy first step in the right direction.

I agree, let’s talk about “access challenges” with “greater precision.” Like the rest of organized labor, lawyers work for a living. Nobody hands them free groceries. There’s an access to income problem for lawyers, who lost three years of earnings for the joy of going to law school, and assuming a couple hundred thou in tuition debt, all so they could be society’s whipping boy to cover the burden caused by tens of thousands of criminal laws and the necessity of making life less painful for the modest income folks who suffer the requirements of law imposed on every facet of every person’s life.

You don’t like the burden of paying for lawyers? Stop demanding that your government criminalize every bit of human conduct that could conceivably hurt your feelings. You don’t think you should have to spend your hard-earned money earmarked for that shiny new iPhone on a lawyer? Stop demanding that government regulate every waking moment.

But you adore all those crimes that keep those other people out of your happy place. And you adore all those regulations that fulfill your fairer version of the world. And you want lawyers to carry the weight for you.

So here’s a bit of precise language to address the problems Dan Lear raises: Either pay for the lawyers or don’t make a mess you can’t clean up without them. It’s not that we don’t care deeply about you, your problems, your deepest desire for a shiny thing, but that lawyers, just like you, have families to feed and have to work for a living. Just like you.

As for Dan, until you’re ready to spend your days delivering what you tell others to deliver, and on your own dime, maybe you would do well to wipe that smile off your face.  And happy Labor Day.

61 thoughts on “Labor Day, 2015: What More Can We Do For You?

  1. Ehud Gavron

    If one can’t afford $250 to get legal advice about a will, does one NEED a will to begin with? The basic premise of a will is that there’s disposition of assets. If the sum of your assets doesn’t include $250… perhaps you don’t need a pro-bono lawyer or a will…

    1. SHG Post author

      In fairness, even the poor with children need a will to address guardianship. They may have assets, a car for example, but no ready cash that isn’t desperately needed to feed those kids.

      I don’t begrudge anyone their need for legal instruments, advice and counsel. I do, on the other hand, begrudge them the expectation that society’s imposition of legal needs becomes a lawyer’s duty to fulfill for free. If society imposes a legal burden, then it’s society’s responsibility to cover its costs, not lawyers. And for anyone who supports government’s ever-expanding imposition of legal mandates, it comes with a requirement that government (meaning, the taxpayer) cover the cost.

      I’m sick to death of people, both within and without the profession, dumping society’s crap on lawyers backs.

    2. Keith

      It’s not always simple for non-lawyers to grasp the complexity and nuance that makes the requirement of a competent lawyer exist. But the funny thing about the “need” for a lawyer is that one can need a lawyer whether you know it or not.

      I’m guessing you don’t have kids and / or know nothing about what the State may decide to do with them after you’re gone, should you die intestate. If either of those aren’t true, I humbly suggest you look for a trust & estates lawyer tomorrow.

      1. SHG Post author

        To add to your point, the reliance on fill-in-the-blank forms and non-lawyer helpers, promoted as the cure for the poor, raises a ton of new and different problems, which are usually more devastating for the poor and uneducated than for those who can afford to pay their way out of problems.

        They don’t realize that by altering a will (crossing out the name of a beneficiary or guardian and changing it to someone else when circumstances change) will void the document. They don’t understand why the formalities of execution must be such a hassle, so they fudge the details. They don’t understand why putting an in-law as guardian can be a nightmarish mistake. They don’t think about potential problems in the future, and why alternates need to be chosen carefully.

        Everything is easy until it’s a problem. That’s why there’s lawyers, and why lawyers have to know stuff, and why all the bullshit from lawyers dismissing the need to know what they’re doing, and do it well for everyone, is bullshit. Everybody’s got an excuse for failure, but the price of failure is paid by the client.

      2. William Doriss

        “But the funny thing about the “need” for a lawyer is that one can need a lawyer whether you know it or not. ”
        Well, let’s just say it’s not that funny! Now substitute the word “doctor” for “lawyer”, and you have an equivalent truism. I like to compare the lawyering profession to the doctoring one. Both necessary evils in this world where the two are virtually the only professions where incompetence and unintentional mistakes get rewarded. So if this is what you spent your three years and untold thousands of indebted dollars to obtain,…. Well, I think you catch my drift?

