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 or the American Factfinder for Puerto Rico). 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 2017, between 1970 and 2017 ABA law schools conferred just over 1.8 million law degrees and state bars issued more than 2.2 million lawyer licenses (by examination and diploma privilege, which includes many duplicates). According to the Current Population Survey, 1.1 million attorneys were working in the United States in 2017, but the Labor Department’s Employment Projections program places the figure at 792,500 (2016).

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

Here is a table ranking active-and-resident lawyer concentration by each state (the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are counted as states). Some states include nonresident active attorneys or resident nonactive attorneys in their lawyer counts. For more information on that subject, see the ABA’s statistics page. The bottom of the table contains lawyer-per-capita information for Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) regions. I prefer these to Census regions because BEA regions include the District of Columbia with more northern states, especially New York. I this better illustrates the legal profession’s geography than including D.C. in the south would.

NO. LAWYERS PER CAPITA BY STATE (2017)
RANK STATE POPULATION (MILLIONS) NO. ACTIVE AND RESIDENT LAWYERS NO. LAWYERS PER 10,000 RESIDENTS
1. District of Columbia 693,972 54,692 788.1
2. New York 19,849,399 177,035 89.2
3. Maryland 6,052,177 38,800 64.1
4. Massachusetts 6,859,819 43,442 63.3
5. Connecticut 3,588,184 21,341 59.5
6. Illinois 12,802,023 62,782 49.0
7. New Jersey 9,005,644 41,168 45.7
8. Minnesota 5,576,606 25,483 45.7
9. Puerto Rico 3,337,177 14,293 42.8
10. California 39,536,653 168,746 42.7
11. Louisiana 4,684,333 19,307 41.2
12. Missouri 6,113,532 24,787 40.5
13. Colorado 5,607,154 22,164 39.5
14. Rhode Island 1,059,639 4,167 39.3
15. Pennsylvania 12,805,537 49,406 38.6
16. Vermont 623,657 2,326 37.3
17. Florida 20,984,400 77,008 36.7
18. Michigan 9,962,311 35,236 35.4
19. Washington 7,405,743 25,786 34.8
20. Oklahoma 3,930,864 13,470 34.3
21. Ohio 11,658,609 38,623 33.1
22. Alaska 739,795 2,402 32.5
23. Texas 28,304,596 89,361 31.6
24. Delaware 961,939 2,978 31.0
25. Wyoming 579,315 1,776 30.7
26. Georgia 10,429,379 31,672 30.4
27. Kentucky 4,454,189 13,509 30.3
28. Alabama 4,874,747 14,717 30.2
29. Montana 1,050,493 3,159 30.1
30. Hawaii 1,427,538 4,236 29.7
31. Oregon 4,142,776 12,227 29.5
32. Maine 1,335,907 3,940 29.5
33. Nebraska 1,920,076 5,545 28.9
34. Virginia 8,470,020 24,249 28.6
35. Kansas 2,913,123 8,218 28.2
36. Tennessee 6,715,984 18,461 27.5
37. Wisconsin 5,795,483 15,549 26.8
38. West Virginia 1,815,857 4,862 26.8
39. New Mexico 2,088,070 5,524 26.5
40. Utah 3,101,833 8,204 26.4
41. New Hampshire 1,342,795 3,507 26.1
42. Nevada 2,998,039 7,281 24.3
43. Iowa 3,145,711 7,523 23.9
44. Indiana 6,666,818 15,826 23.7
45. Mississippi 2,984,100 7,067 23.7
46. North Carolina 10,273,419 23,694 23.1
47. Arkansas 3,004,279 6,851 22.8
48. North Dakota 755,393 1,698 22.5
49. Idaho 1,716,943 3,836 22.3
50. South Dakota 869,666 1,933 22.2
51. Arizona 7,016,270 14,960 21.3
52. South Carolina 5,024,369 10,316 20.5
U.S.A. AVERAGE (EXCL. P.R.) 325,719,178 1,320,850 40.6
NO. LAWYERS PER CAPITA BY BEA REGION (2017)
BEA REGION POPULATION (MILLIONS) NO. ACTIVE AND RESIDENT LAWYERS NO. LAWYERS PER 10,000 RESIDENTS
New England 14,810,001 78,723 53.2
Mideast 49,368,668 364,079 73.7
Great Lakes 46,885,244 168,016 35.8
Plains 21,294,107 75,187 35.3
Southeast 83,715,076 251,713 30.1
Southwest 41,339,800 123,315 29.8
Rocky Mountains 12,055,738 39,139 32.5
Far West 56,250,544 220,678 39.2

Here’s a geographic representation of the above data by state.

And here is the same data by BEA region along with a chart depicting the change in lawyer concentration since 1989.

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.