Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Stephen Magee of the University of Texas at Austin discusses his efforts to calculate the optimum number of lawyers required for economic efficiency.
Stephen Magee is James L. Bayless/Enstar Corporation Professor of Finance and Economics in the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to three books, Magee has published more than 70 academic articles and served as a White House staff member. He holds a Ph.D. form the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Stephen Magee - Too Many Lawyers?
The Dean of the Harvard Law School once joked that by the year 2023 there would be more lawyers in the United States than people.
The truth is that the US does have too many lawyers: out of 50 countries only Uruguay has more lawyers per capita than the US. Why so many? Lawyers have always lobbied Congress and state legislatures to artificially increase the demand for lawyers and to permit frivolous lawsuits. We know that lawyers have excessive political influence: 41% of the US Congress are lawyers, the 2nd highest percentage in the world, which is eight times greater than the lawyer percentage of the US professional labor force.
Unfortunately, there are negative economic consequences of having too many lawyers. My research shows that there is an economic optimum ratio of lawyers to population. That research across 27 countries and over a 40 year time period shows that the US has 1/3 too many lawyers. As a result, spurious lawsuits and excessive litigation, subtracts 7 percent a year from US national income, which is $1 trillion a year from our $15 trillion economy.
In contrast, 2/3 of US lawyers add positively to our economy by protecting property, facilitating transactions and reducing crime. This 2/3 of American lawyers adds 36% a year to our economy, Which is $5 trillion a year in a $15 trillion economy.
W.C. Fields once joked that some lawyers are good and some lawyers are bad but we don't need any of them. Well, he was wrong: two-thirds of American lawyers are a positive force in the US economy.