        The problem for us civilians is not only “access” to legal and medical service but access to competent and effective counsel and services of any sort. It’s an ongoing challenge and a battle. Think Mickey Sherman in the Michael Skakel CT case. And others of course. It’s maddening to some of us civilians who see lawyers as leeches and bottom-feeders.

        Beware the smiling lawyer from ear to ear with perfect teeth. We prefer the frowns and crooked teeth of the Rick Horowitzes out there in Legal-Land. Dan Lear parses his words perfectly in true lawyerly fashion, whether he practices or not. His name is easy to pronounce and remember, which is also a plus. He could just as easily sell us a used car retrieved from the Hurricane Sandy flooding of New Jersey.

        Happy Labor Day, a good day to reflect on all things “labor intensive”. Ha. When I think Labor, I’m not thinking of doctors or lawyers, for real. Pushing a pencil, talking on the phone and/or standing next to the Xerox machine (H/T: Ann Coulter) are not my ideas of true labor, but I could be wrong!

        1. SHG Post author

          You would have been very fortunate to have Rick Horowitz as your lawyer, but it’s unclear whether you would have deserved him.

          1. Mort

            No one is worthy of the likes of Pick Horowitz. We can but hope he would deign to represent the poor likes of us.

            1. Mort

              God damnit, Rick. RICK Horowitz.

              *sigh*

              And I meant what I said – he’s one of those lawyers I want to be like when I grow up.

            2. Rick Horowitz

              Thanks. Just remember, when you’re in a bind, pick Horowitz. 😉

              Seriously, though, I have no idea why I got dragged into this just because my teeth aren’t straight.

            3. SHG Post author

              Jamison Koehler once called me gap-toothed. I never understood why one guy would care what another guy’s teeth looked like. That said, I think Bill’s sweet on you, but won’t admit it.

            4. Mort

              Rick, if that ends up on a billboard somewhere, I expect – at a minimum – a case of moderate quality beer. 😉

  2. Keith

    I got stuck on the impossible math problem or my comment may have made it in before SHG

    [Ed. Note: Sucks to be math challenged.]

    1. David M.

      You jerk. I defy your pretension.
      I’ll fight you with fresh condescension.
      From who? Keith and I.
      Us united. Know why?
      Math is hard, but you suck at declension.

  3. losingtrader

    It’s interesting this blog is always decrying an excess of lawyers, yet when I need someone who specializes in dealing with insurance law from the policyholder’s perspective, the first three attorneys I call are too busy to take on my case–at regular rates.
    Is it that the excess of lawyers is such a recent phenomenon there are a limited number of attorneys actually qualified to deal with certain areas of law?

    1. SHG Post author

      Heh. So too many lawyers in general doesn’t translate into enough lawyers in a particular specialty at the moment you need one, and you can’t figure out why? Think harder. You’re a smart guy. I bet you can figure it out without my wet-nursing you to an answer.

      1. losingtrader

        I’ve got the answer! It was the $980 premium I paid for full coverage on a $1.5 million home. Silly me for thinking the premium didn’t obligate the insurer to follow the contract.

        As an aside,I am typing this from the hotel room,–sorry,suite— I am paying for because a certain mutual insurer won’t accede to the plain meaning of it’s own “loss of use” endorsement.

        I really knew there would be a problem with the claim when the adjustor had to spend hours buying an airline ticket . because the company flight booking engine didn’t work.

        You know, the one designed for cost containment on Southwest flights from San Diego to Las Vegas.

        1. SHG Post author

          Silly me for thinking the premium didn’t obligate the insurer to follow the contract.

          Welcome to life. People do stuff. Business do stuff. Ima bet someone, somewhere along the way, even thought you didn’t do stuff. If only society could come up with a way to figure out who failed to honor their obligations and resolve the claim. Without you having to deal with it, since you’re certainly in the right. After all, you say so.

