What Is Wrong With Our Country: Lawyers?

I started this current series to discuss what is wrong with our country and what we need to do to fix it. While I have discussed some of the topics that I will be including in this series, they have been included in other articles. In this series I will concentrate on a single topic. This will also mean that some of the articles may be slightly shorter than my readers have grown accustomed to, however they will still be written with the same attention to detail. This series will have no set number of articles and will continue to grow as I come across additional subjects.

I started this current series to discuss what is wrong with our country and what we need to do to fix it. While I have discussed some of the topics that I will be including in this series, they have been included in other articles. In this series I will concentrate on a single topic. This will also mean that some of the articles may be slightly shorter than my readers have grown accustomed to, however they will still be written with the same attention to detail. This series will have no set number of articles and will continue to grow as I come across additional subjects.

The first topic in this series will be a discussion on lawyers> If you ask just about anybody in this country with the exception of lawyers themselves, very few will have anything positive to say about them. I have had several occasions to need legal aid and I am pretty ambivalent about my experiences with them. Each time I needed help I had to utilize a different lawyer with a different specialty, I expect just like in medicine, no one lawyer can know everything. My first time was to get a will drawn up, and I must say my experience was fairly positive, as was my second meeting where I needed a quit claim drawn up. However, my divorce attorney experience left much to be desired. He seemed more concerned with collecting checks from me than actually taking care of my divorce. As a result I got taken to the cleaners. Under our current legal and tax system they appear to be a necessary evil.

I of all people am not against anyone making a living, however do you need so many personal injury lawyers (or PIL), and especially firms with scores of personal injury lawyers and legal assistants? While I will be discussing our medical system in a later article, I will briefly mention it in this discussion. I feel that PIL’s are the major reason that this country is so litigious in nature. It seems everybody is trying to “screw” his neighbor to make a quick buck. Every time you turn on the TV, you see commercials with personal injury lawyers and firms tooting their own horns about how much money they have collected in injury cases. They never seem to mention what happened to the companies or individuals that were sued. I believe in people being responsible for their actions. If you hurt somebody due to your negligence or by intent, you should pay the price. However, some of the settlements are to the extreme. One group of people that pay dearly for this are medical doctors. Many surgeons pay such exorbitant malpractice fees, that they can barely make ends meet. This drives up the prices they charge as well as what the hospitals have to charge as well.

I also the misfortune of being involved in a class action law suit against Chevron. It took 3 years for our little community to finally win the case. While I and my wife did receive some money, the only ones that made out were the lawyers. They ended up getting 50% of each of our settlement checks. I also found out that their salaries were being paid for by Chevron. So I am not sure exactly how hard they were really working on our case. I know one thing the settlement checks were only one tenth of the amount they said they would be when we first started the class action case. I guess I can’t complain, we received money that we would never have gotten if it had not been for this case. It is a shame that we needed to resort to these actions to receive compensation. Even though some families received more compensation than we did, it did not cover the pain and suffering that Chevron’s negligence caused.

While planning this article, I came across a article about the number of lawyers we produce in this country.

Are There Too Many Lawyers?

There is general sentiment in business communities across the nation that there are too many lawyers. Some even look at lawyers with disdain. This does not bode well for law school hopefuls concerned with the job market awaiting them upon graduation. But should they really be concerned? Are students enrolling in law school at high rates? Is there a glut of lawyers in the market driving down wages?

Law school admissions statistics show just the opposite trend in fact, with less and less students enrolling in law school. The quality, price, and perceived value of a legal education remain the strongest factors in decisions to apply to law school. As for the job market, while some structural changes to the legal job market have decreased the availability of legal jobs, there is still an oversupply of law school graduates. These factors have combined to force change the legal education field itself.

Enrollment in law school has certainly declined. 

The American Bar Association reported that the number of enrolled law students dropped by 9,000 between 2013 and 2014. In addition, close to two-thirds of the 203 accredited law schools reported smaller first-year classes in 2014 compared to their 2013 numbers. These trends are not wholly caused by increasingly difficult admissions criteria, but rather the simple fact that fewer students are applying to law school: approximately 55,000 students applied to law school in 2014 compared to the 88,000 students in 2010.

In fact, the decline in applications correlates to an average increase in acceptance rates. According to this data, it is now almost 40% easier to get into law school than it was ten years ago. 

With rising admissions rates and decreasing applications, why are students not jumping on the opportunity to attend law school?

