Don’t shoot the messenger! That is the title of an article that appeared in the 2015-08-24 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. I thought it to be a very interesting and creditable article. It is my determination by collective inference, that the statements and conclusions of the article are based on the 2014 July bar examination test results. If I had been familiar with the facts presented in this article at the time, I may not have created my AutoSubrogate® legal practice management software. I’m selling into a “down market”. That is mostly because I failed to perform my due-diligence at the time. “At the time” was in Sept of 2005. I received an e-mail from Joseph P. Sommer — a St. Louis attorney. I didn’t respond till March of 2006. Thus began the process of creating the AutoSubrogate® legal practice management software computer program. The result of these first contacts is that in October of 2008 Joseph P. Sommer and his two staff associates, one a paralegal, first went live using AutoSubrogate® to manage the case file records of Joe’s subrogation law practice.
Enough about the history of AutoSubrogate®. There is already enough history in other parts of this website. The topic at hand is “Are Lawyers Getting Dumber?”. The facts presented in this Bloomberg Businessweek article make a strong case for the premise of the title being true. What follows below is a numbered list of statements of fact made in the article. Some list items are a summary of what I read in the article, and some list items are quotes taken from the article. If you want to just go ahead and read the article, here is a link: Are Lawyers Getting Dumber?
NCBE = National Conference of Bar Examiners
- The examination occurs over a period of 2 days: Day-1 is 6 hours of writing; Day-2 is 6 hours of multiple choice.
- Idaho pass rates dropped from 80% to 65%; Delaware, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas scores dropped 9 percentage points or more.
- Multiple-choice part largest single-year drop in the 4 decade history of the test.
- Group in July 2014 less able than group in July 2013.
- 79 law school deans requested an “. . . investigation to determine ‘the integrity and fairness of the July 2014 exam.'”
- “In 2015 fewer people applied to law school than at any point in the last 30 years.”
- “In a typical year, about 50,000 people take the exam, which is created by a team of academics, judges, and lawyers that the NCBE enlists as volunteers.”
- “Since 2008 partner earnings at firms of all sizes have decreased 9 percent in constant dollars, according to federal tax filings.”
- “Since 1988 earnings for standalone [solo practitioner] attorneys, of which there are about 354,000 nationally, have declined 31 percent. The legal industry has shed more than 50,000 jobs in the past eight years.”
- “Solo practitioners began floundering in the late 1980s. Their average income, adjusted for inflation, was $71,000 in 1988; it was $49,000 in 2012.”
- “Young people’s aversion to law school is a natural reaction to a saturated job market. . . .”
- “. . . law schools looking to put butts in seats are lowering their standards.”
The Rule of Law
It is my opinion that the “Rule of Law” in this country is primarily responsible for all that makes the USA the greatest country ever to exist in the history of the world. The just and equitable application of the “Rule of Law” has made our economic engine the most productive creator of the wealth that most of us enjoy. As the current political debate revels, it’s far less than perfect, but you don’t have to look around the rest of the world for very long to come to the realization that we are by far the fastest one in the slower group. Our attorneys as principal players in the implementation of the “Rule of Law” have made a very significant contribution toward making all that happen.
I tried to find some statistics that reveal why it is that the USA is the most litigious country in the world. I soon found myself drowning in a sea of data while dyeing of thirst for information. But for what it is worth, here is some of what I found:
At Answers.com I found the following:
“But according to The Economist, a study of 29 countries was conducted in 2006 that showed the USA only behind Greece in terms of per capita lawyers.”
Country Lawyers Population People/Lawyer
1) US: Lawyers: 1,143,358 Pop: 303MM P/L:265
2) Brazil: Lawyers: 571,360 Pop: 186MM P/L: 326
3) New Zealand: Lawyers: 10,523 Pop: 4MM P/L 391
4) Spain Lawyers:114,143 Pop: 45MM P/L:395
5) Italy Lawyers:121,380 Pop: 59MM P/L:488
6) UK Lawyers:151,043 Pop: 61MM P/L401
7) Germany Lawyers:138,679 Pop: 82MM P/L: 593
8) France Lawyers:45,686 Pop: 64MM P/L: 1,403
A few months ago the trials and tribulations of Greece trying to get the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to extend their credit (They are an extremely poor credit risk.) was on the national news here in the USA most evenings. Greece’s economic model is not one that any nation on earth should want to replicate. The “table” above shows that there is one attorney for every 265 US citizens. In my personal library I have a book titled “America’s Paychecks: Who Makes What”. The author is David Harrop. The copyright claim year is 1980. In the book the author makes the following statement:
In 1979 there were 495,000 lawyers, or one for approximately every 440 citizens, higher than the ratio for doctors. (For sake of comparison, West Germany had roughly 41,000 lawyers for 61 million people in 1979, or about one lawyer for every 1,500 people; Japan had about 11,000 lawyers for 115 million people, or about one lawyer for every 10,000 people.)
Those two sources combined show that from 1979 to 2006 the ratio of attorneys in the USA to citizens nearly doubled. I am not a demographer, but I am confident that the population of the USA did not nearly double in that time range. The Answers.com article also made the following observation: “But, with 2.2 million people in prisons, the US has a lawyer for every two inmates. Considering the ridiculous rate at which the United States incarcerates, that is saying something.” The statistics about Japan are skewed by the fact that in Japan they have a significant number of technical professionals who perform many of the services that lawyers in the USA perform but do not require the advanced knowledge possessed by those counted in Japan as lawyers.
We have too many lawyers in our country. I hope that is a cyclical phenomena. Bullet item 6 in the list above “In 2015 fewer people applied to law school than at any point in the last 30 years.” gives hope that correction is now in progress. Too many lawyers means too many law suits. Law suits diminish our GDP (Gross Domestic Product) because they do not produce anything that people need to live their lives like: food, shelter, clothing, transportation, health care, etc., etc.
I still feel the same about the contribution attorneys have made to implement the “Rule of Law” and how it is that the USA has become “. . . the greatest country ever to exist in the history of the world.” But sometimes it is possible to have too much of a “good thing”. Please consider the situation where a sick person takes as prescribed the medication their doctor has directed them to take. After a few days of that happening, they get to feeling a little better and reason that if taking a pill per day makes them feel better, by taking the remainder of the pills in the bottle all at once they will be cured of their illness over night. So they do that and the outcome is that they are dead.
There is another metaphor that illustrates this that involves the normalization of the design of a database in a Relational Database Management System (RDBMS). This generally has a very beneficial effect because it makes the execution of database queries consume less time. Every good programmer of Oracle stored procedures knows that if this normalization algorithm is carried to its ultimate completion, the result will be a disaster in production because the database queries will take a ridiculously long time to complete. The result would be a complete failure of what was once a reliable working stored procedure. So therefore the normalization process has to be stopped at some point before ultimate completion is reached. Knowing exactly where that point is, is considered a “black art” by some knowledgeable people because it takes a lot of empirical knowledge to know exactly where that point is. Since empirical knowledge is the sum total of our life experience, and experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want; those people who are competent practitioners of that “black art” form are very hard to find.
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