          And frankly, you probable are. So how does that insurance company stay in business? And why didn’t you know this about the insurance company before you sent them that remarkably inexpensive premium on a valuable property? So many questions.

          1. losingtrader

            I’ll take a stab and answer what were intended as rhetorical questions.:
            1) It’s a big, well-capitalized company
            2) We don’t exactly have too many catastrophes that could befall Las Vegas, so in general rates are low. I’m leaving out the catastrophe that 40% of adults living here gamble every day, but that’s not a named peril.
            3) I’m sure I’m right because my dad, who has 60 years in P&C risk management tells me so, and he’s the go-to guy insurance lawyers call for advice on policy provisions., E&O, etc.
            He’s 84 and his billing rate is truly unbelievable; more than the attorneys, so he must be correct most of the time.
            4) I’ve never defalcated in the wrong place in my life, as far as I know.

            1. SHG Post author

              Well then, it certainly seems that you dad ought to have the juice to fix this right up, or at least get a lawyer to bend to his will. The math doesn’t add up otherwise.

        2. Noxx

          “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”

          This bit of wisdom certainly applies to paying less than $100/month for homeowners insurance, provided your home doesn’t have wheels.

        3. Levi

          If your (presumably annual) premium wasn’t in the ballpark of half a percent of the home’s value, you should have suspected that something was fishy. While people may not always get what they pay for, they very rarely get more than they pay for.

          AM Best and your state’s insurance commissioner are useful resources if you have some kind of high value asset to protect.

          Your post is a nice complement to SHG’s. Don’t think due diligence should be necessary when either pricing insurance or vetting a potential insurer? Then you better be prepared to pay as much or more in taxes and hassle to have the government chase down and shut down all of the quasi insurance scams.

          1. losingtrader

            It’s “A” rated by Best. Even S&P and the other credit rating agencies have gotten into the insurance company rating game, since they did so well with CDO’s.
            It’s “A” with everyone. Of course, “willingness” to pay doesn’t factor into the rating.

            1. SHG Post author

              Stop already. Nobody seriously gives a fuck about this. I should have just trashed your initial off-topic comment. This is what happens when I try to be nice, and let someone post a dopey comment because I like them, and it goes straight into the friggin’ rabbit hole.

              I won’t make that mistake again.

    2. William Doriss

      “Is it that the excess of lawyers is such a recent phenomenon [that] there are a limited number of attorneys actually qualified to deal with certain areas of law?”

      This is a curious comment. It reminds me of the Samuel Taylor Coleridge quote: “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” We’ve actually posted this sentiment in this very context.

      We think LosingTrader may be on to something, and suspect that he’s not such a “loser” after all. He is parrying us. Any trader who has enough time to escape from the green screen and troll the blawgosphere on company time (or his own) cannot be too shabby. No doubt he is short the financial markets as we speak–and making a fortune–while newbie lawyers are sweating bullets trying to figure out how to pay current bills, not to mention educational loans outstanding. Perhaps busyness school would have been a better choice of careers?!? Haaarvad Busyness School-breath anyone! Puhleeeze.
      The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and the lawyers who survive the latest holocaust will be left to pick up the pieces. Ha. Good luck with that as they work up a veritable sweat in the process.

      Never met a lawyer we did not like, … or did we get it backwards?

      1. losingtrader

        Thanks for the apparent compliment, but there’s an honest reason my screen name used to have “profit” somewhere in it.

        1. William Doriss

          Something like that, SmartyPants! We trust you are a “disinterested” bystander? Uninterested,,, apparently not. Thanx for the retort. We are most appreciative.
          You caught our drift, godbless.

  4. bmaz

    Thanks for the labor day present. Because what I was really hoping for under this morning’s tree was marching orders from some Avvo twit.

  5. Scott Morrell

    I agree wholeheartedly that lawyers needs to get paid and they have made sacrifices to earn the right to practice law. However, our legal system, in my opinion, is broken and needs to be changed.

