LAWYERS PER CAPITA BY STATE

Many readers find their way to The Last Gen X American by searching for the “number of attorneys per capita by state” and discover research I did way back in the summer of 2010. Other searches bring people to the Avery Index, which used the 2000 Census population numbers with 2007 Martindale-Hubble attorney listings. Better data are available.

This page uses the number of attorneys “active and resident” according to the “ABA’s National Lawyer Population by State” count (NLPS) and population figures for each state from the U.S. Census Bureau (via FRED). The NLPS usually does not tell us the number of inactive or nonresident attorneys, but the Lawyer Statistical Report at one time calculated those at 4.8 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively. To give a comparison: For the 1.3 million attorneys on the rolls in 2015, between 1970 and 2015 the ABA conferred just over 1.7 million law degrees and state bars issued more than 2 million lawyer licenses (by examination and diploma privilege, which includes many duplicates). According to the Current Population Survey, 1.2 million attorneys were working in the United States in 2015, but the Labor Department’s Employment projections program places the figure at 778,700 (2014).

WARNING: I suspect some people, including university administrators, have used the data on this page to argue that there is an attorney shortage in one state or another. This is very, very, very wrong. There is no evidence of a general shortage of lawyers anywhere in the United States. Those who use these data to argue that deliberately mislead their audiences by failing to recognize that having a law license and working as an attorney are not the same thing. Please be honest with your audience by understanding the entire page as presented. Furthermore, demand for legal services is dependent on the level of economic activity in a region, so it makes sense that sparsely populated states have lower lawyer densities. For more information, read the Lawyer Overproduction page.

Number of Active & Resident Lawyers Per Capita

The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are counted as states.

NO. LAWYERS PER CAPITA BY STATE (2015)
RANK STATE POPULATION NO. ACTIVE AND RESIDENT LAWYERS NO. LAWYERS PER 10,000 RESIDENTS
1. District of Columbia 672,228 52,089 774.9
2. New York 19,795,791 172,630 87.2
3. Massachusetts 6,794,422 43,974 64.7
4. Connecticut 3,590,886 18,655 52.0
5. Illinois 12,859,995 63,211 49.2
6. New Jersey 8,958,013 41,569 46.4
7. Minnesota 5,489,594 24,522 44.7
8. Puerto Rico 3,474,182 15,318 44.1
9. California 39,144,818 165,952 42.4
10. Missouri 6,083,672 25,337 41.6
11. Louisiana 4,670,724 18,775 40.2
12. Rhode Island 1,056,298 4,224 40.0
13. Colorado 5,456,574 21,761 39.9
14. Maryland 6,006,401 23,902 39.8
15. Pennsylvania 12,802,503 48,992 38.3
16. Florida 20,271,272 74,258 36.6
17. Vermont 626,042 2,272 36.3
18. Michigan 9,922,576 34,739 35.0
19. Washington 7,170,351 24,844 34.6
20. Oklahoma 3,911,338 13,465 34.4
21. Ohio 11,613,423 38,849 33.5
22. Alaska 738,432 2,456 33.3
23. Texas 27,469,114 86,494 31.5
24. Delaware 945,934 2,921 30.9
25. Oregon 4,028,977 12,464 30.9
26. Georgia 10,214,860 31,340 30.7
27. Kentucky 4,425,092 13,448 30.4
28. Montana 1,032,949 3,126 30.3
29. Wyoming 586,107 1,778 30.3
30. Alabama 4,858,979 14,630 30.1
31. Maine 1,329,328 3,944 29.7
32. Hawaii 1,431,603 4,193 29.3
33. Virginia 8,382,993 24,062 28.7
34. Kansas 2,911,641 8,266 28.4
35. Nebraska 1,896,190 5,361 28.3
36. Utah 2,995,919 8,413 28.1
37. Tennessee 6,600,299 17,965 27.2
38. Wisconsin 5,771,337 15,481 26.8
39. West Virginia 1,844,128 4,918 26.7
40. New Mexico 2,085,109 5,547 26.6
41. New Hampshire 1,330,608 3,521 26.5
42. Iowa 3,123,899 7,526 24.1
43. Indiana 6,619,680 15,883 24.0
44. Arizona 6,828,065 16,155 23.7
45. Nevada 2,890,845 6,858 23.7
46. Mississippi 2,992,333 7,059 23.6
47. North Carolina 10,042,802 23,136 23.0
48. Idaho 1,654,930 3,736 22.6
49. South Dakota 858,469 1,939 22.6
50. North Dakota 756,927 1,665 22.0
51. South Carolina 4,896,146 10,031 20.5
52. Arkansas 2,978,204 5,970 20.0
U.S.A. Average (Excl. P.R.) 321,418,820 1,284,306 40.0

