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President’s Column: Are There Too Many Lawyers?

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 10:46 -- admin25

by Jerry Alexander

As we continue our talk about legal legends and myths and their basis or lack thereof, let’s move on to the question “Are there too many lawyers?” I, for one, have never understood that question. Too many lawyers for what?

The better question would be, are there more lawyers than are necessary to fulfill the legal needs of the community which they attempt to serve? The answer to that question would be impossible to find, or at least impossible to find for purposes of writing this article, but there can be a comparison made between the number of lawyers who have practiced in this “Dallas Community,” historically, and the number of lawyers that are trying to do so now.

“Liberal Arts Math”

This exercise, however, takes us down a dangerous path that I call “Liberal Arts Math.”

Liberal Arts Math is inexact, at best, and takes different data from different sources, mixes them up with a lot of words of explanation, and sometimes comes to a conclusion. (It is the same thing that economists do in big antitrust cases and charge a lot of money for!) I am not sure, though, that this gets to the answer. However, there is a prevailing perception that relatively speaking, there are more lawyers now trying to serve the Dallas Community than there have been historically. Here is the Liberal Arts Math analysis of that perception.

The problem, as far as available data are concerned, is that the City of Dallas itself, i.e. within the city limits, simply has not grown very much. When the number of lawyers in the Dallas Bar Association is compared to the population of the City of Dallas, the conclusion is easy to draw that there are too many lawyers, or, certainly more lawyers percentage-wise competing for business in the Dallas Community than were previously trying to serve that community.

To the last point, in 1980 there were 4,500 members of the Dallas Bar Association and the population of the City of Dallas was 904,000. In 2010, while the number of members of the Dallas Bar Association had more than doubled to 10,307, the population of the city of Dallas had only grown around 30 percent to 1.2 million. The comparative growth rates from 2010 to the present are much closer or even approximately the same. In 2016 there are now 11,388 members of the Dallas Bar Association, approximately a 10 percent increase from 2010, and the City of Dallas added approximately 100,000 more people to 1.3 million, approximately an 8.5 percent increase from 2010. The Liberal Arts Math totals would be: While the number of lawyers has increased 2-1/2-fold from 1980 to the present, the population of the City of Dallas has only increased about 44 percent.

Remember, that is only for the City of Dallas.

DPI Metroplex

However, the Dallas Community that Dallas lawyers serve is much more than just the City of Dallas. If one looks at the population growth in the “DPI” Metroplex (Dallas/Plano/Irving), the population number goes from a little over a million in 1980 to 4-1/2 million in 2016, an increase of roughly four-fold! While it is true there are some lawyers in Collin County who are not members of the Dallas Bar Association (and an even lesser number of Irving lawyers who are not members), the Dallas/Plano/Irving “DPI” is the “Dallas Community” serviced by the Dallas attorneys. To a large extent, there is also legal work in other surrounding counties serviced by Dallas lawyers. Therefore, insofar as just the number of people is concerned, the lawyers increased 2-1/2-fold from 1980 to 2016, the number of people increased four-fold.

This also does not take into account the corporate population, probably the largest total payor of legal fees in this area. Corporations and businesses of all legal forms have increased greatly in the area served by the attorneys of the Dallas Bar Association during this same 36-year period (1980 to 2016).

Conclusion

As with any exercise in Liberal Arts Math, the conclusions reached are not scientific nor exact, but the following is apparent.

It simply does not seem to be the case that at least since 1980, anyway, that there has been an oversupply of lawyers serving the Dallas Community compared to the 1980 ratios. There is absolutely a separate question of whether or not the 1980 ratios were already at oversupply, but that answer would most likely be, “probably not.” Nor is it likely that the lawyers who were practicing in 1968, whatever those ratios, were enjoying a time of over-demand or that their practicing law, financially, was easier then than it is now.

The concept and the constant complaint that more lawyers are coming to this area than new people or new businesses, while a persistent one, is probably not the case. We simply cannot wait for things to “get better” or return to the “good ole days” because our days now may actually be the same as the “good ole days.”

So here’s to today, the future, and the “good ole days.”

See you at the Belo.

Jerry

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