    Think about why so many people go into the law profession. Simple….there is a huge industry out there waiting for most of them because our government has made things NOT simple. Whether it is the mind boggling tax code that mere mortals cannot understand, to insurance policies that create loop holes designed for maximized profits under the guise of helping you at your dire time of need, to predatory lawyers who do not give a damn about their clients and ONLY (and I mean ONLY) care about their pockets being lined with cash.

    I do not begrudge great lawyers making a lot of money. We are in a capitalist system. I think as a country we need to make systemic changes in how we want to live our lives.

    Let’s start with tort reform. Oh wait…cannot do that because the lawyer lobby in so entrenched with a particular political party (wonder which one?).

    There are also lawyers that will try to make your life miserable simply because they no how to manipulate the legal system. Many have destroyed peoples lives unfairly. Now, I do not want to brush a broad stroke on all lawyers, as in any profession there are bad apples. However, there does seem to be more bad apples in law. That is why there are so many lawyer jokes on the internet. I haven’t seen a retailer joke yet.

    A society with too many lawyers begs the question as too why? We need a better society that is simple to live in and more diverse in careers that bring added value to all of us. Let’s trim the law profession and weed out the unnecessary lawyers going into the profession from the truly great ones that make it a very noble career. Moreover, let’s have more engineers, doctors, mental health care professionals, manufacturing, construction, etc. Let’s restore balance once again in America.

    I wished Dan Lear added this, rather than the different “holier than thou” types of law provide to certain groups with no way to measure what is necessary or not. He was too narrow minded in his thoughts.

    1. SHG Post author

      Heh. In a kinda conspiratorial mood this morning? The tax code isn’t because of lawyers, but interest group lobbyists and politicians buying off constituencies. The tort system isn’t because of lawyers, but because of insurance companies distracting people by pointing to the lawyers while making fortunes off premiums. From the outside, it’s easy to point to a fall guy and trick the unaware into believing. They have no real clue how the pieces actually fit together.

      Young people aren’t entering law because their miserable, greedy Machiavellians, but because some want to help, some can’t stand the site of blood, and some aren’t ready to grow up. And most have no clue what they’re getting into, and are shocked to learn that their surefire course to middle-class comfort will include a life of debt slavery.

      None of this, of course, means that there aren’t greedy, scummy lawyers. As well as good, honest, competent lawyers. Whenever someone tells me they’ve never met the latter, I wonder why it is they hang out with such an unsavory crowd.

      And yes, the system is broken. All over the place. And yet, even you succumb to the easy fix of pinning blame on a couple of cogs in the wheel, rather than understand how this is a Rube Goldberg machine waiting to fail. But that’s not today’s post.

      1. Patrick Maupin

        > Whenever someone tells me they’ve never met [good, honest, competent lawyers]

        Sometimes it’s hard to know until much later.

        I had a lawyer create wills for me and my wife, and didn’t fully understand the quality until over 2 decades later. I only realized this because my co-worker’s wife died and her will (prepared by a greedier lawyer than mine, I suppose) wasn’t self-proving, and it took a lot of time and hassle for him to get it straightened out because of problems locating witnesses (all of whom were employees of the law office at the time, and one of whom was dead). I went back and re-read my will and satisfied myself that it was both self-proving and still relevant (as well as typed on a real typewriter).

        1. SHG Post author

          Yes, us lawyers know what a self-attesting affidavit is for. But thanks for sharing and really, I mean, really, cool story, bro.

          1. Patrick Maupin

            Here’s my simple and wrong solution for today — since all y’all know what they are, any lawyer (such as my coworker’s) creating one that isn’t self-proving should be disbarred after having his nuts chopped off.

            1. SHG Post author

              Works for me. Way back when, a self-attesting affidavit was a pretty new thing, and their use wasn’t common, as it is today. So it’s not entirely surprising that a lawyer left it out. After all, it’s really no big deal to include, just a one page form at the end.

              Today, omitting it is inexcusable. Except that hungry baby lawyers may not know anything about will basics, and may not only screw up the one hundred most important questions when making a will, but the “extras” as well. That’s what comes of incompetence.

