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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ordinality Gone Berserk: P Number Status in Michigan

The November 2006 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal features an article, written with tongue firmly planted in cheek (I hope!) by one Daryle Salisbury, about the history of the attorney bar number, known in Michigan as the "P Number."  For all that we lawyers attribute status to anything remotely suggestive of a number (from USNWR rankings to brain volume), I can attest, as a member in good standing of the Michigan bar and former practitioner, yes, as Mr. Salisbury relates, having a low P number did carry with it some amount of status.

The original set of P numbers were assigned to the 12,763 lawyers practicing in 1974 when the system was instituted, ranging from P10001(Arnold K. Aach) to P22764 (Abraham Zwerdling).  (I prepared so many pleadings containing a signature block of my mentor Donald S. Young that I can still remember his P number, P22636, as well as my own P30713.)  Remarkably, if you were to be admitted to the bar today, your P number would be something in excess of P69234.

I'm thinking that it would be nicely efficient and highly ordinal if, where a tie breaker between lawyers is needed in any circumstance (some examples:  deposition at your office or mine; my language on the environmental representation or yours; who gets the bigger office, etc.), we have something like the Sagarin system for ranking football teams.  And in honor of my many friends in the law and economics movement, here is the first draft of an algorithm for determining your L (for Lipshaw) number (I haven't worked out several things, like a proxy for the co-efficient of pomposity, or how to make this work on a unisex basis):

L = (1/PN)*(100*BV/SSF)*(250-USR)
[BSc - BSls]

where:

L is the Lipshaw number

PN is P number

BV is brain volume

SSF is stuffed shirt factor

USR is US News ranking of your law school

BSc is current belt size

BSls is belt size upon law school graduation

[Jeff Lipshaw]