(Note: Alabama’s lawyer count includes all attorneys irrespective of active or resident status.)

Here’s a geographic representation by state, and one by Bureau of Economic Analysis regions.

Active & Resident Lawyers Per 10,000 Residents (States, 2015)

 

Active & Resident Lawyers Per 10,000 Residents (BEA Regions, 2015)

NO. LAWYERS PER CAPITA BY BEA REGION (2015)
BEA REGION POPULATION NO. ACTIVE AND RESIDENT LAWYERS NO. LAWYERS PER 10,000 RESIDENTS
New England 14,727,584 76,590 52.0
Mideast 49,180,870 342,103 69.6
Great Lakes 46,787,011 168,163 35.9
Plains 21,120,392 74,616 35.3
Southeast 82,177,832 245,592 29.9
Southwest 40,293,626 121,661 30.2
Rocky Mountains 11,726,479 38,814 33.1
Far West 55,405,026 216,767 39.1

There might be a correlation between active and resident status and bar authorities that require significant fees, CLE requirements, and pro bono work.

Number of Employed Lawyers Per Capita

Next, we have the number of employed lawyers per capita by state based on data supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and state government labor departments. The cumulative state total excludes Puerto Rico and the states that did not provide attorney employment information for 2014.

NO. EMPLOYED LAWYERS PER 10,000 RESIDENTS (2014)
RANK STATE/REGION POPULATION NO. EMPLOYED LAWYERS NO. EMPLOYED LAWYERS PER 10,000 RESIDENTS
1. District of Columbia 658,893 38,920 590.69
2. New York 19,746,227 90,830 46.00
3. Rhode Island 1,055,173 4,210 39.90
4. Delaware 935,614 3,540 37.84
5. Connecticut 3,596,677 12,620 35.09
6. Massachusetts 6,745,408 22,100 32.76
7. Vermont 626,562 1,940 30.96
8. Florida 19,893,297 59,400 29.86
9. Colorado 5,355,866 15,800 29.50
10. Illinois 12,880,580 35,840 27.82
11. New Jersey 8,938,175 24,520 27.43
12. Virginia 8,326,289 21,860 26.25
13. Montana 1,023,579 2,550 24.91
14. Washington 7,061,530 17,290 24.48
15. Oklahoma 3,878,051 9,480 24.45
16. Pennsylvania 12,787,209 31,240 24.43
17. Maine 1,330,089 3,170 23.83
18. California 38,802,500 91,900 23.68
19. North Dakota 739,482 1,740 23.53
20. Minnesota 5,457,173 12,640 23.16
21. Kentucky 4,413,457 9,490 21.50
22. Nevada 2,839,099 6,030 21.24
23. Nebraska 1,881,503 3,910 20.78
24. Oregon 3,970,239 8,250 20.78
25. Missouri 6,063,589 12,470 20.57
26. Wyoming 584,153 1,160 19.86
27. Louisiana 4,649,676 9,180 19.74
28. Maryland 5,976,407 11,690 19.56
29. Texas 26,956,958 51,420 19.07
30. New Mexico 2,085,572 3,810 18.27
31. Michigan 9,909,877 17,900 18.06
32. Utah 2,942,902 5,310 18.04
33. Georgia 10,097,343 18,160 17.98
34. Kansas 2,904,021 5,090 17.53
35. Ohio 11,594,163 20,180 17.41
36. Hawaii 1,419,561 2,410 16.98
37. Wisconsin 5,757,564 9,620 16.71
38. North Carolina 9,943,964 16,020 16.11
39. Arkansas 2,966,369 4,720 15.91
40. New Hampshire 1,326,813 2,010 15.15
41. South Carolina 4,832,482 7,220 14.94
42. Alabama 4,849,377 7,050 14.54
43. Alaska 736,732 1,070 14.52
44. Indiana 6,596,855 9,450 14.33
45. Arizona 6,731,484 9,630 14.31
46. Iowa 3,107,126 4,340 13.97
47. Mississippi 2,994,079 3,760 12.56
48. Puerto Rico 3,548,397 4,420 12.46
49. Tennessee 6,549,352 7,990 12.20
50. South Dakota 853,175 980 11.49
N/A Idaho 1,634,464 N/A N/A
N/A West Virginia 1,850,326 N/A N/A
U.S.A. (STATES, EXCL. P.R.) 315,372,266 771,910 24.48
U.S.A. (BLS, EXCL. P.R.) 318,857,056 778,700 24.42
New England 14,680,722 46,050 31.37
Mideast 49,042,525 200,740 40.93
Great Lakes 46,739,039 92,990 19.90
Plains 21,006,069 41,170 19.60
Southeast 79,515,685 164,850 20.73
Southwest 39,652,065 74,340 18.75
Rocky Mountains 9,906,500 24,820 25.05
Far West 54,829,661 126,950 23.15