              And yet, one more point to be made: you, the client, wouldn’t and shouldn’t know about it. It’s the lawyers job. That’s why competent counsel matters, because the client rarely has a clue, and will go with anybody who “seems nice” rather than comes well-recommended. And even that doesn’t guarantee you a good referral.

              I know good lawyers. I know lousy lawyers. I know venal lawyers. And each has someone who will swear he’s the cat’s meow.

            2. Keith

              Yes, us lawyers know what a self-attesting affidavit is for.

              Yea, but not all of “us” are lawyers…
              [checks Google for “self-attesting will”]
              [checks copy of will I paid highly-recommended lawyer for]
              and while it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the client to do your job, some of us reading these posts get some valuable (and usable) information out of the comments too.

              Thanks

  6. losingtrader

    I get it, ok?
    You’re like my dad.
    “Stop sending them so many emails. They’ll think they are dealing with a crazy person.”
    I’ll stick to stealing some really good arguments you make, using them in conversations with friends (who are amazed I could come up with such quick, cogent responses)
    and posting stuff that makes me chuckle.
    Discard as you please.
    Now, the arguments I don’t understand , I accept I’m smart but not nearly as smart as many others. However, when I burn down your blog about the arguments with which I disagree, I expect your representation with a defense of ED rage.

    1. SHG Post author

      I appreciate the chuckles, too. And you can’t burn down my blawg. It’s virtual. It doesn’t really exist.

      Bwhahahahahaha!

        1. Mort

          A new second place for best “legal-ish response letter,” displacing the letter from the Browns’ General Counsel (“some asshole is signing your name to letters”) but still sitting behind the long-time winner, “Arkell v. Pressdram.”

            1. Patrick Maupin

              Nothing says “Bring it!” like Arkell or “Srsly??!?” like Brown, but the correspondence between Monster Cable and Blue Jeans Cable is a pretty good entry in the category of the longer version of “bring it!” that includes a full analysis of the case, plus the salting the earth with the ashes of the plaintiff’s bones: “Not only am I unintimidated by litigation; I sometimes miss it.”

            2. Mort

              I respectfully disagree. Any response to a litigious letter that tells the other side “fuck you” is the high-water mark for me.

        2. Keith

          “Although the humor doubtless sails right over your head”

          Brought to mind Tom Goldstein’s letter to Solouki.

  7. Kirk Hadley

    Given a 2013 median salary of $114,300 in 2013 according to BLS, it would indeed appear that choosing to work as an attorney “assured someone of a life of relative comfort.”

    1. SHG Post author

      Funny thing about a median salary is no one makes it. The big firm guys make millions while the rest make pittance, and it all averages out. But the vast majority of lawyers earn no salary, because they aren’t employees of a firm.

      1. Paul Thomas

        [facepalm]

        “Median,” defined as “the middle number in an ordered list of numbers.

        50% (give or take one guy) of all lawyers made more than $114,300 in 2013, and 50% made less. It does not “all average out.” That is what happens when you take the mean– not the median– of something.

        Also, BLS counts “earnings,” not “salary.”

        1. SHG Post author

          I’m a lawyer, not a statistician. Give me a break. That said, I don’t know what BLS counts, or how it counts it. Kirk said salary. You say earnings. I say I still see a lot of stats of lawyers, both in crim law and under 40, sucking wind.

          1. Paul Thomas

            Confusing mean with median is the statistical equivalent of filing a motion alleging that the prosecution violated “one of those Amendment thingies.” I mean, “fourth” and “fifth” sound so much alike, amirite?

            But, fair, you’re a lawyer and not a statistician. That speaks poorly (but, I think, accurately) about the way we train lawyers, because this is the sort of basic statistical-literacy point that comes up all the time– multiple linear regression it ain’t– and if you’re not conversant with it, you may well be doing your clients a disservice at times by failing to detect bulls**t fallacies advanced by the opposition.

            While we’re on the subject of “improving legal education,” AP Statistics or the equivalent should be a law school graduation requirement. It’s a heck of a lot more useful than most doctrinal classes.