The traditional path for becoming a lawyer is to attend a good law schoolpass the bar examwork off any debt in a few years through a well-paying job, then continue moving up in one’s career. This path is breaking up in several places, beginning with law school. The decision to attend law school is a complicated one: students now more than ever may have the option to attend a variety of law schools because of the dwindling application numbers.

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However, just because you get into a law school, doesn’t mean it is the right decision to go.

Some law schools have terrible bar pass or employment rates. Bar exam preparation and the quality of the education are two top concerns for law school applicants. There is an even greater risk of going to a low ranked law school given the steady rise of law school tuition and thus debt: a year of tuition can cost $44,000, even at schools that are ranked low on the U.S. News & World Report list, while a diploma from a top-rated school usually costs an additional $10,000 or more annually. A J.D., however, doesn’t guarantee a bar license or a job after law school. Prospective law students have to make sure that they are attending the right school, managing the debt load, and working on planning their career from day one.

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While debt loads are on the rise, the traditional notion that a well-paying entry level legal job will help pay off law school debt soon is becoming less of a reality.

Statistics from the National Association for Law Placement show that the percentage of class of 2014 law school graduates unemployed and seeking work was three times higher than that of the class of 2010. Alison Monahan notes that the highly sought jobs at “big law” firms are becoming scarcer: “BigLaw is probably hiring fewer incoming associates than they did in the peak years before the recession. But numerically speaking, they never hired all that many young attorneys anyway.” She points out that technology has made lawyers more efficient, further lowering the demand for new lawyers at large law firms. The next best alternative is a position at a smaller law firm, however it is more difficult to get a job out of law school at smaller firms since they typically prefer experienced applicants who can hit the ground running. What are left are public sector legal jobs with average salaries maxing out at around $80K a year. Alison also observed that “for those who start with a low salary, it’s not clear that it necessarily increases that much over time. If you’re looking at public interest work, for example, you’re not going to see a huge salary increase as you gain experience.”

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Given the waning applications to law school caused by high tuition and questionable job prospects, law schools are making changes to their degree offerings to attract more applicants.

According to U.S. News, more than a dozen schools now offer accelerated programs as pioneered by Northwestern Law School. In addition to accelerated programs, law schools are expanding their interdisciplinary tracks like the J.D./MBA combination, with Stanford Law leading the movement by offering 27 joint J.D. degrees. Law schools have also made attempts to ease the cost of attendance by developing part-time programs that spread tuition over more years. Some schools have been even more direct with the cost issue, cutting tuition and offering more financial aid and scholarships to attract top students. Elon Law and Brooklyn Law are two examples of such schools. As for curriculum, law schools have responded to the demand for clinical training programs so their students can gain real-world experience before they enter the job market.

The recent trends in the legal field have also prompted a change in the law school admissions process.

There is a nationwide debate about eliminating the requirement that law school applicants submit an LSAT score and allowing applicants to send in a GRE score instead. The GRE or Graduate Record Examination is a broad and flexible exam accepted by many master’s programs and business schools, whereas the LSAT or Law School Admissions Test is specifically tailored to evaluate an applicant’s skills related to law school academics. The acceptance of the GRE would increase the amount of applicants to law school, but I don’t think that would be a necessarily positive change. We have always said here on About.com that the happiest and most successful law students are those who have a specific interest in practicing law and making yourself study for the LSAT is one of the threshold tests of whether or not you are really motivated to apply to and attend law school. But if you have taken the GRE, it is possible you are looking at a variety of graduate schools at once and law school is just an option you are considering.

Looking past law school, there is a growing movement to change the bar exam as well.

Several states and organizations are advocating the adoption of the “Uniform Bar Exam” or UBE. The idea is that a universal U.S. bar exam would allow lawyers to sit for the bar once and be able to practice in all fifty states instead of today’s system in which lawyers may have to sit for several state bar exams. This change would potentially make law school become more attractive by opening up a larger pool of job opportunities since lawyers could practice in every state. With New York adopting the Uniform Bar Exam in July 2017, the idea that there could be one nationwide bar exam is coming closer to a reality. However, it remains to be seen if other large states, such as California, will adopt this exam or keep their own exam as a barrier to entry to a state’s legal marketplace. 

It is expected that the changes in law school curriculum, admissions, and bar exam testing will cause an uptick in applications for the 2015-2016 academic year. The structural changes in law school and the legal job market, however, are expected to have lasting effect on the field. While the traditional path through the legal profession is becoming less realistic, Alison Monahan, however, says “the [current structure of firms] creates certain opportunities for ambitious grads who want to start a practice and can compete with larger firms using more efficient ways of doing things.”