‘Excess Attorneys’

Finally, “Excess Attorneys” attempts to measure the number of licensed attorneys who are not directly employed as lawyers. It is the difference between lawyers on the rolls and the number of employed lawyers as determined by state governments. “Excess Attorneys” may be judges, politicians, businesspeople whose careers advanced due to their law degrees; or, they may be people who were unable to find careers as lawyers, are working in fields that don’t require law degrees, are choosing not to work at all, or are unemployed yet still maintaining active licenses. Alternatively, they could simply indicate the measurement gap between employed lawyers measured by the Current Population Survey and the Employment Projections program, a phenomenon discussed in the Lawyer Overproduction page.

Compared to data from the Law Graduate Oversupply page, the correlation between surplus graduates per capita (2015, omitted) and “Excess Attorneys” per capita is 0.61 by BEA region. I wouldn’t use this information as conclusive evidence that excess law school enrollments leads to unneeded attorneys—there are better arguments out there—but it is an interesting relationship. Readers should note that the distribution of “Excess Attorneys” is highly skewed, with nearly a third of them appearing in New York and California.

Interestingly, three states have negative “Excess Attorney” counts. Two of them, Delaware and Rhode Island, may be attributable to commuting lawyers, but North Dakota, small a state though it is, is more inexplicable.

NO. ‘EXCESS ATTORNEYS’ PER CAPITA (2014)
RANK STATE/REGION NO. LAWYERS ACTIVE AND RESIDENT NO. EMPLOYED LAWYERS NO. EXCESS LAWYERS NO. EXCESS LAWYERS PER 10,000 RESIDENTS PERCENT EXCESS
1. Puerto Rico 14,193 4,420 9,773 27.54 68.9%
2. Alaska 2,469 1,070 1,399 18.99 56.7%
3. Tennessee 17,203 7,990 9,213 14.07 53.6%
4. Alabama 14,531 7,050 7,481 15.43 51.5%
5. Missouri 25,337 12,470 12,867 21.22 50.8%
6. Louisiana 18,532 9,180 9,352 20.11 50.5%
7. Maryland 23,508 11,690 11,818 19.77 50.3%
8. Massachusetts 44,257 22,100 22,157 32.85 50.1%
9. Minnesota 25,272 12,640 12,632 23.15 50.0%
10. South Dakota 1,934 980 954 11.18 49.3%
11. Michigan 34,739 17,900 16,839 16.99 48.5%
12. Ohio 38,234 20,180 18,054 15.57 47.2%
13. New York 169,756 90,830 78,926 39.97 46.5%
14. Mississippi 6,955 3,760 3,195 10.67 45.9%
15. California 163,327 91,900 71,427 18.41 43.7%