            1. SHG Post author

              This is what I (deservedly) get for responding with a quip to an issue that I didn’t think deserved a great deal of effort. I took stats, and actually know the difference between mean and median, but it’s not something I think much about and, hence, doesn’t roll out naturally. I have to think about it, and I didn’t. It just wasn’t important to me at that moment.

              You were right to correct me, as my laxity doesn’t mean I’m any more entitled to say something stupid than anyone else. I should have thought harder before responding with a quip.

      2. Kirk Hadley

        Thanks Paul for explaining elementary to statistics to the kind lawyer man. For pedantry’s sake, BLS counts “wage” not “earnings” or “salary,” the only difference being that wage is constrained to monetary compensation exclusively (I.e. doesn’t count 401(k) matching or insurance benefits).

        As for your “no salary” remark, I’m assuming you mean that the “vast majority” of attorneys are in small or solo practice. If that’s the case, you’re well off the mark. According to the ABA, there were 560k attorneys working in small or solo practice in 2010, which would be just under half of all attorneys the same year. That’s not even a majority, much less a vast one.

        And this, from he who claims to stand against the tyranny of the anecdote.

        1. SHG Post author

          What I see from the ABA isn’t what you see:

          PRIVATE PRACTITIONERS
          % of private practitioners… 1980 1991 2000 2005
          Solo 49% 45% 48% 49%
          2 – 5 lawyers 22% 15% 15% 14%
          6 – 10 lawyers 9% 7% 7% 6%
          11-20 lawyers 7% 7% 6% 6%
          21 – 50 lawyers 6% 8% 6% 6%
          51 – 100 lawyers 7% 5% 4% 4%
          101 + lawyers * 13% 14% 16%

          26% work in firms of 21 of more lawyers. 74%, not so much. As for the median, $114k, that’s a decent salary for a teacher and cop. Not for a lawyer. And half make less.

          1. Kirk Hadley

            Where is this fantasy land in which teachers make 100k+? Same for cops, but I say with a tone of satisfaction.
            I won’t be the one to leave a link in your house, but found my (decade newer) number in an article titled “Solo and small-firm lawyers: A renewed priority for bar associations,” published in the Spring 2011 issue of “Bar Leader,” which I understand to be a periodical produced by the ABA proper, not the ABA Journal’s scumminess.

            1. SHG Post author

              Welcome to my fantasy land. Teachers. Cops. And my link was from the actual ABA 2013 stats, not an unsourced article in one of the hundred ABA division flyers.

              But as much fun as it may be to spend my time sparring over numbers with you, I’m going to bottom line it because you aren’t the center of my universe. If you think a median income of $114k shows that lawyers are living in comfort, then become a lawyer, enjoy the luxury (while you carry that quarter mil in debt and lost 3 years of opportunity because of law school) and be happy. I think it’s pretty it’s pretty lousy at the median, and increasing lousy for the 50% below it. Everyone else can judge for themselves. That’s that.

            2. Mort

              Many larger cities see that sort of wage for the top end.

              And his point – if I may be so bold as to assume to know Scott’s mind – is that for someone with a bachelor’s degree, 100K is great. Even for a Master’s degree.

              But Law School tends to cause a level of debt in and of itself that is far higher than most any other degree. A couple hundred thousand changes the “value” of a barely six-figure income.

  8. Paul Thomas

    Ordinarily, when there is a large quantity of unmet demand, coupled with a large quantity of unused supply, in a market, the price point drops. That the price point for legal services is not dropping is a sign of market failure– though, of course, the whole point of organized bar associations is to cartelize attorneys’ labor and thus produce market failure.

    That being said, even if lawyers were fully employed, the price would still push a lot of clients out of the market. The solution for that is to increase the supply of “lawyers”, and the best way to do that, IMO, is by allowing properly trained and licensed paralegals to represent clients in low-value cases. (It’s certainly a lot more effective than lecturing people about pro bono.) If we trust nurse practitioners not to kill people with low-complexity medical problems, it hardly seems unreasonable to trust “paralegal practitioners” to handle low-complexity civil cases.

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