The Charge of the Juris Doctor Brigade, Part III: Back from the Mouth of Hell

Did I say I’d get back to doodling?  I lied.  Here’s one more table.  Compare it to Table 6 in the previous post.

Table 7: Gross State Product (2009)/State’s ABA Students, incl. part-time

State (# of ABA Schools) State GSP (millions $) (2009)/State ABA Students (2008-09)
1 District of Columbia (6) 12.17263
2 Puerto Rico (3) 39.57619
3 Vermont (1) 42.33278
4 Massachusetts (7)* 45.95669
5 Michigan (5) 52.52561
6 Delaware (1) 63.28352
7 New York (15) 68.4703
8 Florida (12) 78.8764
9 Louisiana (4) 80.54295
10 Illinois (9) 81.10803
11 Missouri (4) 81.43733
12 Minnesota (4) 85.20162
13 Rhode Island (1) 86.11636
14 Indiana (4) 87.04269
15 Mississippi (2) 87.99808
16 Virginia (8) 90.33561
17 Oklahoma (3) 92.04777
18 Pennsylvania (8) 93.0074
19 Oregon (3) 93.01842
20 Nebraska (2) 93.67042
Nat’l Avg (151,366 students) 95.33184
21 Ohio (9) 95.85444
22 California (20)* 110.3926
23 Kentucky (3) 112.2209
24 North Carolina (7) 112.5716
25 Arkansas (2) 114.4715
26 Alabama (3)* 119.4758
27 South Carolina (2) 119.5596
28 Connecticut (3) 123.1059
29 New Hampshire (1) 124.7505
30 Iowa (2) 126.352
31 Utah (2) 128.3942
32 North Dakota (1) 128.428
33 Kansas (2) 132.6822
34 Georgia (5) 132.7181
35 Maryland (2) 134.9126
36 West Virginia (1) 141.4037
37 Washington (3) 142.2556
38 Colorado (2) 144.6207
39 Montana (1) 146.4939
40 Texas (9) 153.207
41 Wisconsin (2) 154.22
42 Wyoming (1) 156.2389
43 Tennessee (3)* 168.5341
44 Idaho 172.941
45 New Jersey (3) 173.7147
46 Arizona (3) 175.7684
47 Maine (1) 184.7918
48 South Dakota (1) 185.7236
49 Hawaii 203.984
50 New Mexico (1) 230.9277
51 Nevada (1) 269.4723
52 Alaska (0) N/A

Wow.  The similarities b’ween tables 6 and 7 are clear.  I actually didn’t expect that.  The highest concentration of law students is still in the Valley of Death (Virginia to Massachusetts), Puerto Rico, Florida, Louisiana, and the Upper Midwest minus Wisconsin.  California remains a suspect state due to its non-ABA-accredited law schools.

First, given that I’ve already divided state populations by the number of law students and done the same above with state GSP, there’s really no reason to create a table with GSP (per capita)/number of law students.  The results would largely the same and would mislead one into thinking that incomes are evenly distributed intrastate when they vary.  Comparing law student saturation to GSP (Purchasing Power Parity) or state Gini coefficients would be much more helpful, but I can’t find those data post housing-bubble.

Second, the tables alone don’t tell us what the absolute point of saturation is.  If no state can handle fewer than one law student per 4,000 citizens or one law student per $150 million in state GSP, then the system is way overburdened.  By contrast if they’re much lower, then we won’t need to worry what will happen if the bubble bursts soon.  As a benchmark though, knowing how the topic is covered in the Minnesota press (e.g. here) persuades me that the regions the data point to are oversaturated with law students, if not law schools, with a caveat below.

Noticeably, in the 20 states that’re above the national average, there are 98 ABA law schools.  Not many of them have opened recently, however.  Bear in mind that when my data start in 1970, 155 ABA-accredited law schools were in existence.  My theory is that in the postwar period the population and economy existed in the northeast.  It has since shifted away from there, but the legal education infrastructure hasn’t reduced correspondingly.  On occasion, it’s grown, such as in New York, which added four law schools.  In terms of the tuition bubble, wealthier states are known for providing large starting salaries, causing law students to compete for them, and students may lack complete information regarding their prospects.  In other words, they may see the effects of bimodal salaries released by law schools without understanding them.  Law students in states without these kinds of jobs probably don’t go to law school hoping to make huge salaries intrastate to begin with.  I hope.

Conclusion

Circling back to Professor Bainbridge’s suggestion of slashing the bottom third of the ABA law schools: if we’re going to cut law schools to reduce attorney overssupply, we need a better methodology than “the bottom third,” which I take to mean US News‘ bottom third.  The data I’ve gathered demonstrate that law students and law schools aren’t dispersed evenly around the country nor evenly by state income.  It’d be more beneficial to eliminate law schools where they’re too heavily concentrated, even if that means schools that’re better regarded than others.  If I haven’t said so already, I repeat that merely eliminating law schools will not destroy the tuition bubble.

However, there may be some reasons to defend the legal education system in the more saturated regions—a breakpoint argument.  Specifically, until an economy reaches a certain size, the demand for legal services increases at a constant rate.  After it breaks a threshold, though, demand for legal expertise rises more quickly.  For example, metropolises need foreign language expertise, financial compliance, corporate counsel, and immigration work on top of general practitioners.  The national capital also needs more legal expertise than most similarly sized cities.  Ditto for New York with the UN.  I buy into this argument but not enough to justify the current saturation based on everything else I’ve read for this blog.  You might think I’m coming around on the versatile juris doctor argument.  I’m not.  I see it as an issue of supplemental knowledge rather than the degree’s versatility.  This will be a topic I’ll go into later some time after I defend legal labor cartelization.

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