16. Hawaii 4,260 2,410 1,850 13.03 43.4%
17. New Hampshire 3,515 2,010 1,505 11.34 42.8%
18. Illinois 61,871 35,840 26,031 20.21 42.1%
19. New Jersey 41,250 24,520 16,730 18.72 40.6%
20. Indiana 15,883 9,450 6,433 9.75 40.5%
21. Georgia 30,463 18,160 12,303 12.18 40.4%
22. Arizona 15,993 9,630 6,363 9.45 39.8%
23. Iowa 7,183 4,340 2,843 9.15 39.6%
24. Texas 84,800 51,420 33,380 12.38 39.4%
25. Kansas 8,261 5,090 3,171 10.92 38.4%
26. Wisconsin 15,481 9,620 5,861 10.18 37.9%
27. Pennsylvania 50,072 31,240 18,832 14.73 37.6%
28. Wyoming 1,778 1,160 618 10.58 34.8%
29. Oregon 12,276 8,250 4,026 10.14 32.8%
30. Connecticut 18,655 12,620 6,035 16.78 32.4%
31. Utah 7,840 5,310 2,530 8.60 32.3%
32. North Carolina 23,136 16,020 7,116 7.16 30.8%
33. New Mexico 5,468 3,810 1,658 7.95 30.3%
34. Washington 24,620 17,290 7,330 10.38 29.8%
35. Oklahoma 13,465 9,480 3,985 10.28 29.6%
36. Kentucky 13,328 9,490 3,838 8.70 28.8%
37. South Carolina 9,874 7,220 2,654 5.49 26.9%
38. Colorado 21,545 15,800 5,745 10.73 26.7%
39. District of Columbia 51,928 38,920 13,008 197.42 25.1%
40. Nebraska 5,028 3,910 1,118 5.94 22.2%
41. Arkansas 5,970 4,720 1,250 4.21 20.9%
42. Maine 3,863 3,170 693 5.21 17.9%
43. Montana 3,084 2,550 534 5.22 17.3%
44. Vermont 2,300 1,940 360 5.75 15.7%
45. Nevada 7,080 6,030 1,050 3.70 14.8%
46. Florida 68,464 59,400 9,064 4.56 13.2%
47. Virginia 24,064 21,860 2,204 2.65 9.2%
48. Rhode Island 4,179 4,210 -31 -0.29 -0.7%
49. North Dakota 1,599 1,740 -141 -1.91 -8.8%
50. Delaware 2,881 3,540 -659 -7.04 -22.9%
N/A Idaho 3,705 N/A N/A N/A N/A
N/A West Virginia 4,942 N/A N/A N/A N/A
U.S.A. (STATES, EXCL. P.R.) 1,257,511 771,910 485,601 15.23 38.6%
U.S.A. (BLS, EXCL. P.R.) 1,266,158 778,700 487,458 15.12 38.5%
New England 76,769 46,050 30,719 20.92 40.0%
Mideast 339,395 200,740 138,655 28.27 40.9%
Great Lakes 166,208 92,990 73,218 15.67 44.1%
Plains 74,614 41,170 33,444 15.92 44.8%
Southeast 232,520 164,850 67,670 8.32 29.1%
Southwest 119,726 74,340 45,386 11.45 37.9%
Rocky Mountains 34,247 24,820 9,427 8.17 27.5%
Far West 214,032 126,950 87,082 15.88 40.7%

For fun, here’s a chart sorted by the number of “Excess Attorneys” per capita by state.

Excess Attorneys Per 10,000 Residents (2014)
And here’s a map of “Excess Attorneys” per capita by BEA region. The concentration in the northeast is quite apparent.

Excess Attorneys Per Capita (BEA Regions, 2014)

Fin.