The general sentiment that there are “too many lawyers” may have some evidence to back it up, but that does not mean the legal field is dead. There are increasingly more opportunities for students to get dynamic legal training through a variety of programs and, with some innovation and determination, successful careers can still be carved out of the difficult legal job market.

It seems that there is no consensus on whether or not there are too many or not enough lawyers. I guess this article will not be able to solve this argument, either way, so I will put my two cents in. First of all it is a said state of affairs that we even need as many lawyers as we have in this country. Why do we need them to begin with? I believe the answer is one that was created artificially. Why do documents need to be so complicated, that you need a specially trained person to decipher them? The answer is, their is no reason for it. The same goes for laws. They were created mainly by lawyers, so that explains a lot. They were creating job security. Professions are created to take care of difficult situations, such as plumbers, electricians and mechanics and surgeons and doctors. Each profession has come up with their own skill sets and languages and terminology mainly to set them apart from the rest and to make it harder for the common man to usurp them. Now the professions I just listed are for the most part complicated fields to work in, especially medical. I am an ICU nurse, so I know something about professional licenses. Medical doctors have been in business a lot longer than nurses. Nursing has struggled for the last several decades to gain respectability. We have had to develop our own language and skill sets to do this. It has been an uphill battle, since medical doctors are very protective of their profession.

But I digress a little here, my original intent was to establish that there are needs for some professions, due to the inherent complicated nature of these fields. However, politics and law, I feel are not those fields. They have been made unduly complicated to first elevate them to professional status and to also make it easier to obfuscate their endeavors. Like I said laws and legal documents should not require specially trained individuals to decipher them. Tax code is another area that is unnecessarily complicated. Take two examples that are used every day in courts across the country, Sustained and Overruled. These two are fairly simple, but the first time you heard them used you might not knw what the hell they meant. Not to mention the use of Latin terms. The spoken language has been dead for centuries, so why use the terms, if not to make it easier to confuse the general population. Not to mention education is being dumbed down at all levels to help increase the gap between the general population and the top 1 percent.

So lets look at why I think lawyers are one of the things that are wrong with this country. If you stop and think about it the vast majority of a law specialties were created to screw somebody. Tax and corporate lawyers are hired to allow corporations and large companies tax breaks, so either the general population has to pick up the slack or we go into deficit spending, because you know our government won’t cut back on spending. Let’s look at defense attorneys. The vast majority of individuals that have criminal charges brought against them are guilty. So if the defense attorney gets them acquitted of charges, who suffers, the victims of their families. So they are screwing someone by doing their job well. I think the worst of the lot are what we used to call were “ambulance chasers” or PILs. They simply prey on the feeble minded and promise them the world and only give back a small percentage.

I think that the worst thing that happened was when they allowed lawyers to advertise in the phonebook and on TV and so-on. Originally lawyers and doctors were not allowed to advertise. I think this just drove up the lucre accrued by these professions. I think the number of law schools should be controlled and the number of lawyers that graduate should be reduced somewhat. There are far more beneficial professions out their than the legal profession. Maybe then we would have fewer lawyers run for political offices. Maybe we wouldn’t have law firms bragging about collecting millions of dollars in personal injury settlements.

My second ex-wife got hurt at her job. I thought we had a good case, because it was an injury caused by negligence on the work place. Our lawyer informed us that we did not have a case, so we were out all the co-pays and such from all the medical bills. But one reason I mentioned this lawyer was that he was a big Peter Lick fan and had several of his photographs in his office. If you know anything about this artist, his work is extremely expensive, photos the size the lawyer had, start in the tens of thousands of dollars. So my question is how is he making so much money? He is a personal injury attorney, so he is screwing someone.

I have scoured the internet looking for numbers of personal injury claims in the world. I could find no database anywhere discussing this matter. Which leads to believe that it is not an issue, otherwise there would be some listings with these figures. So apparently personal injury claims and cases are a uniquely American phenomenon.

I have included a table showing the number of lawyers based on population. It is from 2013, so it is a little dated, but it helps to show that we do have a much higher percentage of lawyers in this country.

Resources

thoughtco.com, “Are There Too Many Lawyers? Insight on the Sentiment of There Being Too Many Lawyers.” By Lee Burgess;

What Is Wrong With Our Country?
https://common-sense-in-america.com/2022/05/03/what-is-wrong-with-our-country-lawyers/